It’s hard to even think about it, and the further away in time we get from it the harder it gets, because we begin to forget. My German friends tell me that their young people aren’t sure we need to keep remembering. They say it’s time to move on.
I wonder if they know exactly what it is we are supposed to remember.
I asked ChatGPT why we should remember the Holocaust and the bot spit out some good reasons, but didn’t hit the mark hard enough.
Remembering their suffering and acknowledging their experiences helps to ensure that their memories are not forgotten.
The Holocaust is a powerful reminder of the dangers of prejudice, discrimination and hate, which may prevent similar atrocities from happening in the future.
Remembering the Holocaust can help to promote empathy, tolerance and understanding among people of different cultures, religions and backgrounds.
Finally, there are still those who deny that the Holocaust ever occurred or seek to revise its history. By remembering, we combat such efforts and ensure that the truth is never distorted or forgotten.
Unfortunately what most people and so AI like to forget is that these killers were everyday people, mothers and fathers, young people and old. It’s just uncomfortable to remind ourselves that it was everyday normal and healthy people that became Nazis and murdered with their own hands in cold blood millions of people. We easily forget that they were people just like us. We like to think they were all sick, criminal minds. They were not.
Of course there were some pathological sadists leading the masses into the darkness, but their followers were people just like you and me. We just don’t like to think so.
But that is exactly what we need to remember if we are ever going to learn anything from the Holocaust. Happy and healthy human beings are capable of becoming animals. Actually, worse than animals, which are not capable of the evil depravity conceived by man. That’s a hard thing to accept, but that is the hard lesson we need to remember.
We could have, should have learned that from the beginning of human history.
In the beginning when we fell, we came to the knowledge of the good, but also to know evil. We forget that in certain circumstances we can become malicious, or at least we don’t like to be reminded of it, especially when we think of what happened in the Holocaust. We are those people, unless we remember and humble ourselves enough to change. We are either Cain or Abel.
Memorial days can help us move in the right direction if, while we stand with the sirens blasting, we not only mourn the loss of our loved ones and the future that was taken away from them, but remember that we too are capable of evil. If you don’t think so read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Elie Wiesel, or Viktor Frankl who said that it could never have happen if not for the everyday folks who went along with it. I know this to be true because I have spoken with many of the children who grew up in good families that became Nazis.
The memories of our loved ones only have meaning if we acknowledge the truth and allow ourselves to be radically changed by the memory for their sake and for our future. Memorials must drive us to fight hatred relentlessly and refuse without excuse to be silent in the face of the evil that killed them. But I fear we are forgetting.
Tears help dissipate some of the anger we feel, as well as relieve some of the need for revenge. But not all, only some, because there are too many tears.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is urgent today because allowing the anger and shame to lurk below consumes us and opens the door to darkness of the soul. We have not yet mourned the depths of our own degradation, of what could happen again if we are not changed by the memory. We would rather forget what man is capable of, so we curse and blame and live with anger and guilt. We must start healing by remembering that we are all Cain and Abel.
Today as we remember the Holocaust, remember too that we can change. May their memory be a blessing on earth.
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