Letter From New York 01 27 15 On the 70th Anniversary…

A light dusting of snow continues to fall but we did not have the major storm that was predicted; it veered at the last minute to the east, sparing both the city and Claverack. I’m still waiting for the plowman to come and do the drive but that’s minor compared to what might have been. All is calm.

The deer are scampering across the drive as I type, continuing their restless wanderings. Jazz plays on Pandora and I have a fire in the Franklin stove. It has been a lazy day. Trains weren’t running into the city this morning. It was, in effect, a snow day.

Sipping morning coffee, I read the Times and finished last week’s edition of The Week, my favorite magazine. In the afternoon, while doing some household things, a British mystery played. It seemed like that kind of day.

It is snowy and cold and winter desolate. Perhaps not unlike the January 27th of seventy years ago when Russian troops liberated Auschwitz. German soldiers were lining up prisoners about to gun them down when the warning came that the Russians were coming and they fled.

58,000 were forced on a death march from Auschwitz to other camps. 15,000 of them died before reaching other camps. Left behind were thousands deemed too ill or weak to walk.

Today, about 300 survivors of Auschwitz gathered in a white tent for ceremonies to mark the anniversary. The Presidents of France and Poland as well as the American Director, Steven Spielberg, of the famous Shoah Project, are joining them.

It is possibly the last major anniversary that will be attended by survivors of the camp; they are aging and passing from the scene. Many are in their 80’s now; the youngest in their 70’s. Soon time will have silenced their voices.

Let us hope the memory of what happened doesn’t fade and that we never again allow such things to happen.

But the signs aren’t good. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, perhaps now at the highest levels it has been since the end of World War II. Jews are leaving Europe at a faster pace than ever, frightened by the events around them. This was underscored during the Charlie Hebdo terrorist action in Paris where hostages were taken in a Jewish grocery store, with four being killed.

One of the stories I read today stated that Anti-Semitism is not returning to Germany; it never left. But there was a time when boys weren’t afraid to wear their yarmulkes and now some are.

90% of those who died at Auschwitz were Jews. The others were of Romani descent, political dissenters, homosexuals and others the Nazis hated. They hated extravagantly.

One survivor asked the question of how men could spend their days slaughtering human beings and then go home to their wives and children, eat dinner and listen to music? Because we are human beings, capable of extraordinary dichotomies, including the ability to do just that. Many days at Auschwitz 6,000 human beings were killed. In the end over 1.1 million died there, 15 square miles devoted to death. And those who did the killing went home at night and seemed to live normal lives. Is it possible? Yes, because it happened.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: