Nine Things That I Will Take To Auschwitz

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Nine Things That I Will Take To Auschwitz

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.” Primo Levi

I have studied about World War II in school, read a lot, saw the movies, documentaries and visited other concentration camps. I’ve obsessed over the Holocaust since I read Anne Frank when I was nine years old. I don’t really know how to  prepare for my trip to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Since opening to the public in 1947, it has become a world-known symbol of the atrocities that took place during WWII. Here is my list of things that I will take with me.

1.Courage. How will I stand in front of the gas chambers that killed one million people? Can I be brave and afraid at the same time?

2. Anti anxiety medication or at least some lavender oil. It will be hard to be in a place of so much darkness.

3. Mental toughness. How many stories of pain can I tolerate? How will I see and hear about the intolerable and insufferable acts  when I am actually there?

4.Camera and Notebook. I’m not sure if I will use them or if I will instead really be present and be an observer of what has happened.

5.Sadness. I know i will feel some deep, horrible sadness.

6.Memories of the people I knew who had those numbers on their arms; of the strangers that I saw with them and the people who died that I never knew but heard their stories. Memories outlast mortality.

7.Reason. It’s not possible to apply normal logic when trying to understand the Holocaust. How will I comprehend anything when I am actually there? In his will, Hitler blamed  WWII — including the Holocaust — on the Jews. On the people he was systematically exterminating. No, there is no logic there; no sense to be made of it. There was only madness and the people who followed it.

8.Anger at the current wave of antisemitism in Poland in response to the new Act on the Institute of National Remembrance, This law makes it illegal to accuse the Polish nation of complicity in crimes committed by Nazi Germany, including the Holocaust.The law also bans the use of terms such as “Polish death camps” in relation to Auschwitz and other camps in Nazi-occupied Poland and carries a three-year prison sentence.

9. Faith that monsters do not last forever and eventually truth and hope prevails.

Fly safe,
JAZ

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If You See Something, Say Something – Living In America

If You See Something, Say Something – Living  In America

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”Martin Niemoller

I always said that I would be the first one out of Nazi Germany. I would have been gone as soon as I heard the hate rhetoric. Germany elected a monster with a lot of charisma. He told the people what they wanted to hear so how could they resist.

The economic crisis helped Hitler to come into power. He was democratically elected.
I’m not sure that you can blame the German people for that. Hitler did not campaign on the premise of starting a holocaust. He didn’t sound much more radical or antisemitic then any of the other candidates.

The collective crime of the German people was that they supported Hitler and his party even after they had started committing unspeakable crimes and that a sizable fraction of the population supported him in committing those crimes. The difficult thing about Democracy is that majorities are sometimes wrong and you have to decide if and when it is your moral duty to follow the wrong decisions or when to fight them.

I learned about the Holocaust as a little girl living in a refugee community of Holocaust survivors. Of course I would run. Now I am a grownup. I believe in the Democratic process of voting and the person that was supposed to win, won.

There are signs that are troubling. The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, which acts as a check on the power of politicians and the government. Trump has already punished news organizations for critical stories by revoking their press credentials to his events and as President-elect continues to threaten them and deny access. I don’t think certain members of the press were particularly impartial during the election but that is one of the freedoms our country is built on.

There are things that were said in the campaign that breed similarity to a dictatorship. He talked about purging the government of all officials appointed by Barack Obama which is what Hitler did two months after getting into office. He is creating a tribe of people based on mutual hate and resentments. He is continuing to hold rallies (as did Hitler and Eva Peron).

I’m withholding my personal opinions and giving him a chance. I have to support the process of a Democratic election because I have seen the governments in Third World countries. I hope he does the good things that he says he will do. I’m reading and learning.  There has been a definite increase in racial harassment and xenophobia since Trump was elected. I understand that if an innocent Muslim or Latino is unsafe here, then I am also unsafe here. My new mantra is taken from homeland security. “If you see something, say something.”

Fly safe,

JAZ