This past few days my mind has been full of worries about my life, “will I keep my driving licence? can I keep working? There’s another form to fill in I must get it done.”
But in amongst all these worries my mind has been in the past, 70years in the past.
70 Years ago today Auschwitz was liberated and after accidentally flicking onto a program last week about a survivor of the Holocaust I have been watching many programs that have been made about the German death camps, prison camps, work camps throughout the second world war.
It puts every worry I have into a stark perspective. I have a home, food, clothes, heating, sanitation, medical care…..what in truth do I have to worry about?
I watch these people talking about their time during the war and what they had to survive. I am humbled and horrified by the things that humans can do to each other and the strength of the people who can survive it.
Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, political prisoners, anyone who was seen as ‘Undesirable’ to the Third Reich were tortured, starved and killed in the most inhumane ways possible, it’s hard to believe that this happened in the 20th century.
If you listen to the survivors the biggest thing that they are desperate for now is that what happened is not forgotten. That what they went through is not hidden, is believed and that the next generation understands what can happen if the hatred of a few is carried out by the many.
I’ve learned more about the reality of it by listening to these people over the past week than I ever did sitting in a classroom. The horrible truths that they speak of will stay with me forever.
The separation of the weak, the sick, children, the old, pregnant women who were all immediately gassed or killed, then thrown into pits or burned. Their clothes, belongings, hair, teeth all taken from them to be sent back to Germany or to be reused in the camps.
Children who were twins, experimented on in horrible ways to try and ‘find cures’ for diseases to benefit the ‘pure’ Germans.
Those that were left were worked on starvation rations, housed in sheds where people could barely sit never mind lie down. Covered in lice and surrounded by human excrement they were almost certain to contract a disease such as typhus or dysentery and many died from these if not because having them meant they were picked out as sick and murdered.
Unfortunately there are so few of the survivors left alive that their worry is once they are gone it will drift into the mists of history as ‘just another story’ and listening to them speak to camera they are trying to pass on their memories to the children of today so that it will continue in the collective memory.
I didn’t know that when the camps were liberated, the Allies made the locals come to the camps and look. To see what they were living next to and turning a blind eye to! They were walked around the camps, past the piles of the dead who had been left there to rot because the prisoners couldn’t bury them, to see the crematoriums where hundreds of thousands of human beings had been burnt en mass. I felt a certain amount of angry satisfaction that the Allies did this, as well as making the SS guards and other German workers that were captured when the camps were liberated, take over the tasks they had made the prisoners do. To bury the dead, to clear up the horrific mess that they had helped to create.
Not surprisingly this subject makes my blood boil. It doesn’t matter to me that I am not one of the ‘minorities’ that were targeted, I am a human being and that is enough for me to empathise with those who have suffered at the hands of people who were “just following orders” and committing atrocities.
The saddest thing is there are still people in command of countries that try to make this sort of thing happen. There are still those that believe they are better than others just because of their faith, the colour of their skin, the way they dress, the country they come from. How can this still be happening in this day and age? Why can we not accept that we all have differences but that does not make us any better or worse than others?
All any of us can do is speak out when we see people hurting each other, try to accept that we are different but that is not a bad thing and teach our children to do the same.
Let what happened remain in our memories for the human race to learn from and never let it happen again.