Monday, December 21, 2009

Abstracted cruelty

Arbeit Macht Frei/Work Sets You Free
London, ON, April 2009

About this photo: This is a detail taken from the Holocaust Memorial Center at the London Jewish Community Center. It was installed earlier this year to reaffirm how community and education stand against the kind of hatred that allowed the Holocaust to happen in the first place. To participate in our latest Thematic Photographic theme, abstract, please click here.
There is no such thing as a happy ending when discussing anything remotely connected with the Holocaust, but the recovery of the sign over the entrance to the Auschwitz death camp at least closes the book on a particularly ugly chapter and reinforces efforts to ensure the world is never allowed to forget what happened here.

The Holocaust was the ultimate example of humanity's ability to abstract the reality of others, to dehumanize entire groups so thoroughly that it wasn't much of a stretch for entire populations to join in the process of extermination. That such thinking continues to this day should alarm us to no end. I guess that makes the threat anything but abstract.

Your turn: Overcoming hatred and bigotry. Please discuss.


Anonymous said...

The thing that amazes me is that there are entire groups of deluded people who believe the holocaust was a conspiracy theory and who do everything in their power to smear the memory of those who suffered by calling it mere "propaganda". I'm not Jewish, don't personally know anyone whose family was involved, and come from a family who's timeline meant that none of my relatives fought in WW2 - and yet, our family denied our German heritage for years (only claiming the Irish and Norwegian) because of the travesty of the holocaust. If I could apologize in person for something I had nothing to do with, I would. Just because it was so heinous.

lissa said...

While I wouldn't use the word "happy", I might differ with you on your statement as to happy endings. Having interviewed so many survivors, I can say that the events were, indeed, unimaginably horrific. But the sheer force and will of survivors, sitting in front of me and describing how they made it through and - for many of them - even saved others from perishing...that is a positive ending indeed.

So much is focused on the atrocities - as it should be. But our newspapers and television news reports will, at times, shed light on the stories of survival and reunion, as though those stories are few and far between. Projects like the Witness to History project at the Montreal Holocaust Center, and the Shoah Project, and others like them...those have to be more publicized so that others can experience the uplifted spirits I always have when either interviewing, or remembering, these remarkable survivors.

So yes, we have to overcome hatred and bigotry...maybe, in addition to (NOT instead of) discussing the acts of those who hate, we should be juxtaposing the Rosa Parkses and Elie Wiesels of triumph over the haters. So, while we raise awareness, we can also instill inspiration. The best revenge is living well - in those cases, the best revenge was living.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I heard the Tour Manager's grandmother's Holocaust story during Hanukkah. Parts of it, I'd known before. Parts I'd been told incorrectly. Parts I'd expected.

But the part that blew me away is perhaps something I may never forget.

Cloudia said...

Taking MY responsibility for the lack of love is a start in eradicating it. as long as I blame "them" I am part of the problem in theory & in truth, Carmi.

ShAloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Mojo said...

I dated a "Nice Jewish Girl" for a while several years ago whose father escaped Germany during the war, crossed the border to France and worked with the French Resistance until finally making it to the States. All of this by the time he was 14. He was one of three members of his family to survive the war.

If that man can live in this world without hating everyone and everything in it, how can I not?

invisible said...

Good point Mojo.

Carmi: Humans are weak, and until each individual can admit this to themselves, they will try to hide their weakness by subjugating others. i.e. At least I'm better then... insert name of group different than yourself.
This type of thinking is propogated by religion, by politics,by anyone who seeks a position of power they know they are not entitiled to.
Most people are not strong enough to detach from the mob mentality which rules the microcosims of society.