Saturday, January 21, 2012
Today I went to the Holocaust museum and memorial with two fellow interns and newbies to the city. This was my first museum event of the season. I contemplated sharing something more lighthearted for the first post on this blog, but I was so deeply moved this afternoon that I couldn't help but start here -
My righteous anger raged throughout my entire visit, but I held back my tears and nausea for most of the museum. Until the last floor with the most gruesome exhibits – of the concentration camps. I first walked through a rail car in which the prisoners rode to the camps. Though it was clean, restored, and likely a replica, I felt as though someone had punched my stomach as I walked through, leaving me hollow and empty inside. Then I walked under an iron cast of the archway into Auschwitz with the heading – Arbeit Macht Frei – Work Will Make You Free. How dare someone make such a mockery of freedom! The injustice of the words on this archway has always made my blood boil, but never as hot as today. And not just for the actions of WWII, but for all blatant disregards of justice that have caused the unnecessary deaths of millions of people. People. Men, women, children. People made in the image of God with souls, minds to think and hearts to love and be loved.
Then I came upon actual bunk beds from Auschwitz on display. I couldn’t help but shed tears. A bed is supposed to be a place of refuge, where you lay your body down at night in its most vulnerable state, and gain restoration for the next day. But not these beds. Sometimes wood is comforting, as in the cathedrals and monasteries of Europe. But sometimes it is wretched. These beds were wretched. I could hardly stand to look at them. Thousands of people slept on them in the most hellish of places on earth, where the thoughts, sounds, smells and sights of death permeated every aspect of life. None of whom should ever have had to endure such horrors. My tears have still not stopped. And I cry, not only because of the tragedy of WWII, but because we have not fully learned from the tragedy. There are people who, like Hitler, believe that socialism will still save the world’s economic crisis. Shed blood has proven time and again that it won’t.
Impressions. These are what I am left with. Deeply profound impressions and emotions. And a searing, burning passion to fight against any socialistic, communistic, fascist or tyrannical regime that threatens not only my country, but all the people of the world. It took only one man with a vision to drive one of the most disgusting wars the world has seen. This man had charisma, organization, a clear goal, and most importantly he could communicate it with passion and hope (albeit a false hope). The people who received his vision and hoped in it were hungry, for both food and leadership. They weren’t inherently evil themselves. They were simply hungry. And desparate hungers of any sort will drive many men to drastic measures, into confusion, and to behaviors that would be unacceptable under other circumstances. Hunger. A lack of basic necessities - a home, job, food. The face of death. These elements try the soul of man like nothing else in the world. And Hitler, a single man, cast his vision into this void and filled it – with ideas. Ideas of socialism, racism, anti-Semitism. He instilled a fear of capitalism, of the ‘other’, of tyranny. Yes, he used his unjust tyranny to ironically instill a different and radically misguided fear of tyranny – of the Jews. These ideas led to one of the worst genocides in history, and one of the bloodiest wars. A single man with a hatred of capitalism and Jews, a vision to exalt the German working class, and a desire for power who knew how to feed his ideas to the hungry masses. And I shudder at the thought that a single man who was dedicated to his ideas changed the world so drastically.
If it only took one man to ignite the fire and fan into flame what became WWII, then I have great hope. Strange, you think? No, for I think there are many good people today who are fighters, who see with clarity and love with abandon. And above all, I have hope because my God is raising up leaders for the coming crises. For they will come, they always do. Our nation may be hungry for leaders today and tomorrow and the next year. Our economy may fall further before it rises, another attack on our soil may come before we strengthen our military, another disastrous president may hold office before a true leader emerges. But America has never tolerated oppression without fighting back. One day soon, we will have a good leader, with many to support him or her. We are still the last great hope for thousands around the world. And for 236 years we have stood united for freedom, liberty, justice and peace, longer than most all other democracies of the modern world. The Obama administration has effectively implemented oppressive socialistic policies, but they will not last forever. Let us at the very least remember that WWII is one example of how socialism has been proven, by the deaths of millions, to be ineffective for the prosperity, freedom and justice of a nation. Let not their blood be spilt in vain with yet another experiment in socialism. It will lead to tyranny and oppression.
We can, and we must, learn from history. Then we must work diligently and tirelessly to keep the horrors of history from being repeated.
“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” Deuteronomy 4:9, engraved on the wall of the memorial room.