This post is part of a “blogburst” coordinated by Joseph Alexander Norland to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz. All italics are suggested text put forth by Israpudit.
Today marks the sixtieth anniversary of the one truly humane act in the history of the Red Army - the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz on January 27th, 1945.
In all, between three and four million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles and Red Army POWs, were slaughtered in Auschwitz alone (though some authors put the number at 1.3 million). Other death camps were located at Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec (Belzek), Majdanek and Treblinka.
In the years just after the war, with the world still reeling from six years of unparalleled death and suffering, it was easy to claim that the horror of the death camps would never be forgotten, never excused, never minimized.
But humans, perhaps by necessity, are a forgetful lot. We no longer quake in fear at the though of a Roman Legion or the Kaiser, protestors label a President they dislike a Hitler, and the terrifying Spanish Inquisition is best remembered as fodder for a Monty Python skit.
So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to see the grandson of the Queen dressed in the costume of the Nazi regime his nation fought tooth and nail - after all, sixty years is a long time.
Sixty years before Auschwitz Grover Cleveland presided over the United States, Victoria ruled England, and Charles Dickens was hard at work on his next bestseller. The invention of the light bulb was 6 years old, the invention of the airplane 18 year away.
What’s more, the stories of the survivors, those heart-wrenching tales that brought the horror home to us, will soon be lost. What few survivors remain for the 60th anniversary will be fewer still next year, and a precious handful by the 70th. Reading the words off a page will not do the stories justice.
Now more then ever, the Holocaust is in danger of becoming just another chapter in a history text, memorized for an exam and forgotten by lunch.
Now, more then ever, is the time to remember.
It’s important to remember how the world stood by and let Hitler march across Europe - how a world let millions of men, women, and children march to their deaths because they were too concerned with the Great Depression or appeasement or whatever elseseemed more important than the lives of their fellow man.
Remember how the Holocaust wasn’t the result of evil, inflamed passions, but the calculated effect of the Wannsee conference of 1942.
The conference addressed every aspect of Nazi genocide in chillingly ordinary logic and language, e.g., " Europe will be combed through from West to East," "forcing the Jews out of the various spheres of life of the German people." Ever efficient, the participants foresaw that, "[i]n the course of the final solution and under appropriate direction, the Jews are to be utilized for work in the East in a suitable manner. In large labor columns and separated by sexes, Jews capable of working will be dispatched to these regions to build roads, and in the process a large number of them will undoubtedly drop out by way of natural attrition."
The minutes reflect an intention to dispose of "roughly eleven million Jews." This figure was derived after a horrifyingly detailed discussion of those with only partial Jewish ancestry, sparing some only a quarter Jewish, and magnanimously exempting others from evacuation only if "sterilized in order to prevent any progeny . . . Sterilization will be voluntary, but it is the precondition for remaining in the Reich."
Sixty years later our more enlightened age has brought about mass murder in Cambodia, Rwanda, Iraq, and the Sudan.
When the world marks a century since the end of the madness, may our grand-children be unable to compile such a list.