They did not tell us where we were going. The bus rattled on until it slowed to a halt in front of a snow-covered building. Where were we? We filed out of the bus, the cold wind whipping our faces as we trekked across the yard towards that mysterious building. What I believed to be a simple doctor’s office or museum quickly revealed itself as proof of the horrors of humanity. Only when I was inside, packed into a small room with my classmates, did I become aware of my location. We were inside a genocide facility disguised as a health-care institution used to slaughter mothers, fathers, children, grandparents. Unable to tear my gaze away from the black-and-white checkered floor of the Hadamar Clinic “shower,” I felt indignant and betrayed. Here, in the middle of this quaint little German village, thousands of innocent individuals were unknowingly ushered into this very room to be exterminated. I stared at that stone “doctor’s” table, utilized for anything but the healing of patients. The table became a blur as burning tears of anger blinded me. How could humans have done this? I had learned of the Holocaust in many history classes in America, yet I had never before felt such wrenching pangs of guilt and anguish as I did standing in that cold slaughterhouse in Germany.
As much as I wish to erase those atrocious images of Hadamar from my mind, I know to do so would be almost tantamount to the Holocaust itself. We must remember, so we do not forget what horrors man is capable of inflicting upon his fellow man. We must remember, to honor each one of the six million victims of the Holocaust. We must remember, to amplify the voices of the survivors as they tell their stories. And most importantly, we must remember, for those survivors are disappearing but the truths they bear must never disappear. History happened. Auschwitz, Dachau, Hadamar, Bergen-Belsen, and the numerous other concentration camps must not be negated. We cannot deny history. Nor can we ignore it. As American poet and philosopher George Santayana said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We must remember the Holocaust, because we have not yet learned from history. The Holocaust, in different manifestations, is still happening today.
We must remember the Holocaust to teach each future generation the power of words and understanding. Words. That was all it took. Sadly, Hitler’s destructive use of words culminated into the worst genocide in history. Hilter used the ignorance of the public to his advantage, thus subjecting the unknowing masses to the false visions of the “glorious” Nazi party and Germany. Organizations like the Hitler Youth sucked in children and teenagers by subjecting them to propaganda films such as one I watched portraying “Heidi” as an adolescent Nazi martyr, murdered by the communist men. Such tales of heroism and patriotism brainwashed these youths into an inevitably devastating situation - a contraption that drew in these children only to churn them out as adult killing machines years later. We must remember the Holocaust for this reason: to educate the public in hopes of preventing such ignorance and brainwashing; for the Holocaust, in different manifestations, is still happening today.
It is happening in Darfur, where 400,000 innocent people have so far been murdered (SaveDarfur, 2007). It happened in Rwanda from 1990 to 1994, resulting in over 650,000 deaths (HRW, 2004). It happened in Kosovo, with the eradication of tens of thousands of human lives. It is happening in Tibet, where cultural genocide is erasing a unique people from this globe. And most frighteningly, it is denounced as a “myth” by people such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who are capable of committing another holocaust – a nuclear holocaust (BBC, 2005). We must remember the impact of words and their subsequent actions. We must use our voices to take a stand against these and future genocides. We owe it to the Holocaust survivors, such as my friend’s grandmother, Bertha Strauss, who agreed to interview with me to tell of her escape from Gurs, as well as her parents’ deadly fate in the Holocaust. We owe it to survivors like Mrs. Strauss, whose hope for mankind resonates: “There were good people, but they didn’t do anything.” Let us not become the type of people Mrs. Strauss remembers - the ones whose intentions were good yet lacked the actions to instigate change. Let us instead be the type of people Mrs. Strauss hopes for - the people who are “aware of what is going on [prejudices], and do not let it go by.” Mrs. Strauss’s hope becomes clear as I remember the Dachau camp. I was numb by the time I read the two most poignant words I will ever know: “Never Again.” The memorial seemed to carry the voices of the victims, crying out to each one of the millions of visitors who have read those same words. How could we stand here and read these words, filled with sadness, anger, rage, and hope, vow to obey them, yet return to our comfortable lives and turn a blind eye to the genocides occurring today? For the Holocaust, in different manifestations, is still happening today.
It is for this reason, the ongoing genocides in the world today and the potential for them tomorrow, that the memory of the Holocaust is so vital to pass on to future generations, however horrific that memory is. As the Tibetan monk Geshe Dakpa Topgyal said, “history tells the truth and facts, even if history does not have scientific and logical proof” (Lecture, 2008). If we wish to prevent such atrocities ever again, it is vital to use a strong voice to educate and pass on the messages and memories of the Holocaust to future generations. As students, we are the next generation that must bear the burden of the Holocaust, as did the generation before us. Future generations must do so as well. Therefore, it is our duty and responsibility to carry the hope of the victims and survivors- the hope that a nonviolent world devoid of prejudice exists. To do so, we must be aware of the plight of others, put a stop to racial jokes and remarks when we hear them, work for the elimination of ethnocentrism, and most importantly we must educate. For education leads to understanding, and only when we truly understand each other will compassion win out over fear and hatred.
We must remember the Holocaust as a reminder that each of us belongs to one race - the human race.
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