Today is the UN "Holocaust Remembrance Day".
However much I disagree with making a "day" out of this, like all those others, "Don't buy something", "Be happy" , "fight cancer" days, it still gives me reason to point out to the few others who might read, its importance.
Nature is cruel. It has killed anonymously, randomly, millions. But far more brutal and cruel has been man, poor mortal man. Killing many more millions with drum beats and bravado. The Holocaust, the apex of this barbarism and "banality of evil" should make us look at our shiny cars and hair products with disdain, even disgust.
This photo haunts me and I've carried it with me for years. Any of us could be this boy, any of us could be swept up in the cruelty of history and those who'd "possess" right or might. Why him not me?
Man is cruel. How might we begin to repair this and leave a light, a lit path for our children?
I have no real answer yet. I cry out like that woman in the cattle car, "We are going to the fire! Fire! Fire!" I do my part. It IS about remembrance. We must educate others about the importance of this event and the subtle ways it still exists today. We are all Jews and they can also come for us any day, at any moment. Don't you think otherwise!
Here is a column I read today that spoke to me. By an Auschwitz survivor, Samual Pisar. He asks the same questions as I do. When will we rise out of the savagery and into civilization? We are still so far from it, we are still so cruel. We must find a way out, we are all Jews.
Liberation From Auschwitz
By SAMUEL PISAR
Published: January 26, 2010
Sixty-five years ago, to the day, the Soviets liberated Auschwitz, while the Americans were approaching Dachau. For a survivor of these two infernos to be still alive and well, with a new and happy family that has resurrected for me the one I had lost seems almost unreal. When I entered Eichmann and Mengele’s gruesome universe at the age of 13, I measured my life expectancy in days, weeks at the most.
In the early winter of 1944, World War II was coming to an end. But we in the camps knew nothing. We were wondering: What is happening in the world outside? Where is God? Where is the pope? Does anyone out there know what is happening here to us? Do they care?
Russia was devastated. England was resisting, her back against the wall. And America? She was so far away, so divided. How could she be expected to save civilization from the seemingly invincible forces of darkness at this late stage? I was almost 16 now and I wanted to live.
It took a long time for the news of the Normandy invasion to slip into Auschwitz. There were also rumors that the Red Army was advancing quickly on the Eastern front. The Nazis’ nervousness was becoming palpable. The gas chambers were now spewing fire and smoke as never before.
One gray, frosty morning, our guards ordered us to line up and marched us out of Auschwitz-Birkenau’s main gate with its perverse sign: “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Brings Freedom”). Those of us who were still able to be used for slave labor would be shunted westward, deeper into Germany.
I was beside myself with excitement. Salvation suddenly seemed so near, yet so far away. At the last moment, they would surely kill us, too. The “Final Solution” must be completed, the last living witnesses must be wiped out. Oh, to hang on, to hang on a little longer ...
Our death marches from camp to camp continued day and night, until we and our torturers began to hear powerful explosions that sounded like artillery. One afternoon we were strafed by a squadron of Allied fighter planes who mistook our column for Wermacht troops. As the SS men hit the dirt, their machine guns blazing in all directions, someone near me yelled: “Run for it!”
I kicked off my wooden clogs and made a desperate sprint into the nearby forest. There I hid for weeks, until I was liberated by a platoon of American G.I.’s who gave me my first taste of freedom.
Today we, the last living survivors of the greatest catastrophe ever perpetrated by man against man, are disappearing one by one. Soon, history will speak about Auschwitz at best with the impersonal voice of researchers and novelists, and at worst in the malevolent register of revisionists and falsifiers who call the Holocaust a “myth.” This process has already begun. That is why we feel a visceral duty to transmit to our fellow men the memory of what we have endured in body and soul; to alert our children that the fanaticism and violence that is spreading again in our newly enflamed world could destroy their universe as it has once destroyed mine.
The fury of the Haiti earthquake, which has taken more than 150,000 lives, teaches us how cruel nature can be. The Holocaust teaches us that nature, even in its cruelest moments, is benign in comparison with man when he loses his moral compass and his reason.
After so much spilled blood, a groundswell of compassion and solidarity for the victims — all victims, whether from natural disasters, racial hatred, religious intolerance or terrorist violence — occasionally manifests itself. It is still too early to evaluate the potential of such generous sentiments for the future.
Meanwhile, we remain divided and confused, we hesitate, we vacillate, like sleepwalkers at the edge of the abyss. But the irrevocable has not yet happened. Our chances are still intact. Let us hope that mankind will somehow seize them and learn to live with its diversity in better harmony.
Samuel Pisar is an international lawyer and the author of “Of Blood and Hope.”