Ansel Adams at the Skirball

skirball-exhibition-overview-ansel-adamsI went to that Skirball museum to see Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams.   Could not be a more fitting time for this show.  As we sit in our living rooms watching the pictures of people pouring out of Syria or the hungry people trapped inside Syria wondering about each countries quasi-open arms to the immigrants and another countries shutting of their doors.

Ansel Adams documented the incarceration camp in Manzanar California from 1942 – 1946.  He protested the treatment of the American-Japanese citizens in their own country.  A forced exodus.  A piece of history that had been pushed under the rug until Jimmy Carter put together a commission to see if as a countries actions were justifiable.  They concluded that the internment was a product of racism and the government should pay for the retribution forced upon all of the people in the camps.   Ronald Reagan issued authorized $20K per person when he was in office putting out more than $1.6billion.

This past week Israel published a letter from  1962 by the Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann pleading for clemency two days before he was hung.  His claim that he was merely following orders.  War is complicated.

I kept thinking about the Holocaust walking through the Skirball looking at the pictures of the camps.  We took people from their homes who did nothing.  We at least let them bring parts of their lives, fed them, created jobs, taught the kids school and essentially built a city over four years vs starving and torturing people to death or putting them in the gas chamber.  Regardless, it is a disturbing piece of history.  It was during WWII, a scary time.  People (and governments) made many mistakes.  History has proven that.

What is the rest of the world’s responsibility for saving people caught in the crossfires of war and conflict?  My ancestors survived WWII because of the kindness of others.  Are we just watching history repeat itself when we talk about rounding up muslims or taking in as few refugees as possible?  I think we might be.