The Holocaust is one of the seminal events of recent human history. The persecution, starvation, torture, forced slaved labor and murder of six million European Jews is the hallmark of the inhumanity we often force on our fellow human beings.
Recently, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made some comments in which she compared immigrants held by border control to the victims of the Nazi concentration camp. The response to her comparison has come fast and furious.
As a Jew and an a descendant of Holocaust victims, I think that her comments are on target. While the immigrants in these facilities are not being tortured, starved, forced into slavery or systematically murdered, they are being treated as less than human.
In the eyes of the current administration, they are the other. They are bad, they are evil and they are the cause of our problems. They do not deserve the opportunity to become Americans and add to the wonderful interwoven fabric of our country.
This is what she is saying and unfortunately, many who are responding are not listening.
Yesterday, November 9th and today, November 10th is the anniversary of Kristallnacht. Translated into “Night Of The Broken Glass” Jewish owned businesses, buildings,homes and synagogues were destroyed. Innocent Jewish civilians were murdered or arrested and imprisoned in concentration camps.
Kristallnacht was the beginning of the Holocaust. By the time World War II ended 7 years later, six million Jews were murdered, along with five million others who were deemed as “subhuman” by the Nazis and their supporters.
Unfortunately, this sentiment is not a new one, especially in America today. We have a President who is silently condoning the views and actions of the far right and the hate groups who in the past, have been forced into the shadows of our culture. If he had his way, immigrants, especially immigrants of color would be deported. Transgender troops who put the lives on the line for this country would be forced out of the military. The Press, as we know it to be, would be destroyed except for a few television channels and publications who mindlessly agree with him. It is a figurative Reichstag fire that has the potential to destroy our democracy and everything that we as Americans hold dear.
If we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it. While Donald Trump is not a mirror of Hitler, there are signs and red flags that cannot be ignored. If we ignore them, we do so at our own peril.
Dr. Edith Eva Eger has a unique take on grief and dealing with the emotional trauma. A survivor of Auschwitz and The Holocaust, her experience during World War II gives her an insight as how to deal and move on from grief and trauma.
She has chronicles her experiences in a book entitled, The Choice: Embrace the Possible. At the outset of World War II, Dr. Eger was a young woman from a Jewish family living in Hungary. By the time the war was over, Dr. Eger was a survivor of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. While she and her sisters were lucky enough to survive, the rest of their family perished. After the war, she married, had three children, became a refugee from Soviet controlled Hungary and emigrated to America, where she eventually received her doctorate in psychology.
Among memoirs by Holocaust survivors, this book stands out. While it is about Dr. Eger’s story, it is about much more than that. It is about how we can face our demons and traumas, whatever form they take and find the inner peace that we are yearning for.
The Holocaust, like all massacres of an ethnic or religious minority did not start off with concentration camps and gas chambers. It started with words. It started with the dehumanization of Jews and other minorities. That led to political and social disenfranchisement, which directly led to the concentration camps and gas chambers.
After World War II, the common phrase was “never again”. Never again will we stand by as our fellow human beings are slaughtered simply for being who they are. Never again will we let a government openly persecute and slaughter our fellow citizens because they belong to a different faith or their heritage is different from ours.
Never again has become a hollow statement that often used, but rarely acted upon.
In Myanmar, the Rohingya Muslim minority is being massacred en masse by the government. Their only crime, like all of victims of ethnic cleansing, was being who they are.
Perhaps instead of never again, we should simply say again, because ethnic cleansing has happened multiple times since 1945 and we simply continue not to care.
Today is the 70th anniversary of the discovery of secret annex. Anne Frank , an ordinary teenage girl was hiding in the annex with her family and several others. They were sent arrested and deported to concentration camps. Otto Frank, Anne’s father was only one to survive and live to old age.
This girl was a remarkable writer. Her thoughts and feelings documented in her diary are so ordinary in the life of a teenage girl. Yet her words are so extraordinary because they were in hiding. I keep imagining what kind of stories and characters she might have introduced the world to, had she survived. Some writers are lucky enough to have a gift for writing that is obvious at a young age. Anne was one of those writers. But we will never know what kind of writer she would have become as an adult.