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Posted by on Jan 29, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Remembering The Horrors And Significance Of Auschwitz

Auschwitz_1The gray haired man looked a bit like how actor actor Spencer Tracy looked in Tracy’s final years. He had been sitting at a dining room table in New Haven, Connecticut when he called his over his teenage grandson.

"This was my family," he said, slowly opening the photo album. Then he started pointing to a host of aging photos showing large, smiling groups of people of all ages.

"He’s dead — killed by the Nazis. She’s dead — killed by the Nazis. This little boy? Hitler killed him, too.And this little girl." And so it went, as he showed his grandson the photos of family members who had been murdered by the Nazi regime in concentration camps. Some had simply disappeared.

He was a vigorous Jewish senior who even in his 80s wanted to get up on a ladder to cultivate apple trees. And although he pointed to these yellowing photos with a minimum of high-drama — he talked in soft-matter of fact voice — he would look at his grandson as he pointed to each photo. You could tell he wanted his grandson to take it all in…so that he’d never  forget.

I haven’t.

Over the years I heard and read about the other unspeakable horrors of the Nazi regimes successful effort to dehumanize a group of humans. Of lampshades made out of human skin. Guards knocking out corpses teeth to melt down precious metals. Of the unspeakable and sadistic experiments.

I’d still have this thirst to find out more — until I read The Book. I forget the title, but I found it in the San Diego library. It was a detailed report on first hand reports of genocide.

One section detailed how Nazi soldiers bayoneted babies.

Another how children (infants, toddlers, elementary school age and teens) were shoved screaming off a cliff into a hole that was quickly covered with dirt, and many of the survivors died screaming and crying as they suffocated to death, with  young guards laughing as the muffled screams of terror and slow smothering tapered off.

Another detailed how two  little kids were carefully lined up to sit one in front of each other, then killed with a single shot, as a kind of human video game.

How could it happen? How could it happen to ANY group? How could this kind of barbarity — which really goes beyond the phrase "war crimes" — EVER happen? How could a regime or whole people lose take of their senses? And wasn’t it nice that this was eradicated with the death of Adolph Hitler and the dismantling of the Nazi regime?

Except that it wasn’t.

On September 11 Americans got a taste of the same mentality, as stewardesses throats were cut to attract and kill male airplane pilots, as planes with innocent men, women and children were flown suicidally into buildings — to kill more men, women and children whose crime was this: they were Americans and did not believe as the Muslim extremist terrorists did. The terrorsts needed a high body count.

I will never forget visiting Connecticut shortly after and seeing my father Richard Gandelman as he sat his wife, two of his grown kids and his grandkids in a restaurant that had been reeling from the loss of business due to 911 fears. My father, a proud World War II veteran, thought this kind of thing had been eradicated by the War…but we had gotten an inkling that it wasn’t dead after all. He knew what this meant; he had lived through it before and thought the world was safer now due to his and his generation’s  enormous sacrificies.

A hasty judgment? Not at all.

Anyone who watched any of the glorified snuff videos of hostages being jumped from behind and screaming as their heads got cut  off had to conclude: "They’re back."

For "they" are the people who dehumanize — and have no compunction about wiping out people due to their political beliefs, ethnicity, nationality.

We’re not talking about causalities of war, of carelessness, or even of acts that fall under "war crimes" — but the cold-blooded murder of people based on ideology or religion. The murder of people because of WHO THEY ARE.

For Auschwitz and what happened there was not only about religion. Indeed, increasingly, info has come out that the Nazi regime’s ultimate goal was to turn Nazi ism into a reglion in itself.

The fact that a death factory could efficiently and brutally wipe out so many people reflected the success of mental reconditioning that allowed the Nazi regime to have so many agree to quietly go for the ride.

It wasn’t just fear; it was spreading a perspective and values. Some supported it; some stayed silent because they didn’t like the Jews anyway and it wasn’t their problem.

Today, that attitude has a new incarnation: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

The Muslim world faces a choice today with this new incarnation of Nazism that — given a chance and a weapon falling into their hands — would not hesitate to use a nuclear weapon to get a nice, big body count in the U.S. or (many fear)intentionally  unleash a horrible disease upon its foes’ shores.

The goal of creating a 1,000 year Reich no matter who had to be rubbed out has now been replaced by the desire to create a pan-Islamic Caliphate.

How do people and countries resist? By NEVER going quietly. By taking military action, if warrented. But above all by RESISTING  terrorist threats  —  as more than 70 percent of the Iraqis did today, as they bravely headed to the ballot boxes fully knowing that their lives may be on the line. (More than 72 percent of the Iraqis — better turnout than in U.S. elections– headed to the polls.)  By realizing we all have our individual and collective Moments of Truth — when a choice may make or break us physically and spiritually.

But when I hear Auschwitz, I still think back to my grandfather, showing me the pictures. I think back and grieve for all of those men, women and children who had such a horrific, fear-filled, beyond nightmarish end. And if I pause and think, I start to literally shed tears for those poor kids who never had a chance to live — who were mercilessly gassed, bayoneted, lined up and shot, buried alive….  all because they came from a group that had been  dehumanized so successfully that many who could have spoken out or acted did nothing. And, in doing nothing, those that didn’t act or looked the other way became moral accessories to the acts.

IsraPundit as this story about a Holocaust denier.
–IsraPundit also coordinated a MUST READ blogburst commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by allies. Click here to find a long list list of participating site, and you can visit them.
–Remembering Auschwitz, editorials by Trinidad News and  St. Paul Pioneer Press give a flavor of some of the mainstream press coverage.

–A survivor remembers.
–German papers are reportedly divided on how to handle it. Spiegel Online reports:

With all the press coverage this week surrounding Thursday’s 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, German papers on Thursday are divided as to how much more attention the event really needs. A number of papers completely avoid the topic on their front pages, preferring instead to lead with the imminent introduction of university tuition in the country. Most, however, devote a number of pages to articles, opinion and photos from the Third Reich’s most infamous concentration and death camp. And, as this is likely one of the last chances to carry first-hand accounts of survivors, many publications choose to tell very private stories of horror and suffering.

Check the link for specifics on what German publications wrote.
Muslim Wake Up stresses that what happened at Auschwitz can’t be accurately compared to Palestinian complaints, but does restate the general  Palestinian case. Key quote on Auschwitz:

The mass killing of millions of people from the very old to newborns with industrial efficiency for the sole purpose of exterminating a whole race is beyond words in its cruelty, criminality, abhorrence and indeed in its uniqueness. The road towards peace and reconciliation does not go through denial of the suffering of Jews; understanding the narratives of the "other" is a prerequisite for any real reconciliation. Those Muslims and other supporters of the Palestinians who deny or minimize the Holocaust do major disservice to the Palestinian cause and cause more Jews and Israelis to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the Palestinians.

–The Mississippi Press:

The lesson of history, as German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder pointed out, is that the evil of the Nazis "did not come from nowhere. The brutalization of thought and the loss of moral inhibitions had a history; above all, Nazi ideology was desired by the people and man-made."

Today in France, anti-semitism is on the rise. White supremacists and neo-Nazi groups are well-known by authorities in Europe and North America.

That is reason enough to care about the soldier and the death camp and the 1.5 million people who were slain.

A generation of Europeans — perhaps some Americans too — are growing up in disbelief that such inhumanity to man could take place in a civilized society.

More recent examples: Rwanda, Cambodia, the Sudan, tell us it indeed can.

We must commit our hearts and minds and souls to a simple, but powerful phrase:

Never again.

–This article on Bosnia’s war horrors involving a prision guard who is interviewed reminds us that it can happen anywhere.