“Sometimes I am asked if I know the response to Auschwitz; I answer that not only do I not know it but that I don’t even know if a tragedy of this magnitude has a response.” – Elie Wiesel
It would be foolish to think that Germany alone perpetrated these horrendous, atrocious, and macabre crimes against humanity by loading fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters into cargo trains where they would be expediently and expeditiously denuded, gassed, cremated, exterminated, and forgotten.
In fact, we are all responsible for it.
Our lust for war, for land, for power, for fame and eternity. Our want of god-status to control the masses, to wave a staff and command battalions to raze villages to the ground. At our command we ravage and rape women, young and old. We remove from them the grace they once had by catapulting them into pits of hellish horror, as they succumb to the terror, the violence, the excruciating ripping and tearing of their body, and also their soul. And should these same victims survive the waves of assault, the many nights of rape, they will eventually be retraumatized by the presence of a baby whose sheer existence if both a reminder of how strong a woman’s body can be but also how heinous the production of human life can be, also.
A miracle and a tragedy.
How many children were born into our world, unwanted, cast away, to die on the cold red earth that lay under these camps? How many of them would be gathered in the most violent fashion, speared through with a soldier’s knife, and cast off to the side to bleed out, its hours on earth complete and without meaning. How many were thrown into red hot ovens, cremated alive, screaming and reaching for a hand that would not come? How many would be shot at, stomped on, trampled, gassed, or thrown into mass graves to be buried alive, nameless?
Individuals brutalized, time and again, by sadists who wanted nothing more than to reduce everyday people to rubbish. Reduce their humanity to rodent status. Reduce their beliefs to fallacies and fables. Reduce their sanctity and right to life to an open grave that could not be satiated or content with the number of bodies it fed on.
Our daily fascination with power, lust, control, land, and death led us to this point where we engineered campgrounds whose only purpose for existence was for the decimation and obliteration of human life. Though secondary and tertiary administrative functions were performed at these camps it does not detract or diminish the reality of its main function: extermination.
We can visit a meat farm and find how clean the executive’s office may be. How well-kept the lunchrooms are, the quality of service provided there, the standard of safety and health offered by the kitchen staff, the instructions on workplace respect speared by the human resources personnel, and how coworkers thrive within their scope of work but this does not do away with the reality that down the hall, down the road from this very location there are animals being slaughtered, butchered, quartered, organized, packaged and transported to our location convenience supermarket for consumption.
The difference between death camps and meat farms is that the latter function to bring forth something to society, sustenance and food, pleasure, and contentment. The former spends its time in existence butchering and slaughtering people as if they were but animals or perhaps portraying them as such for no other reason, no purpose, no outcome, no other merit to the planet other than making men into ash falling from the sky.
People, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and eventually millions of family members ushered into the afterlife in the most grotesque and systematic way.
We are responsible for that.
Ya, tis true that the Nazi party, the SS, the Gestapo, the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, and the Reichstag; ministers of finance, propaganda, transport, sciences, art, and ecclesiastic functions were the sharp edge of this horrific sword but the medal, the substance that allowed for this same device to cut and destroy is humanity.
This weapon was used by the Germans then but the same weapon can be used by Americans, Russians, Cambodians, the Argentine, Chileans, Congolese, Vietnamese, Korean, and more.
It is true that those who barked orders at prisoners and victims of this death camp spoke Deutsch but violence, brute force, rape, sword, cannon, improvised explosive devices, booby traps, claymores, dynamite, and atomic bombs come and devastate in all languages.
But hope lies in the human spirit that if there is the capacity for violence to tear down and destroy there is equally the same amount of violence available to build up and liberate and that is what we witnessed in the years, months, weeks, and days leading up to January 27, 1945. The Red Army steamrolled through the plains of Russia, Ukraine, and finally, Poland to liberate any and all death and work camps once occupied and maintained by Nazi criminals, in hopes of ending this horrific war against humanity.
These were but a few great things the Red Army accomplished in the war.
But the liberation and ultimate salvation of the remaining survivors of the Auschwitz extermination camp was a resounding song of the resilience of the human will, the human soul in spite of absolute horror and death.
We remember those lost though remembering them all, by number, by name, by title, by career, by volition, by social standing, by economic strife or success, by religion, by sex, by orientation, by health, by facial features, and bodily deformities, by birth or by death, it is impossible to know them all but we attempt, time and again, to remember them all.
I’ve yet to visit what remains of this hellish place but I hope one day I may. I don’t know if I will be able to compose myself on the way there because my trip there will be accomplished out of my own free will, on my own two feet, and hopefully with the presence of my family.
My children need to see it. My girls need to witness the mountains of children’s shoes, the mountains of glasses, the mountains of hair, and the mountains of clothing that were left behind. The extracted gold teeth, the location of what was formally mass graves, mass ovens, and mass gas chambers.
My children need to bear witness not only to the reality of our capacity for evil but also our capacity for good.
There was good, too, you know.
January 27, 1945.
There was good.
There is no redemptive telling of this war other than the complete obliteration of Nazi Germany as it and what it stood for was relocated to the nonexistence it once wanted to exert on the Jews and other ubermensch or people they considered of less worth.
Nazi Germany is gone. Thank God.
These death camps are gone!
What remains of them is but a ghost, a spirit, a shadow of what they stood for!
Gone! The people. Gone!
The fathers, gone!
The children and babes who hungered for milk and the nearest familiar and friendly face, gone.
But what remains and rears its nasty head time and again in our timeline is us, our capacity to create these same systems of evil and death.
The substance that existed in Germans then is the same that exists in us today.
It would be childish of us to think otherwise. Look, read, and listen and you will find that in some recess, some nation, some hidden place of society there still exists the same sword and the same sharpness cutting and tearing time and again.
If the liberation of Auschwitz death camp serves for anything it is that there is hope that we, too, as a people, as a race will be redeemed and liberated from this filth in our hearts that drives our efforts violently toward destruction and death.
I pray one day we too can be liberated. Delivered from this.
To those who perished and to those who survived,
We continue to honor you, your memory, your loss, and your triumphal resilience in the face of complete annihilation.
We cannot and will not blame you for doubting, for failing, for giving up, for giving in, or for wanting an easy out in the sight of absolute horror.
There wasn’t much of a choice either way.
We honor you. We will continue to honor you. Continue to fight so that this doesn’t happen again.
I hope we succeed.
To hell with the Nazis.
Featured Image. I do not own the rights to this image.