Thursday, January 29, 2015

Auschwitz and Lessons For Today

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

George Santayana (1863–1952)

This week, we observed the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz at the end of World War II. The day of the liberation by Russian troops — Jan. 27, 1945 — is commemorated annually as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

It is an appropriate time and Auschwitz an appropriate place to mark this anniversary. It has a unique significance, being the site of the first executions in what was to have been the Nazis' "final solution."

It was before my time so I have no firsthand knowledge, but I guess this was the first time that most people in the Allied countries realized what had been happening in the camps. If so, it probably came as quite a shock to some folks. Must have been hard to imagine how one group of people could be so hostile — so savage — in its treatment of another group. Sadly, it really isn't hard to imagine. Man has always been capable of great cruelty. Read your history.

I guess no one will ever know the actual figures, but the widely accepted casualty number is 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. It is further estimated that one in six Jews who died in the Holocaust died at Auschwitz. Could there be a more appropriate day or place to remember what happened?

Well, remembering is the problem for some Auschwitz survivors. If you happen to meet an Auschwitz survivor today, he or she likely was a teenager — or younger — when the camp was liberated. You can still find a few who were in their 20s when the camp was liberated, and there may be a few who were 30 or so, but they would have to be 100 or older by now.

Before long, they will all be gone. No one who lived through it will be alive to tell the tale, making it all the easier for those who deny the Holocaust to press their case.

Those Auschwitz survivors fear that the past will be forgotten, opening the door for it to happen again. It is only natural, I suppose, for them to fear renewed persecution of the Jews — it's been going on for centuries — but those who love freedom should be concerned as well.

For if one group is persecuted, none are safe. If rights are denied to some, they can be denied to all.

That is why America must remain vigilant.

The modern enemies of freedom do not wear the uniform of a country and are therefore harder to see when they are in our midst "hiding in plain sight." But they are there. Of that, you may be sure.

And they will not be defeated until we face facts and call them what they are. This isn't a religious war. But every extremist group has at least one characteristic that its members have in common with each other. In this case, it happens to be devotion to an extreme religious doctrine. For America to preserve its way of life, it will have to confront the enemies of freedom

There is always an extreme characteristic. No more searching for euphemisms that hide the truth.

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