Last Saturday, April 11th, I judged a forensics tournament at Buhler High School. To be honest, I was not looking forward to spending what was forecast to be a beautiful day inside a school building. The event turned out to be inspiring and enjoyable, but, at the same time, some-what depressing, and eye-opening. Inspiring--because the students were polite, talented, prepared and wanted to change negative situations. Depressing—because so many poetry selections and persuasive presentations had to do with bullying, teen suicide, being outcasts, and feelings of hopelessness. I retired from full-time teaching five years ago, and the negative behavior and stereo-typing which was bad enough then, seems to have grown exponentially with the increase in social media. It seemed ironic that later, I read that Saturday was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald.
Soldiers entering the concentration camps were often
traumatized by the inhuman scenes that greeted them.
If unfamiliar, Buchenwald was the largest Nazi Concentration Camp in Germany during WW II. “More than 250,000 men, women and children were held at Buchenwald from its opening in 1937 until its closure eight years later. About 56,000 people, including Jews, Roma and Soviet prisoners, died within its walls” (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32267720, 4/11/15).
This is the camp where Elie Wiesel, the author of the Holocaust memoir, Night, was held captive. When we lived in Ft. Scott, KS, I met a former military commander who helped liberate Buchenwald. He related that, even though they had heard rumors that the Germans had such camps, nothing could have prepared any of the battle-hardened soldiers for the horrors that greeted them when they discovered Buchenwald. The memories he shared were more graphic and included details I had never before heard or read. One of the most poignant was that even though the officers constantly forbid American soldiers to retaliate against the few remaining German guards, when the soldiers discovered the remains of children who had been tortured for stealing bread, there was no stopping the soldiers.
Any time I taught the book Night, students questioned, as I did, how the Holocaust could happen and the world stand silent. At the same time we agreed that something like this must never happen again, it was occurring in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and elsewhere on a smaller, less organized scale. Seeing the horrors and havoc that ISIS is generating across the Middle East against Christians and moderate Muslims, it is clear the lessons of the Holocaust have not been learned. The following this radical, hate-spewing ideology has spawned across the world, is alarming. And, the rise of neo-Nazism in Germany and elsewhere is disheartening. Some people remark that these genocides and slaughters have occurred since the beginning of time which may be true. But, surely mankind can learn from our predecessors and say ENOUGH! Instead of “Again and Again,” what has happened to NEVER AGAIN ---the anthem after the Nurenberg trials which judged war criminals of the Holocaust.Surely the men and women who fought to end the spread of hatred in previous wars deserve a greater effort and dedication to peace. Of course, it has to begin with small steps, with individuals and in our families so that so many people do not dread walking down hallways or entering a lunch room and frightening numbers contemplate suicide.