The Holocaust happened while the world slept

Today, in this time and this place, even in the face of so many years having now passed by, the unimaginable horror surrounding the systematic extermination of six million human beings by the Nazi Germany’s Third Reich is still all but impossible to comprehend. We simply can’t wrap our collective mind around such savagery, and yet, comprehend it we must. For were the world to ever forget the atrocities that were perpetrated against the Jewish people all those years ago would be to deny the memory of a people who were tortured and murdered for no other reason other than the fact that they happened to be Jewish. To this day, how the world could allow something as horrific and insane as the Holocaust to take place in what was supposed to have been a “civilized” society continues to amaze, repulse and shock us.

Today, the Holocaust still serves as a grim reminder of our failure to stand up against the forces of evil and madness at a time when it was within our power to alleviate human suffering on an unparalleled scale. Looking back on history’s blackest page from the safely and comfort of today’s world, there can be no doubt that the world stood by and watched, as score of doomed and innocent people went to their death in places like Auschwitz. Just saying that word still has the effect of running a cold chill up and down my spine. Auschwitz, the chilling and barbaric implementation of Hitler’s “Final Solution” by willing and fanatical SS Storm Troopers clad in black. For many of us, including me, simply reading the word Auschwitz in a book or a newspaper article conjures up the very essence of hatred and evil. This one word can cloak itself around you like a shawl of icy darkness.

Several years ago, I recall having a chance encounter with a very elderly and time-worn woman at an antique show. She was one of the vendors displaying her wares. As she leaned across a table to pick up an item that was of interest to me, the sleeve of her sweater slid up to reveal a series of faded numbers that had been tattooed on her arm. Although I knew immediately what the numbers were, I remained silent. Suddenly, through the lens of tired eyes that were a bit cloudy with age, she looked up at me staring at her arm. In a soft and raspy voice that carried the tone of dry leaves scratching across a driveway in a crisp autumn breeze she said one word; “Auschwitz.” To this day, I still remember the weak smile crawling across her aged face as she looked into my eyes with a sadness that her smile could not conceal. I stood there, not saying anything; just trying to imagine the hellish nightmare that she had lived through and survived. The images that of unspeakable horror that would live in her mind for all of her days. The impact of that brief encounter remains indelibly etched in my mind to this day. It has never left me. When I think of that old woman, some lyrics from Graham Nash come to me. “And you of tender years can’t know the fears that your elders grew by.”

To all but those who lived through it, the Second World War is now but a distant and faded memory that is preserved in the pages of history books, and in the sweeping epic novels by celebrated authors like Herman Wouk and James Jones. It lives now only in the remembrances of the very few old men left who fought it. The war has, to a large extent, been glorified and has become the grist for the mill of Hollywood screen writers.

Seven decades after it took place, perhaps the most disturbing aspect surrounding the Holocaust is the fact that today there are actually many people who do not believe that it actually happened. Sadly, some of today’s young people actually see it as a Jewish-sponsored propaganda campaign that bends and manipulates the truth to serve a political agenda. This is indeed a twisted view of history that must not be allowed to proliferate across the generations. For what is clear is the fact that anti-Semitism is alive and well today. It doesn’t reside just on the West Bank or in Gaza, but right here in our own back yard. It can be seen clearly in the increasing wave of vicious hate crimes that sweep across our own communities, and in those sick people who appear to actually glorify the Third Reich; seeking to emulate the Nazis. It truly boggles the mind.

Is it any wonder that Israel has raised a nation of warriors who respond to aggression aimed at them with such devastating military retaliation? The painful cry of “Never Again” reaches out from the graves of six million people and echoes across time. Never again can the world stand by and do nothing. Never again should free people tolerate innocent human beings being slaughtered like animals. Never again will the Jewish people allow themselves to be put at the mercy of those who would seek to annihilate them. For the world to forget or deny the Holocaust would be, in the final analysis, a victory for the Third Reich: the architects of a terrifying evil that stands alone in world history. We cannot let the events of the past be swept up in the dust bin of history. If we do not remember, then history will surely repeat itself.

Paul Collins is a Freelance Writer from Southborough, MA