Seventy years. Seven decades. 25,550 days.
That’s like 490 in dog years or 544 and some in ferret years.
Or, other terms, this is how long it’s been since a January day Russian soldiers walked up to the jagged, wired fences in Auschwitz.
Confronted by walking skeletons in striped uniforms, battle weary soldiers from Moscow and Ukraine, Leningrad and Odessa, looked into the white faces of the people who remained. The dregs of the death dealers were those who stayed. They were too weak or too sick to travel on with those who were made to march on to certain death in other camps just like this one. 15,000 had been forcibly marched in the Polish winter to die elsewhere.
Those who remained were the survivors of Auschwitz.
Men leaned weakly against the wire and posts of their stockade. The pictures taken don’t communicate cold, or any joy in the impending freedom. Their eyes, shadowed and haunted by pain, torture, hunger, and injustice appear over-large in shrunken faces long starved of nutrition and hope. From an unthinkable prison of brutality they gazed back at The People’s Army.
It seems more than a little ironic that Stalin’s men would liberate the Jews from one maniac when, over the course of his administration more than 56 million would die of “unnatural causes” behind the Iron Curtain.
When the news of German barbarity first broke on the BBC, it was “Szmul Zygielbojm, a member of the Polish government in exile who made it his mission to inform the world about the Holocaust.”(credit: UKTelegraph)
But, no one wanted to believe such atrocities could happen in a modern society. As early as 1941 Churchill had called the persecution of the Jews “a crime without a name”. Yet, three years before the liberation of the camp the news had spread about the gas chambers and there was absolutely NO outcry.
For three years the world kept busy and mostly silent. The US joins the Allies and finally coming to the aid of the beleaguered European nations. But the military might of the world remained intent on an enemy they could understand; marching soldiers, tanks, plastic pieces moving between nation-state lines drawn on a changing map. Ideals the world was familiar with were found in enforcing an ideal of national identity to other countries or the recognizable enemy of another’s imperialistic political sprawl.
But the blind hatred that kills millions based on an idea?
How do you combat the evils of exterminating an entire society because they didn’t fit a eugenics plan? What weapon do you carry to fight a crazed and focused ideology? It all seemed too evil, too foreign.
During those three years, were there many in the United States remembering the fate of the refugees on the doomed ship, St. Louis, as over 937 human beings, Jews, sought safe haven across the Atlantic in Cuba and the US and were summarily denied and sent back to the continent where they would be marked for death.
Passengers from the St. Louis.
Then, as it is now, it is more than simply unpleasant to look at the greed and selfishness of a nation unwilling to save a mere fraction of humanity; it is horrifying. This refusal to accept the refugees was an exposition of hidden ideologies that supported the crazed little man in Berlin.
Anti-Semitism wasn’t a recent addition to the US any more than it was new to Germany and Europe. Even Henry Ford, capitalism’s hero and one of the Industrial Revolution’s big names, was only following in the deep and well-trod footsteps of many in the US and across the world during the late 1800’s and into the early parts of the 20th century.
“A close friend recalled a camping trip in 1919 during which Ford lectured a group around the campfire. He “attributes all evil to Jews or to the Jewish capitalists,” the friend wrote in his diary. “The Jews caused the war, the Jews caused the outbreak of thieving and robbery all over the country, the Jews caused the inefficiency of the navy…”
Of course, at the time, he was referring to WWI, the War To End All Wars, which of course, it wasn’t.
The world was ripe for the decimation of an entire people group based on the one thing over which no single, solitary human being on the planet has EVER had the power to control: DNA.
That is the true nature of anti-Semitism. Hatred and destruction in a perfect storm with ignorance and fear to deny the basic rights of personhood to a select group of people based solely on genetic heritage.
Over the past 3000 years the Jews have been enslaved, beaten, murdered, crucified, expelled, and spit upon. Attempts at genocide have been a constant threat whether through violence or ideological indoctrination.
In the history of humanity, there has never been any other group more persecuted, more hated, and less likely to survive than the children of Israel.
Yet, in spite of it all, they have remained as a cohesive identity in both faith and genetics. The bloodline of Levi retaining its purity so there are priests ready and fit for service in the Temple when it is built.
As I read the transcript of the State of The Union speech President Obama gave this past week I was appalled by more than just his smarmy assurances that it’s all good, y’all. Do I make myself clear?
He attempted to compare the vicious history of anti-Semitism with the need for tolerance to Muslims as though there is some kind of leveling of the playing field here and kissing up to the bully is the same thing as finding the backbone to stand up against injustice.
It isn’t. The world is slipping into silence again as it is bullied by thugs in keffiyah’s and bombers in burkas. The media is covering for thieves and murderers by refusing to report the truth of slaughters across the Middle East and Africa as well as the threats within European and Western nations from those who have breached our borders and want to enforce their slavish religion on everyone or kill those who don’t.
As the world stood by and said nothing in the face of the atrocities of the Holocaust, we are guilty of the same crime. Apathy.
The man, Zybielbojm, who bravely and passionately shared the truth of the gruesome bloodshed by the devilish hands of Nazis and their collaborators, was shocked not by the blatant denial and aggressive rejection of what he reported, but by the global stillness to the urgency of his message.
His wife, Manya, and their son, Tuvia, still living in occupied Poland, prisoners of the Warsaw Ghetto ,didn’t survive the war. They died during the razing of the Ghetto in 1943.
“Crushed by this tragedy – and by the weight of indifference towards the fate of the Jews – Zygielbojm took his own life on May 11, 1943.”
Echoing his words, I look out on a self-absorbed church, fat corporations, and world leaders more intent on personal gain and adulation than in any measure of righteousness. Those who have remained silent and reluctant in the face of the martyrdom of thousands in Nigeria, the slaughter of innocents across the Middle East, and the persecution of children and families in Pakistan and India… To these who choose to remain closemouthed I say:
“The responsibility for the crime of the murder of the whole Jewish nationality…rests first of all on those who are carrying it out…but indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the…nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime. By looking on passively upon this murder of defenseless millions [of] tortured children, women and men they have become partners to the responsibility.”
Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of one of the most grim and frightful pages in human history, Auschwitz.
For 70 years we’ve heard their stories, seen the movies, wept through Yad Vashem and memorials across the globe. We’ve paid lip service to “Never Again” and yet, it is apparent that we’ve learned nothing.