Remember. And actually do something?


Flowers and Mountains

The Holocaust.

Holocaust Remembrance Day.

What more can I say about it that hasn’t been said already by people who understand how to say it better?

I can say that  there is no way to stop it from happening again.  And that maybe just posting Holocaust pictures on Facebook isn’t going to do anything.

We are always told to remember and to never forget.   That the goal is not only to mourn our family, but to prevent the next one, wherever it may be, but especially keep an eye out on Israel and Iran.  But the burden is on the Jewish people, not the world, because it was our catastrophe.  The world’s moved on.  Just check out the front page of the New York Times today versus Die Welt versus Le Figaro versus Yediot Ahronot.  Which is the only one plastering Holocaust memorial material?

By the way, it kind of loss something when you have Aryan children sandwiched between a “What girls in the know buy” and “Metallic colors return as a trend.”

It is impossible to stop genocide from happening again and it is naive to think we can do it by observing Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Because genocide starts at the micro level and spreads like a cancer through society.  It’s a byproduct of human nature and there is no distinct moment that you can say, “Oh, that’s genocide. I’d better stave that off before it becomes too widespread.”

I’ll give you an example.  Yesterday, I was walking to work through Suburban Station.  There was a girl crying and talking to two police officers, and another man standing nearby, also with two police officers.  I glanced over them and turned up the music on my headphones louder.  I didn’t go over to see if I could somehow help this girl. I didn’t want to get involved.  Because I am an asshole, and a human.  Humans don’t like complication and conflict, and we don’t always understand if something is serious enough to merit our intervention.  In the post-World War II 21st century, we don’t want to bother other people.

That’s how the Holocaust really started.  We always think, “Oh, if only the German people had done X or Y, they would have been able to prevent the whole thing. ” But the Germans aren’t one multi-celled unit and neither is any other society. It started with a father coming home from the factory where he worked. “Oh, they’re talking about some changes in the government,” he might say over dinner, hanging up his hat. “They want us to join some union, but it shouldn’t be a huge deal.  No impact on us.”

I asked my grandpa a couple weeks ago how he felt living in Stalin’s Russia.  “There was a young man in my village in Belarus,” he told me.  “He complained at the market that there wasn’t any good quality food and that the Kremlin only sent us fishtails.  The next week, he was never seen again.  The KGB had taken him.”  Were you afraid?  Did you think you could do anything? “No, what could we do?  What could we do?  We thought he really did something to justify the fact that he was gone.  We didn’t understand what was going on at the government level.  We just knew to keep our heads down.” How did you feel when Stalin died? “I was on military duty in Siberia when we found out and the officers all started crying.  We all started crying, too. We didn’t understand how the country could go on.”

So people saying the Holocaust could have been prevented are wrong. It’s just as easy to say that the Soviet people could have overthrown Stalin, who also killed at least two million people, and that’s me lowballing it.

We can’t do anything to prevent genocide because genocide is like a cancer that starts a cell at a time in the body of humanity, a spark of an idea in the mind of a person and by the time it’s spread, it’s too late to eradicate because it has metastasized. Otherwise, we would have stopped Sudan and the Balkans and every minor or major disaster that has happened to people since the Shoah.

But maybe that’s what all the essays and the picture posts are about.  Maybe we understand that there’s nothing we can do and we’re just mourning the loss of a generation.  Because how do you distinguish people who say insane things on the radio from people who really mean it? And if they do mean it, what do you do to stop them? Do you stop every racist remark that every person ever makes?  Do you storm the offices of politicians who are threatening war?  Do you start small? If you see someone crying on the street, do you come up to them and get involved?

I wish I could end this post on a positive note and say that if I do notice someone doing something wrong I’ll confront them.  But I won’t. I’ll just remember.  And post this to Facebook.