Well before last year's slate of Holocaust-themed movies released just in time for the holidays (you know, mass murder on an epic scale is such cheery, holiday fare...WTF?), I visited the Indianapolis Children's Musuem's The Power of Children: Making A Difference. The section about Anne Frank really moved me. Something about seeing all of the artifacts from Nazi-controlled Europe, like personal diaries, Antisemitic propoganda posters, etc., really gave The Holocaust a new sense of realism and humanity to me, almost like I could touch and feel the evidence for the first time.
Up until then, the worst astrocity of the 20th century had been relegated to some old, black-and-white newsreel footage. And as disturbing as I found many scenes in Schindler's List, it still didn't bring home the reality like seeing the actual relics. I think this launched me on a quest to explore The Holocaust like never before. While I didn't make a trip abroad or even visit a national museum stateside, I did embark on a personal journey back into the 1930's and 40's. I tried to put myself in war-torn, depression-ravaged Europe.
First, I checked-out Schindler's List at my local library, making a mental note to do this at least once a year to keep the horrible reality alive in my mind. Then, I asked my wife to buy The Boy In Striped Pajamas as a Christmas gift (again, nothing quite says "Happy Holidays" like a Holocaust-themed novel). After seeing the movie trailer in November, I thought it best to read the book at home, first. That way, I could release the full-scale of my emotions in the privacy of my own living room and avoid making a fool of myself at the local theater. But I was a bit disappointed in the book. It was the most shallow treatment of The Holocaust I had ever witnessed with an ending I had figured out about 20 pages too soon. I didn't even cry at the anti-climactic end of the story.
It did, however, arouse even further curiosity about the death camps, namely Auschwitz. I went to my library everyday for weeks, gobbling up everything I could on Auschwitz and the Holocaust. I found myself becoming very frustrated with the lack of empathy and effort on the part of the Allied nations to DO SOMETHING about the blatant genocide taking place right under their noses! So I found a book titled Why We Watched and scoured it for answers. It left me just as empty, frustrated and guilt-ridden as I did watching Schindler's for the first time.
One of the highlights of my library checking spree was a little known documentary, Forgiving Dr. Mengele. It introduced me to Auschwitz and Mengele twin survivor, Eva Kor. And guess what? She lives RIGHT HERE in Indiana! I am going to meet her this Saturday at her Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute where she will be celebrating her 75th birthday! Eva has done her part to "forgive" her Nazi torturers and is part of the larger Forgiveness Project. I can't wait to meet and talk to her!
All this to say, I am still very saddened by the fact that my country did so little to directly help Eva and her coreligionists in Europe during Nazi oppression. It troubles me that author/professor Theodore Hamerow has concluded that rampant Anti-semitism both here and abroad shackeled Allied hands. If that is true, then shame on us...and shame on the rest of the free world!
I will be discussing Hamerow's book in more detail in my next blog...this could turn into a series on The Holocaust. Just so you know, I have much more to say on this topic (Holocaust deniers beware).