This historic event warrants a blog that is longer than usual. I hope you read the entire post and leave your comments and questions.
January 27, 2020 is an important date in our World History. It marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
We are at a crucial time in history as there are few remaining survivors of the holocaust. This means we will have the ability to hear experiences and evidence first-hand.
The Holocaust has been documented in many ways. Through Nazi memos, construction plans, lists of prisoners, interviews of Nazi’s and survivors, books and movies. There are also second-hand accounts of the stories told by the survivors to their children and family, researchers and others who were trusted to keep their experiences and these atrocious events real. These will have to do, though there is nothing more powerful than meeting a survivor.
In my research of the Holocaust, I learned the first concentration camps began as soon as the Nazi’s took power in 1933. The first camp was Dachau with Heinrich Himmler in charge of running the camp. The goal was to suppress real or potential opposition to the Nazi power. Targeted were those considered “asocial” or socially “deviant” by the Germans. Initially included as deviants or asocial groups were political opponents, union organizers, Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals. In 1934, Jews, Romanis/Sintis, Serbs, Soviet POWs, Poles, disabled persons and clergy were also targeted.
While concentration camps were designed to torture those in opposition to Nazi’s, extermination camps had an entirely different purpose! A note here, in the time following the war, the terms concentration camp and extermination camps were used synonymously.
When World War II began in September 1939, resistance fighters and those who helped the Jews were also captured and held in concentration camps. While at the camps, the prisoners were starved, suffered horrible living conditions, disease. They were over-worked, tortured and in some camps experimented on.
Did you know …
- There were 24 main camps including Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Mauthausen-Gusen, Ravensbruck, Sorbibor and Treblinka?
- There were 42,500 subcamps including:
- 30,000 slave labor camps?
- 1,150 ghettos?
- 980 concentration camps?
- 1,000 POW camps?
- 500 brothels with sex slaves?
- Thousands of camps specifically for exterminating the elderly, and infirm and holding prisoners before they went to extermination camps?
- 15 million – 20 million people were imprisoned and died of “natural causes”
- 6 million Jews were exterminated
- 11 million others were exterminated
The first liberated camp, Majdanek, was discovered on July 23, 1944. Most of the camps were liberated in 1945.
When I think about anti-semitism/racism, or any other “ism,” I think about fear and power. Racism has existed for thousands of years. Racism exists because people from one group fear people from another group. They are taught to distrust, hate and blame. In response to fear, and because of desire for control, groups work to overpower, or even eliminate, others.
How can you do to help reduce anti-semitism and other ism’s? Have the difficult conversations. Explore your own beliefs about Jews and other groups that are different from you. Ask others, who express anti-semitism what their beliefs are and where they came from. I think an essential component of fighting anti-semitism is remember that at the core we are all human. We have the same basic human needs. Deconstructing the problems demonstrated around the globe today can help connect us individuals to individuals as humans rather than negative stereotypes built from fear. We need to build tolerance and respect of our differences. We need to challenge ourselves individually and in our larger communities. We need to have difficult conversations.
What is 1 thing you can do today? One thought to challenge, one way to stand up, one way to connect?