This year mark’s the 70th anniversary since the liberation of Auschwitz prisoners. Tuesday evening I watched a one hour special of Holocaust survivors telling their stories of the camp to CNN corespondent Wolf Blitzer. 70 years isn’t so long ago in the grand scheme of things. Just imagine it: 70 years ago, human beings were destroyed forever whether physically or mentally. Human beings who, just a few years before were going to school, going to work, playing games, enjoying families, just…living. And now we no longer have these amazing people, people who could’ve impacted the world for the better but can’t because a man and his followers decided that they weren’t worth the space they took up.
And yet 70 years has put enough space in between today’s generation to those long ago. We read about the history of the Holocaust as if it’s just another event that we have to learn about it in school. Many of us choose to ignore the repercussions of what Auschwitz and others like it have done in the years hence. How sad, we think, that such a thing could happen, could be allowed to happen, and then we continue on our daily lives without another thought. Or there are those who say “I know it’s important, but I just can’t handle reading about these things. It’s too horrible.”
If it’s too horrible, then why did we allow it to happen? We need to remember it, we need to continue hearing these stories. If we don’t listen and remember Auschwitz and the people who suffered there, then we’re allowing Hitler to win. We’re telling those who wanted to wipe out an entire group of people that what they did was right. Why do we want to do such a thing?
When I was about 14, I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. with my eighth grade class. Even though I’m not Jewish by any means (at least as far as I know), seeing this place had a huge impact on me. I remember walking into the room where they have a little shrine for all those who perished in the camps with candles lit and just standing there for several minutes in silence just thinking. It was as if I could feel these people around me. Needless to say it only fueled my interest in reading about this time period more.
I feel passionate about this only because I care about this part of history so deeply. I feel connected to the stories that seem so poignant to me. I can’t advocate as an expert or even for the Jewish experience because I’m not either, but I feel it on a human experience. I’m a person who only wants to connect and understand on an emotional level in some way or another. By trying to emphasize, we can keep their memories alive and never let it be forgotten.