I can't do it! No matter how hard I try, I just can't grasp the true fear and horror of those who were systematically dehumanized and exterminated by the German Government, the Nazi party, other European Governments, and the German and European citizenry. From as far back as I can remember I, have watched the gripping footage of the liberation of the death camps, again and again. I have seen the movies ... Schindler's List, Sophie's Choice, It's A Beautiful Life, The Pianist and many, many others. I have read innumerable accounts describing the systematic manner in which the German Government worked to dismantle rights to livelihood, culture, possessions, and even self-respect... the Nuremburg Laws, Kristallnacht and many others.
iI have spent countless hours at the Dachau death camp in Germany, in the Holocaust Museum in DC, and at the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach hopelessly trying to comprehend the gradual hour-by-hour, day-by-day realization of the inevitability of the German genocidal plan felt by just one parent, one husband.
But I can't. I can't even adequately imagine the slightest shred of hopelessness and helplessness that even so much as one of the 6 millions Jews, and an equal number on non-Jews, felt each waking minute of the day, as the "noose" tightened around them and everyone they loved was herded into rail cars, into death camps, and, sooner or later, into gas chambers.
In my visits to Germany and other European countries, I couldn’t stop myself from looking at the faces and wondering whether those faces in front of me… not in some movie or documentary …. truly felt remorse for what had been done. After all, didn’t their relatives possibly have some complicity? Aren’t they the ones still arguing against fair compensation for the remaining Holocaust survivors in their last few years on Earth? Aren’t they involved in the government legal system and the insurance industry denying the beneficiaries of death camp and firing squad victims their claims on the policies’ death benefits? AREN’T THEY THE ONES WHO HARBOR ILL WILL FOR THE CITIZENS OF ISRAEL AND QUIETLY SMILE WHEN ISRAEL IS ATTACKED IN THE UNITED NATIONS ONE RESOLUTION AFTER ANOTHER?
So many yet unanswered questions. Were the houses or apartments in Europe that I walked past once occupied by a Holocaust victim’s family? Who occupies them now and how did they get possession? Exactly who took the Holocaust victims’ property, money, jewelry, paintings, and other possessions? Who are these despicable people… are they alive today or did they pass their ill-gotten gains on to their families without those family members knowing the Jewish blood that provided them these possessions?
Worst of all, I can’t decide what to “never forget” and what to let go of, because we surely can’t move forward while clinging to suspicions and assumptions. But where is the proportionality? You know … PROPORTIONALITY… that demand from the world on Israel each time Israel defends itself from attacks by Palestinian terrorists? Where is the proportionality for the Holocaust victims… Jews and non-Jews… for their misery?
For far too many people, the Holocaust is just a fading chapter in a history book and, with time, will lose its significance like the terrorism of the KKK and lynchings. We cannot and must never allow it. It is not enough for our children and theirs and future generations of Jews and non-Jews to merely know that the Holocaust happened. They must understand the Holocaust in the most personal terms possible, so that the feelings are imbedded in their DNA. And from that sense of connection, they will see to it that no other people will be treated so inhumanely. I feel inadequate to the task, but I have an obligation to continue the pursuit of connecting to just one victim, not compulsively, but out of respect for all of the victims.