When I was a little boy there was a man who delivered mail in my mother’s tiny home town of Leslie Georgia. He was a quiet man, but friendly, and one day my mother told me that some people had done horrible things to him, and his family, many years ago. He always wore long sleeve shirts but one day he allowed me to see the tattoo on his arm. It was the tattoo forced upon him when he was in one of the Death Camps in World War Two.
As I was growing up and read “The Diary of Anne Frank” and other stories about the war, and the things that happened I was certain this was a subject that everyone could agree on, and nothing like thing could ever happen again, simply because everyone would be so horrified at what had done to so many people.
Yet as I grow older it would seem there are more and more people who deny what happened in World War Two. There were not as many people in the camps, I hear, or I hear it was all fabricated, or I hear that the numbers were inflated. I have traded email with people who tell me I have not seen anything myself that would prove anything except the arm of one man, long ago, when I was a child.
What I find odd about the argument against what happened in World War Two is there has never been anyone, ever, no one single United States soldier who has come forth and said, “It was not real. We staged it all. It was not as bad as it was made to appear.” Hundreds, maybe even thousands of soldiers entered the camps, and saw the evil. None have come forward with any other story.
The survivors of the camps are likewise consistent with what they experienced. No one who ever claimed they were in one of those camps has ever later recanted and said the camps were a myth.
To have a conspiracy of a few people takes some doing. To believe hundreds or even thousands of people could somehow all be persuaded to tell the same story for decades is just plain silly.
You will notice I have taken great pains to avoid listing the religions of any of the people who were tormented and murdered. I have deliberately taken away everything that might distinguish one group who was targeted from another who was likewise attacked. I have also not named any group of people who committed the crimes, or given any reason for the crimes.
Let’s remove everything from the equation and simplify this thing to the very bare bones; humans did this to other humans.
Please do not argue with me that this act deserves a name, or the victims deserve to be recognized as those who the ultimate evil was committed upon, or those who committed these heinous acts were led by the most evil person ever. Instead let the acts themselves become what they are, and those on both sides, be seen as human beings. If you do this, you may see yourself behind that barbed wire, or you may see yourself in front of it. You may think that you would not find yourself on either side, but I will very humbly submit to you there were a great many people on both sides who never thought they would be there.
We have to see the crimes against humanity as crimes committed against us all, by members of our own race. We have to see what was done was not done by snarling demons who were drug out of the pits of hell, but very simple ordinary human beings deluded by a leader who did not seem to be a monster in the beginning. They were told a certain group of people were less human than they. Who among us has not been told that at some point in time in our lives? Who? Where is the pure among us who has never believed that lie, even if it was not as great a lie that caused the murders of millions, even that lie began as a smaller one, believed by good people, and they took that first step, and who among us who has not marched with them?
Erase the classifications of the people and allow them to be simple human beings, and suddenly, you see yourself inside the camps, and you see yourself guarding the camps as well. If you have ever allowed yourself that lie, that lie that who you are is better than someone else because of race, religion, nationality, or any other reason, you’ve taken that step.
I am guilty of this. I have taken that step. I have seen that wire, and even though I would never believe I could be a part of such a horrible thing, I have sat still and quiet and listened to those who hate, and not raised my voice against them. I am guilty of this. I have taken that step. You cannot understand why this has happened until you see it in yourself. You cannot stop this from happening again, until you can stop it in yourself.
When you grab that wire, to pull it down, you have to understand what can happen to you if you do this, and you have to understand what has already happened if you do not.
In the early 1960’s a very quiet but friendly man showed me his arm. It is incredibly hard to believe some force in the universe sent him to a tiny town in South Georgia, to keep a lie alive. We would like to believe it was a lie, that human beings cannot, would not, do the things that are claimed, and the future generations might somehow lose sight of what happened, as they always do, as we have done with our own crimes in the far past.
Until we understand that we, as humans, did this to other humans, we begin to lose the battle to keep it from happening again. It has already happened in Africa, more than once, and because we have already labeled the ultimate evil, anything else that happens is less evil, and we need not be worried about it happening again.
That, too, is one of those steps, with those humans, on the wrong side of the wire.