#987 – Dick Bernard: Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Day after Yesterday

Last night I went to an outstanding program commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
This was a one-night program. The program booklet can be seen here: Auschwitz- Apollo 1-2015001. As the program booklet notes (p. 2) Dr. Sean Vogt, Director of the wonderful Apollo Male Chorus, was moved and inspired by a personal visit to Auschwitz in 2011.
The production was magnificent, including a premiered work, and deserves repetition. One can hardly imagine the amount of work that went into making “the Liberation of Auschwitz” happen.
There has never been a substitute for individual or small group commitment to bringing a goal to fruition. That was certainly true last night.
I sat there, last night, reflecting on our own trip to Auschwitz and other places of the Holocaust 15 years ago. I was intensely involved at every step of that powerful journey, and the combination of about 40 of us, mostly Catholic and Jew, had its own powerful (though mostly unstated) dynamics. There was, after all, a very long history of Catholic (and Christian, generally) teaching about the Jews which in the Catholic Church always culminated in the Good Friday recitation of the central role of the Jews in the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus. This theological history, in a very real sense, aided and abetted the Nazis in making the Holocaust possible in the first place.
The unworthiness of the Jews was internalized in Christian teaching.
On the Pilgrimage, we were all aware of this, and there was frequent talk about this, and we doubtless all reflected on this in differing ways.
We arrived home, and went our separate ways. In yesterdays post I summarized:
“[May 4, 2000] at the entrance to the first of the horrific exhibit buildings at Auschwitz, we saw, posted, with emphasis, the oft-noted quotation of George Santayana:
“Those who cannot remember the past
are condemned to repeat it”

We arrived home in Minnesota emotionally and physically exhausted a few days later, and after a period of several months of reunion and passion, building on what we had experienced, our lives cycled back to normal – a usual pattern after such high (or low) experiences.
Then, little more than a year later came 9-11-01. I suspect we reacted, individually, and continue to react, in different ways. We’ve never talked about that, as a group.
What would we say?
Today, 15 years later, the memories of the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau remain vivid.
But on this day of remembrance, and in all days, we humans are well advised to remind ourselves of what we, ourselves, are capable of, for good, and for evil.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is a powerful reminder; 9-11 as well….”

Those 16 months between coming home and 9-11-01, and the many years since 9-11, have a cautionary message for all of us, that catastrophes can themselves be misused and abused for self-interest.
Some months after we arrived home, a suicide bombing, or several, in Israel, provoked what has become a common response: rather than “an eye for an eye”, or dealing with the suicide bombing as a crime, the issue became Israel versus Palestinians in Israel, and I remember vividly the general formula: one Israeli Jew killed translates to ten Palestinians dead, in response. It was like saying to me, in Minnesota, that if I didn’t stop the killing by someone I didn’t know 200 miles away, that I might be killed in response, or my house destroyed. The excessive revenge response made no sense to me, and I said so, and I was no longer considered an ally by some.
After 9-11-01 came e-mail “forwards” including photos of some apparent-Palestinians cheering the collapse of the Twin Towers. The Us versus Them theme intensified. The issue of Moslems as the problem entered the conversation.
Moslems replaced Jews as the problem….
In Sep., 2006 I was invited to the local premier of a widely circulated (and still available) “documentary”*, which featured film clips of a few radical Moslem leaders railing against the Jews. We have all seen such clips, carefully selected and edited, used to attempt to prove almost anything. The purpose is simple: to create an impression (much like the Christian teaching about the role of Jews in Christ’s death on the cross): “Crucify him!”
Or kill them.
In recent days there is, of course, the developing situation in Europe in the wake of “Je Suis Charlie”, seems to focus on demonstrations focusing against the Moslem immigrants, rather than the lunatics that actually did, and abetted, the killings in Paris. The initial issue in Paris focused on Freedom of Speech. But now there’s the less than subtle ‘spin’ that the killing of four Jews now represents a new rising of anti-Semitism, with the very recent matter of Bibi Netanyahu attempting to use the tragedy to seize the political advantage against the supposed threat of Iran, including involving the American Congress. Again, it is not a pleasant time, and perspective is lacking. Two violent incidents are being misused.
I could go on, of course.
Can we talk?
* I am not inclined to give free publicity to this film, which I consider a hate film, but in the interest of discussion, here is the wikipedia link about it. In my own “review” September 27, 2006, I said in part, this: “…It is a new but classical propaganda film…The tone of the film was such that you’d walk out of the theatre and almost be inclined to cross the street if you see a Muslim coming your way…that kind of ‘balance’.”
The person who invited me to attend the film was not pleased with my review…you can read the entire review here: Obsession Rev 9-27-06001 The Sep 2000 U.S. News and World Report article about American Neo-Nazis (referenced in review) is here: USNews-9-25-2000001
Of course, the film gives an obligatory disclaimer: “This is a film about radical Islamic terror. A dangerous ideology, fueled by religious hatred. It’s important to remember most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror. This is not a film about them. This is a film about a radical worldview, and the threat it poses to us all, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.” But the emphasis is making common people fear and distrust all Moslems, not just the few. As we all know, this narrative played out well in Germany in the Auschwitz days, against another minority.

2 replies
    • admin
      admin says:

      Thank you, Heidi. I try…. That’s what we all need to do. Individuals and small groups make all the difference in the long run.


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