20 March 2009


Last night we watched the movie, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas." It was very affecting, distressing and saddening.

As I was watching and wondering how anyone could have participated in the atrocities performed at the hands of those many soldiers, it struck me that, there are horrors, brutalities and vulgarities all around us that I, for one, choose not to think about because I don't think I can do anything about them. Of course they don't equal the acts of the Holocaust, but they are actions and states of existence that are still inhuman and barbaric.

I have always been equally captivated and horrified by the Holocaust of WWII. I always read everything I could find about it in middle and high school and did countless reports on the subject. My Grandpa Foster was a young American POW in a work camp somewhere in Germany. I saw photos taken of him when he was freed but he would never talk about it.

When Rob and I were living in Germany, Rob's sister flew in to Munich, about a four hour drive from where we were living and a place we hadn't yet visited. When we drove to pick her up, the only thing I wanted to do while we were there, was drive a little ways up to Dachau and view the museum exhibits. It was chilling.

That was 11 years ago. I have heard the exhibit changed somewhere around 2003 and I don't know what it's like now, but back in February of 1998, there were large poster sized black and white photographs hanging all around the former work camp. It was poignant. I recall two moments there vividly.

The first was in front of a display of a prisoner's uniform. A pair a "striped pajamas". Thin and tattered. Of course being February, we were all bundled up in our warmest clothing and jackets, and even on this unseasonably warm February day, we were quite cold. I could picture the camp prisoners, freezing, unable to complain or escape their situation. Suffering daily, endlessly.

The second occurred as we were standing in a room just past the crematorium and viewing a huge picture of a pile of human bodies, when it occurred to me to look at the room in the background of the photo. We were standing in the precise location. My immediate reaction was to back away, out of the room in horror. I began to weep. I wanted to leave. My mind could not then, and still cannot now, comprehend such malignity.

Colonel William W. Quinn of the U.S. 7th Army said of Dachau: "There our troops found sights, sounds, and stenches horrible beyond belief, cruelties so enormous as to be incomprehensible to the normal mind."

We live in a very different world, but it is still full of cruelty, inhumanity, barbarity, and horrific ignorance. Do we turn a blind eye to abuse and depravity?

What can we do about it?

What can I do about it?


Anonymous said...

What can you do about it? You can learn to question everything. For example, the movie "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas." You saw a little Jewish boy, nine years old, who was living in a barracks with his father and had been assigned to a work crew, but he was not working and no one noticed that he was playing with the son of the Commandant. Does this sound anything like what you have learned about the Holocaust? Children under 15 were gassed immediately at Auschwitz and the children who somehow escaped the gas chamber lived in the barracks with their mothers and didn't work. Right away, you should have dismissed this story as a fable, which is what the author of the book called it.

You should have questioned the photo taken in the room at Dachau. What did these prisoners die of? Did you see any bullet holes in their heads? The exhibit caption didn't tell you, so you should have done some research. You would have learned that they died of typhus. A little research would have told you that there was DDT available in 1945 to stop a typhus epidemic and a vaccine to prevent a typhus epidemic. But Germany did not have DDT or the vaccine. So who was to blame for these deaths? Was it the countries that had DDT and a vaccine, but didn't send these items to the Red Cross to be distributed to the camps? America sent typhus vaccine to the American POWs in Germany and 99% of them returned home. America could have sent typhus vaccine to the camps, but we didn't.

You saw a thin pair of striped pajamas at Dachau which you were told that the prisoners wore. Did you question why they didn't freeze to death in this clothing? If you had done some research and looked at the photos of the prisoners who were liberated, you would have seen that very few were wearing the striped uniform; most of the prisoners were dressed in warm coats and hats on April 29, 1945 when the camp was liberated. Photos of the prisoners at work in the camp show that most were not wearing the striped uniforms. Prisoners at Dachau were allowed to receive packages which could include clothing.

Rob and Michelle said...

I wasn't commenting on the movie itself, which is obviously a work of fiction...I didn't realize I needed to clarify that, I thought the British accents on a bunch of "Germans" would prove it fiction by itself. I only said the movie got me thinking about things I see in my own society today that are wrong that I don't stand up for and do anything about. Partially because I believe I lack the power to.

For example, does it kill me to see a homeless person wandering around aimlessly, picking food from trash cans? Of course. Did most homeless people make choices that put themselves in that situation in the first place? Absolutely. Do I step in if I'm at a store and see a father smack his child? Or a mother swear at her three-year-old? Do I give all my money and time to charities? Do I go on mission trips to build water purification facilities in struggling countries?

My point, on my blog, which is my opinion, so it (my opinion) obviously does not require research, was simply...what atrocities do we see, or refuse to see, daily, that we choose to ignore because we feel powerless? Like the German people who chose not to believe that Jews and others suffered. Who refused to believe that those "rumors" were anything more than war propaganda.

You make it sound like Konzentrationslagern were a temporary housing situation. That they weren't cold and they only died because the selfish Americans wouldn't share their immunizations.

I only spoke about Dachau because that's the only camp I ever visited. But in referring to these horrible acts or sparse clothing, I was of course referring to all the work camps, death camps, POW camps, etc. Obviously 40,000 deaths at Dachau pale in comparison to the millions who died somewhere like Auschwitz.

Now, I'm still going to try to open my eyes a little more. Notice a little more. Serve a little more. Be a little better...and not worry about whether or not my opinions match yours. You might want to think about displaying a little less hostility on a strangers family blog in the future though...even if you do post anonymously.

IncisiveOne said...

In the vein of "Do we turn a blind eye to abuse and depravity?".

What do you have to say about the atrocities such as American bombing of unarmed civilians:
- 4,000,000 in Germany
- 1,000,000 in Japan
--- which included the testing of two separate nuclera devices after Japan had surrendered
- 3,000,000 in Viet Nam
--- not to mention the defoliation and starvation of Viet Nam
- 1,000,000 in Iraq between the first Gulf War and the second
- plus the 650,000 civilians killed after the invasion ?


Why is it that the Holocaust mentions the extermination of 6,000,000 Jews, but fails to mention the killing of 6,000,000 non-Jews ? Were they not human beings too ?

When we posture about the Americans killed in foreign wars, and deny the atrocities committed by Americans against civilians in those countries, we turn a blind eye to abuse and depravity. And thus we are hypocritical and and party to the atrocity.

If we are going to stop war, we have to acknowledge the slaughter on both sides, not just the defenders killing uninvited invaders, while denying the civilians we kill, or denying that we are invaders.

All human beings are equal. When we advertise those killed on our side while denying the killing we do, we are no longer "human".

The truth has no hostility. Denial of the truth is indeed hostile, and requires massive resources to maintain. When one runs out of such costly resources, the truth again stands bare, uncovered by the hostile cover-ups, for all to see.

IncisiveOne said...

All human beings are equal in the eyes of God.

It is only man, the Devil in him, that considers one human beings better than any other; that mourns the death of one human, and not another.

Rob and Michelle said...

OK, I was not giving a history lesson...or a movie review. I'm not in denial. I appreciate all human life.

If you'd like to comment, why can't you stay on the topic I wrote about, which is obviously acknowledging all forms of human suffering, regardless of nationality or cause and the need to do something more about it.

"The truth has no hostility." You were hostile in your constant references to me not being researched...which I am. So you don't know "the truth". Just because I know much more on the subject, didn't mean I wanted to talk about those off-shoots of the subject.

I'm sure you are very knowledgeable and intelligent and researched. You could spend your energies writing your own blog, but please don't ruin the spirit of what I'm actually talking about in mine.

IncisiveOne said...

My post, and this, are only about your article.

Please read again, I did not state that you were not researched (your interpretations are you own). If anything, in the spirit of your article, I was suggesting you turn your Christian [no sarcasm] honesty to the genocide of the 12 million, rather than the infamous half; and to do something (as per your not "turn a blind eye to the abuse and depravity") about the genocide CURRENTLY being perpetrated by your people in Iraq. That is, I agree with your article, and in answer to your question "what can I do about it", I am suggesting you to pray for guidance and strength and take action against the "abuse and depravity" that is happening today. We need strong Americans with a strong faith to stop America's Nazi excursions in the world right now, to ensure your children have a piece of Earth left to live in.

If you find that "hostile"; that such support to take the next step and do something "ruinous", your article must be indeed fragile; your pleas what can we/I do about it meaningless and shallow, you must not have been affected that much at Dachau.

Sorry, but I was affected, both by your article and my visit to Auschwitz. I am doing something to stop the same thing happening today. By writing and being active, not by taking up arms. It gives me peace, and I feel I belong to the entire human race. The pivotal point regards the denial of the other 6 million human beings ... the same denial of America's current atrocities, which you are not ready to redress.

Now I understand what you mean by "I wasn't made for this world. I belong to a Father who lives in a glorious heavenly home and this life is just a probationary period until I can hopefully return to where He is." It is too painful for you to really BE HERE NOW !. You are just visiting from someplace else.

I remain supportive and active re the spirit of your article. My comments were for the person who felt the feelings and wrote the words in the article, which touched me, and permitted comments.

(You have set up a blog which allows and invites comments. You can maintain a protected environment for your blog by turning off comments: Settings->Comments->WhoCanComment = Members; and add your choice of people to Settings->Permissions->Authors and Readers.)