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We Must Never Forget: Remembering the Holocaust


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#1 lemit

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 05:51 AM

For several weeks, I've been trying to decide how to introduce this thread. I have failed. The subject is so large and so important that it needs to be addressed constantly, by all of us, but I'm not sure how to do it.

I am an American of German descent, so I have some of the genetic responsibility and some of the genetic guilt for the Holocaust. In third-year college German, I discovered the post-war German authors and became caught up in their dilemna: how do you live with your sense of shame? How do you sleep, or eat, or breathe when you know you are part of a group that deprived many other groups of those privileges? (Yes, privileges is what you thought they were for those other groups, so that is what you must think they are for you.) And how do you make sure the world never forgets that you yourself are evil?

I must admit I found the postwar German authors appealing because they had the simplest, most direct style of writing I've ever seen, and German is a language that does not lend itself to a simple, direct style. I suppose a more modern cognizant of that simple, lean style would be Jim McKay's "They're all gone."

So what they were, and we are, trying not to forget is the actions of the World War II German government and people. There are a lot of other things people will try to throw onto this thread. Some of them will stick; some won't. Holocaust deniers can post on another thread I started: "Pseudoscience." Or they can go to the less formal blogosphere. They will be welcome there. People who don't understand why I make that limitation will be answered, briefly. I don't want the "Spacetime" syndrome here.

So, how do survivors (specially those who feel a sense of responsibility) live their lives without starting to deny that those things happened? What do we do to honor people like my German instructor, an Austrian Jewish judge who lost all his family and awoke screaming every night in an American college town in a fleabag hotel where he lived while teaching a bunch of spoiled Middle Class American kids? How do we live with ourselves? How do we atone for the devastation? How do we make sure the world doesn't forget?

And how do stop the continuing resonances of the smaller genocides, all of which are just as morally depraved?

--lemit

#2 lemit

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 06:21 AM

Can anybody help me remember the names of thost postwar German authors? The only names I can remember right now are Friedrich Durrenmatt, Heinrich Boll, and Wolfgang Borchert. Borchert is my favorite because he most captures the devastation, both external and internal.

A good reminder of the extent of the Nazi paranoia and depravity is the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as Aryan a victim of the Holocaust as you could ever imagine. I'm reading his "Letters From Prison." They are tough to read.

Any help with my informal bibliography? The best list I've found so far is at Facts about Germany: Literature. I think there should be more out there.

--lemit

#3 lemit

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 06:25 AM

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Jude.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestierte.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Martin Niemöller - Wikiquote

That translation isn't quite right. The "ja" adds emphasis, something like "After all, . . ." or "definitely." As you read it, at least substitute, with emphasis on the name of the group, "no" for "not a." The impact is changed.

--lemit

p.s. There are other errors in the translation. I think I'll let them go for now.

#4 alexander

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 09:12 AM

Actually if you are interested in this, i have read an interesting book on the subject, but its told from the other side of the table.

I don't know if you have read it, but "The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million" by Daniel Mendelsohn

#5 lemit

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 10:13 AM

Thank you, Alexander.

Please, please let me hear stories of the victims and survivors of victims. Is any of you out there a survivor of one of the Nazi camps? Is any of you a descendent of a victim or survivor of one of the camps? Please let your voice be heard here. Are there any stories from other atrocities? If we could make this little corner of this little forum (sorry, Tormod)a repository for people's stories of events others are trying to make the world forget, then we will have moved the world.

The line "We must never forget" from the postwar German authors means most specifically that we must never forget the victims, with the extension that we of German ancestry must never forget our responsibility.

I'm sorry to have given a wrong impression, but this is an illustration of the difficulty of framing so complex and painful a series of events.

Alexander, do you have a personal connection to the Holocaust?

Again, thank you.

--lemit

#6 alexander

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 11:24 AM

Since i am from Russia, no, not really, though my family did have to endure a lot to go through the war. My great grand father was a soldier, he had returned from Russo-Finish war and a few, if i recall correctly around 4 months later, around winter time of 1941 he got a ticket summoning him to the front line that by that time was getting closer and closer to Leningrad, actually if i have my history correct, Leningrad was already besieged at that time, anyways, he was ordered to walk over the ice to the front line and that he will eventually pick up a weapon and some ammo when he gets close enough. At that point my grandfather was around 14. He had to work in the factory producing ammunition, infact he didn't finish 8th grade until he was already married. And if i am not mistaken my great grandmother worked at either a clothes factory or as a chef. Do excuse my inaccuracies, as i am recalling things that i was told when i was 12. My great grandmother passed away, and since moving to the US, i have not had a chance to sit down and take the history of my family quite down, though there might be a chance that my grandfather may be coming over here for a couple of weeks, i will use that opportunity...

So they were staying in Leningrad when it was beseiged, as my great grandmother recalled she came home one night after her work and found the house in ruins. My grandfather just happened to be in the kitchen at the time, the entire house came down, and one of the walls of the kitchen fell on the other, leaving a little triangle of space where my grandfather happened to be at the time of the explosion and he was miraculously alive. They then decided to move out of Leningrad to the surrounding area, so under the cover of night they boarded a barge and fled to Kronstadt under horrible bombardment and constant fire of german artillery. I really don't recall a lot after that, all i remember of the story is that in 1944 my grandmother got a note that in the counterstrike offensive (finally successful) to break the ring around the city in the winter of 44 somewhere around the (very small) town of Senyavino her husband was killed. My grandfather spent considerable effort to find the location where he was burried, unfortunately we still don't know that for sure, though he has found a plaque where our last name was mentioned, really don't know whether that was really him (as i think there were several people with names starting with "A" that fought those front lines most of which were impossible to trace).

On my grandmother's side, she lived in a town (when i say a little town, i really mean a village-like town, with no town center or anything, which is the case for both towns i have mentioned here) near Smolensk, i know that her brothers died in the war, though the history that side of the family i know even less, if i am not mistaken, germans did occupy their town, and i don't recall that side of the story as that was told even less often, infact maybe a couple of bleeps a couple of times, and that was even more years ago, so firstly i was like 10 and that was over 12 years ago. But all through my family history through the time, hunger, cold, fear, not knowing what will happen tomorrow...

Anyhow, this is not exactly what you are looking for so i will stop here. I am only typing all of this to hopefully make you understand that Holocaust or not, there were a lot more people that suffered in that war, and no one party that was either singled out or got hurt, including Germans, deserved the kind of suffering they went through...

#7 LaurieAG

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Posted 29 May 2009 - 05:13 AM

Anyhow, this is not exactly what you are looking for so i will stop here. I am only typing all of this to hopefully make you understand that Holocaust or not, there were a lot more people that suffered in that war, and no one party that was either singled out or got hurt, including Germans, deserved the kind of suffering they went through...


Good point Alexander, we must also remember that there were many other terrible times in human history.

My great great great grandfather was born around 1820 and emigrated to Australia (after the Irish Potato Famine) in 1865 with his young family, at the end of the American civil war. He died in 1902.

Some of my Irish relatives still carry their famine designations. When there was a large congregation of families with the same surname in the one area they would add another name to designate which part of the greater family they were from i.e. Cooper, Peeler, Drummer etc.

Thomas Jefferson said words to the effect that our constitutions are for restricting our politicians from becoming our masters instead of being our public servants. When our politicians slip their leashes terrible times happen.

#8 HydrogenBond

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Posted 29 May 2009 - 07:44 AM

The bigger the government, the more intrusive they become, the more they begin to mold acceptable behavior in the image of their own needs. The holocaust stemmed from the centralization of too much power with a bigoted point of view. If you look at history, wide scale atrocities all have a push from centralized power.

One has to look at this fundamental cause and not just dwell on one of the terrible effects of this common cause. When we dwell on a particular effect we are hoping centralized power learns this particular lesson. But we forget centralized power finds a way to come up with atrocities we have yet to encounter. Nobody would have predicted the holocaust before it happened. But we could have predicted something bad was about to happen due to the power centralizing.

One of the first things that happens is the censor of free speech and the intrusion of government through law and police actions. Next one has to remove those who think for themselves and can't be brain washed. This actions help neutralize opposing points of view and consolidates central power. It is doubtful the majority of Germans in the 1930's came up with the holocaust on their own. Centralized power put the idea in their head to promote its the needs of power and had the iron rod to enforce this point of view.

The founders of the American Constitution saw this reoccurring historical problem and realized the best government is the one that governs least. When government is the servant and not the master, its influence is limited, allowing checks and balances from the alternate points of view of many masters.

Let us go back into time and consider what would have happened if Hitler was not able to censor free speech and put down the opposition with law and force, so power could consolidate. The idea of the holocaust may have come up for debate. This atrocity effect never would have happened, accept on a small scale by a criminal element. With centralized power defining acceptability, it can define criminal as socially acceptable behavior leading to atrocities like the holocaust.

#9 lemit

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 01:23 AM

I think the postwar German authors were afraid of themselves and their military traditions. "Just following orders" wasn't only a defense at Nurnberg. It was a frightening tradition.

A predictive event was the "Hauptmann von Kopenick" incident: Wilhelm Voigt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The postwar German authors fully believed their offspring would recreate the Holocaust if not prevented. They believed someone diabolical and charismatic would come along eventually to give the orders they would be predestined to follow.

That is why, I think, we should remember the perpetrators as well as the victims. The perpetrators are the ones we need to struggle against, and need to struggle against becoming. After all, we Americans have been known to go blindly into war based on manufactured fear.

We have already forgotten.

--lemit

#10 alexander

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 09:51 PM

Lemit, no offense but it is often harder to decide who is the purpotrator and who is the victim, such is certainly the case in WWII. No matter how you slice the cake it is hard to single out individuals who were the purpotrators, and everyone ended up being a victim of a sort... I mean you can certainly try to figure out who they were, certainly we know the heads of the Nazi party, some of which wanted everything to be the way it went, some did not and fought back. The cult of Hitler, and his absolutely astounding information machine is rather hard to pick apart, from one end, the papers are at fault for printing the propaganda, on the other hand, they suffered greatly from not only having to print what they did, under the penalty of death, so to say, and they certainly suffered when the allies came to town, camps, hunger, torture, labor what have you (btw, dont think that Russians were the only ones who put POWs in camps where they had to work, were questiones, beaten and whatnot, all allies did it...

So who is the hunter and who is the haunted, so to say....?

#11 lemit

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 12:07 AM

Alexander,

We are not talking about wartime events. Kristallnacht was not a by-product of war. The definition of the Holocaust includes the imprisonment of innocent people as early as 1933: Concentration Camps, 1933-1939.

It is too easy for us now to start to develop intellectual arguments about who was right and who was wrong in WWII. There have indeed been some unfortunate results: total-war victors tend to be arrogant. Soldiers who saw what the soldiers entering Germany in 1945 saw had trouble being humane. But that, again, is not a discussion of the Holocaust. That is WWII. The Holocaust, which began earlier, would have been worse if not for WWII.

Thank you for illustrating the danger of forgetting.

(I wrote and deleted much more. It is sometimes hard to maintain focus, but there is still work to be done.)

--lemit

#12 Michaelangelica

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 06:54 AM

I am an American of German descent, so I have some of the genetic responsibility and some of the genetic guilt for the Holocaust. In third-year college German, I discovered the post-war German authors and became caught up in their dilemna: how do you live with your sense of shame? How do you sleep, or eat, or breathe when you know you are part of a group that deprived many other groups of those privileges? (Yes, privileges is what you thought they were for those other groups, so that is what you must think they are for you.) And how do you make sure the world never forgets that you yourself are evil?

What balderdash
There is no such thing as genetic guilt.
There has been genocide on a regular basis though Human history. The Germans just did it efficiently keeping detailed records and to a very powerful group/religion.
who mournes for the gypsies and other minorities, the disabled and mentally ill he killed. tThe tousands of young men killed in both wars 1&2 by our insanity. Have you read what happened to German troops at Stalingrad?

What about the
  • Spanish and European annihilation of maybe 100 million natives in N and s. America.
  • Slavery
  • the inquision
  • Salem
  • The countless thousands of aborigines killed by the British invaders of Australia.
  • the Armenians
  • The Japanese in China in 1930's
  • Pol Pot
  • Africa 10 to the power of what 30?
  • Russia today with some minorities.
  • The Chinese in Tibet.
  • N. Korea playing brinkmanship with nuclear weapons
  • Israel and the Palestinians?
.

We need to remember that scratch us all and there is a racist underneath.
We are deigned for group membership and behaviour, protection of that group and rejection of difference. Something we need to re-programme by education and social and economic and legal means.

We are not forgetting the past that is why footballers were sacked and or fined this week in Australia because they made racial slurs in a professional football game. Surely a long used football psychological tactic. Any racism must be nipped in the bud.

Get a life. Individual Germans can't feel solely responsible for the holocaust--that way madness lies. We are all responsible not just the Germans. No, we should never forget, nor should we dwell on it and see it as our own personal racial heritage.

#13 pamela

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 08:51 AM

my dear lemit, i can see that you feel deeply and have a great love for humanity. Very admirable indeed. You however, should not be bearing any guilt in this.Now i may share some genes with the Mafioso, but does that make me a mobster? of course not. i could never bring myself to to commit these type of actions much less have the thought enter my mind. We are individuals. And as individuals each one has the choice whether or not to indulge in group think or allow ourselves to be swayed by it. You cannot chain yourself to the "sins" of your forefathers, it is not fair to you. This type of thinking is common in a few religions that i am familiar with. And it is this thinking that would strip the very heart of you and leave you cold, destitute and broken. Not so disimilar than those who have survived the likes of Bergen-Belsen

#14 modest

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 04:02 PM

We are not talking about wartime events. Kristallnacht was not a by-product of war. The definition of the Holocaust includes the imprisonment of innocent people as early as 1933: Concentration Camps, 1933-1939.


The Soviet holocaust also started pre-WWII and cannot be considered a consequence of war.

~modest

#15 lemit

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 05:04 PM

The Soviet holocaust also started pre-WWII and cannot be considered a consequence of war.

~modest


Yes, the Pogroms are often overlooked, and are not in my area of study for that matter. But they are of the same period and possibly of the same racial identity movement. I don't know. The main thing I do know about Russian history is that it is richly textured and often volatile. I have spent too many nights drinking with friends who are experts on Russian history and being corrected pretty much every time I said anything. Without knowing which sources to trust, I won't barge into it.

Any help?

Thanks.

--lemit

#16 lemit

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 03:22 PM

The shooting today at The Holocaust Museum is a reminder why we need to remember the Holocaust. There are many people who want to remember it because they think it was the right thing to do.

The rest of us have to remember so we can isolate and defeat those who remember for the wrong reason.

--lemit

#17 enorbet2

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Posted 11 June 2009 - 04:29 PM

Lemit I have a direct connection to the Holocaust and I'm hoping I can give you some words that in pondering may help you release yourself from the poison of undeserved guilt while encouraging your underlying drive to try to insure such never happens again, even while it is going on right now, somewhere,

My connection is an odd one. While in elementary and junior high school Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley were heroes to me since I was fascinated with flight, especially Space Flight. In High School this continued and expanded when I began to see WWII through flight technology eyes and held great respect for the ME-262 and other firsts in progressive, even breakthrough aircraft design. As is often the case for the young, possibly even especially young males, looking for a suitable path and view of the world I even wondered if such a black and white approach to the world wasn't correct given such monumental achievements. That sense was short-lived for a couple reasons.

I first read "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" as a sophomore in High School and in the early pages became appalled at how the Treaty of Versaille sought to punish the German people to a degree that seemed like slow murder. For a time I despised the Weimar Republic. I said so to my Father who had fought in WWII and who was horrified by my views.

Then two things happened in quick succession. I got to the second half of the book and began to question what I had concluded in the first half and immediately got "Mein Kampf" from the library. The more I read the more complicated and conflicting it seemed. How was it possible for both greatness and monstrosity to exist in one man? Remember I was young and fairly innocent. It was then that my Father told me that he'd marched into two camps and had seen with his own eyes the bodies stacked like cordwood, the mass graves, those walking skeletons with haunted eyes and the nearby townspeople in abject denial.

It was also then that I learned that while my Grandfather was Irish Catholic, my Grandmother, possibly the single most important person in my life, came from a Jewish family and I was shown the documentation of some 30 distant relatives who had been murdered in camps in 3 countries. Obviously my viewpoint did an "about face!". However it only took a little more History and life experience to realize that all men have both "angels and demons" inside so I never came to blame the German people any more than those Jews that failed to see the writing on the wall and leave. I even learned that the two greatest "justifications" for the Holocaust for Hitler, Himmler and the rest came from the reaction, or lack of it to the Armenian Genocide and, of all things, Darwin! They bent the Theory of Evolution to their own means as Social Determinism so we can't blame Darwin. We can however blame the world community that ignored the Armenian Genocide since that crime was at least as bad as that of the original perpetrators.

So yes we can't forget or let such things slide but there is no benefit after the fact to the blame game. The greatest tool or weapon is education and political involvement, Write a book. Make a film. Write a government official or 10 and express your concern that such things get glossed over, or paid no more than lip service. Write to the Vatican protesting the reinstating of the group of Nazi sympathizers who had previously been excommunicated if you think that is proper. Teach your children and your grand children of what you have experienced as my Father and Grandparents did for me. Just please learn to expurgate the guilt. It is as surely poisonous as Zyklon-B and serves you no good purpose, IMHO.
Promote Peace, friend, in yourself first
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