In the first semester of my junior year of college, I went to school in London. It was an epic experience on multiple levels. After the semester ended, I went with a friend for about 3 weeks around Europe with a Europass.
We stopped in Munich. One of the days we went to Dachau. I still remember the entire day like it was yesterday. We took a train out to the closest town. We got there early and went into a small restaurant where nobody spoke a word of English. Those days very few people in Europe spoke anything but their own language. We wanted breakfast and the only way we could communicate with the woman behind the counter was thru pantomime. She quickly figured out we wanted eggs and toast. The place felt like something out of the 1940’s.
After breakfast we took a bus from the town to Dachau. It was cold, overcast and snowing. We arrived and went through the small museum that was there and then we walked the camp grounds where we saw the showers and ovens used to eliminate Jews. There was only one other tourist there besides the two of us. That made is even eerier. It was overwhelming, upsetting, intense and uncomfortable. The weather made it even worse. I still remember the black dark dreary sky.
When we had enough, we wanted to leave immediately. We realized that the bus didn’t come for two hours but we couldn’t stay another minute so we walked back to the town where the train was. It took us easily an hour and a half but we couldn’t swallow staying there another moment.
Fast forward, Fred and I went to Auschwitz today. We have been to the Jewish museums in DC, Berlin and Israel. Many of the items that are in the museums are also at Auschwitz from the piles of shoes, hair and glasses that shake you down to your bones but the suitcases is what really rattles me.
The history that is being kept alive here is powerful and so important. The Holocaust shows us where human hatred can lead us. We can never be bystanders again. Hatred riles up an ideology that creates such anger and blame.
We are witnessing that today in American politics. I certainly don’t want to connect Hitler to Trump because we already witnessed what Hitler did but there is something about the tight lipped bystanders such as McConnell and his posse who ignore what is going on right underneath their noses from Syria to Ukraine. Between satellite and our phones, there are no secrets. How can anyone be numb and speechless? The only answer is money and power.
Many countries and many people did not speak up during WW2. It is a responsibility to all of us to not be bystanders because hatred is boiling up in bad places and it is time to say enough is enough. I hope what is happening and unraveling in the impeachment hearings that are currently taking place now will put an end to the hate coming out of this administration. After walking those paths where hatred prevailed for so long, you are reminded that we have to make sure that this never happens again. Hatred is evil and it is currently destroying and killing communities around the globe. I believe it is all of our responsibilities as Americans to stop it. Everyone should take a trip to Auschwitz. It is a powerful reminder of right vs wrong.