(Quote by Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and funding chairman, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.)
We spent a couple of hours touring the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Before going there, I thought it would be a depressing way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t.
It was sombre, yes. Depressing, no; I wouldn’t use that word. I left feeling somewhat angry and confused but mostly enlightened and inspired to make a difference. To be better. Kinder.
I was confused because I will never understand why there is so much violence, so much evil and cruelty; so little support, so little compassion and mercy in this world. I will never understand the hatred one must have in their heart to do the evil things that have been done to fellow humans. It’s beyond my comprehension. How did people engage in acts like what is memorialized there and feel proud? Or maybe even worse; how did people observe or hear about these acts and feel nothing?
I expect that many people who go to the museum get emotional about it. I’m sure there have been many tears shed inside. I would assume that’s particularly true if you are Jewish. As I watched a video at the museum that showed how Adolf Hitler came to be the man we all hear about and read about today, and I heard the things he said and the way he went about consolidating his power, it was painfully similar to the things we heard here in the US during the last general election cycle as well as the things we continue to hear now. It made me feel connected to a past that – in a way – never felt like it was mine. This is not an old Jewish problem. We are not beyond the kind of fascist ideology that lead to the Holocaust.
fascism [fash-iz-uhm] –
I had heard people say that Trumps rhetoric was reminiscent of the Nazi’s and we know (because they told us) that the KKK felt an affinity with him but I hadn’t realized until I watched the video just how true that was. From the talk of how one group is largely responsible for all the problems of another group – to the disdain for the press – to the opposition to protests – to the dismantling of Government agencies and the filling up of the courts with only those whose allegiance is to you. Even the actual wording or style of communicating and the target audience was/is similar. (Simple words, repetition repetition repetition, sound strong and sure of yourself even if what you are saying is a lie, make yourself appear to be the only one who can solve the problem, appeal to those who are struggling.)
There were the people who thought he would get more moderate once in power. There were the people who thought “Well, he’s only targeting them, not me, so I’m not going to worry about it.” There were those who thought he had checks and balances in place to prevent the worst behaviour. There were those who acknowledged that he had some ideas they disagreed with but who chose to overlook them because he promised to fix a broken economy.
Incremental things happened while the “good, middle ground” masses looked the other way. Each thing, which taken on it’s own didn’t seem like a big deal, but collectively they were a game changer.
At the museum, I learned about the slow response by the international community to what Hitler was doing. I learned about the way the refugees had been denied entry to most countries and how that is what really triggered the gas chambers. Hitler wanted them gone and if other countries wouldn’t take them, then something else had to be done to get rid of them. They needed an “Ultimate Solution.”
I learned that they not only targeted Jews and Blacks and Homosexuals, but also anyone who they thought was a threat to their power in any way or who would weaken their gene pool. No-one with a disability was allowed (whether mental or physical) and no authors or artists who they disagreed with. No-one they thought was unproductive such as gypsies. They persecuted millions of non-Jewish Polish people including Catholics and intellectuals.
In the museum gift shop there was a lot of merchandise that reflected one basic theme … It takes each of us, being aware and being brave enough to speak out, to prevent things like this from happening again.
Mugs telling you that – What You Do Matters
Bracelets letting you know that – Never Again Starts With You
T Shirts reminding you to – Never Stop Asking Why
I used to think that these kinds of atrocities could never happen again. But then we heard about the slavery auctions happening in Libya last year and of course there were Nazi’s protesting and even killing someone in my backyard, Charlottesville, and the person in charge of our country didn’t condemn them. And then there’s Syria.
This is still happening.
It’s heartbreaking and should disgust every single one of us. It should make every person who has an ounce of decency in them, want to stop this barbarism. As we worry about what design Starbucks chose for their Christmas cups or if Broadway stars were nice to the VP, or argue over the rights of the cake shop owner, there are young people being kidnapped and mutilated and raped as they try to make their way North. There are people being cut up and their organs harvested because they are trying to make a better life for their children.
The only reason it’s them and not us, isn’t because we are somehow more deserving or because we worked harder or did something to earn it. It’s not us, only because we weren’t born into it. We were born into a life, not devoid of hardships, but riddled with privilege.
I obviously cannot stop all the evil in the world, but as a group, as the entire human race, we can. It is not enough to be silently or passively against evil and oppression. Each of us can make a difference but only if each of us decides that they will make themselves be counted among the good. Only if each of us makes ourselves be involved. Only if each of us stops waiting for someone else to do something. Only if each of us remembers and then prevents.
History will judge us all by how we respond to the crises happening in our world today.