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Why I Love History
The Nazis: A Warning From History (documentary series)
One of the best gifts I gave myself on Christmas 2007 is a 3-DVD box set of the BBC documentary series “The Nazis: A Warning from History”. The history of the Jewish holocaust fascinates me so and I honestly don't know why. I just know that I crave for knowledge about it. I read about it in the Internet all the time. I am always on the lookout for documentaries about it. I swear if one wants my undivided attention, all one needs to do is feed me information about this historical pockmark. I'm not really an expert on the subject but I want to be. I want to be an authority on the German history of that era. From the rise of Hitler to his death and the Nuremburg trials.
When you think about it, you can't help but be stupefied by what transpired in Germany in the period of 1939 to 1945. How can one man drive an entire nation to commit atrocities against a whole race of human beings? How can the rest of the world allow it to fester for half a decade. The whole thing was just too much for me to fathom. I recall the lines of a song that goes “it takes every kind of people to make the world go round”. But did we really need this type of people in our world? People with so much hate for so shallow reasons. What kind of purpose does a man who endeavored to erase an entire race serve? A man who succeeded in annihilating 6 million Jews. Six million, just how many is that? Our Luneta Park here in Manila can hold about 100,000 people, so how many Luneta Parks could house six million people?
I read somewhere that in order to save ammunition, the Nazis would line the Jews up in 10s and shoot them with just one bullet. The Wannassee Conference, where German leaders drafted the Final Solution to the Jewish Question has got to be one of the most terrifyingly outrageous part of this history. The conference was dubbed the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, the final solution being the systematic killing of all Jews in Germany and their occupied territories. I imagine it to be like a meeting of exterminators planning the most efficient way to eliminate an infestation of rats.
And where was the rest of the world during all these? Where were the other Jews in the parts of the world not occupied by the Nazis? From books and movies about the holocaust the Jews appear to be educated and peace-loving, the families are close knit and religious. I know no Jew but I know that they are human beings like me or my family and friends. There just was no call to want all of them dead. The scale of the killings is beyond human comprehension, more so the methods. I watched an interview with a holocaust survivor from the documentary “Shoah,” where he recounted how while riding on the train going to the work or concentration camps, they would watch German children in the countryside do an all too familiar gesture. The kids around five or six years old would run their forefinger across their necks while turning their heads from side to side while shouting invectives at the Jews on the train.
How did the Nazis convince themselves that it was alright to kill indiscriminately, making no distinctions, having no qualms. How did they convince themselves that it was the right thing to do? Its infinitely easier to make sense of terrorism (like 9/11 probably) if you only consider the scale. In Nazi Germany you have an entire government backed by its people carrying out mass murder with gusto. They thrive on the killing, they relish it.
I'm sure for a lot of people, the Jewish holocaust is neither here nor there. Teenagers worldwide would probably have no idea about the whole affair. The best we could get out of this chunk of very dark and embarrassing history (embarrassing for the human race in general) is to let it remain as a sombre reminder of just how bad things can get. This stayed with me, I guess it changed the way I see myself as a part of humanity and what we are all really capable of. This takes the surprise out of how cruel our race can be, out man's ability to marginalize his fellowmen, out of our ability to be spiteful. Would education and social refinement eradicate this inherent dark side we could all have tucked away within us? Understanding is the first step perhaps, understanding that even I can harbor these dark feelings within me and that it is imperative that I destroy it.
Yet through it all, I'm confident that men can rise above this type of darkness. The fact that Nazism was eventually crushed albeit after a decade of dominance all over Europe. It proves that while like a wound hate and cruelty can fester, but it will eventually heal. Tyranny of this magnitude will never prevail if we remain aware of it and if we're consciously involved in crushing it completely at the onset. I find it very helpful to keep stock of history, especially this particular history. The living hell that the Jews went through gave me a deeper understanding of the meaning of tolerance. But with all the madness that still surround us, I sometimes find myself asking, was the lesson really learned?
one of the very few songs written about the holocaust
ghosts of dacchau lyrics
I close my eyes - I reach out my hand And there you are - beautiful in scabs Caressing my scalp - under the mounts of the gun towers
I shout your name - I kick out in dreams And here we are - the searchlight beams The siren squeals - and hopeless shuffle to certainty
The crab lice bite - the typhoid smells And I still here - handsome in rags A trouserless man - waiting helpless for dignity
Come to me angel, dont go to the showers Beg, steal or borrow - now theres nothing left to take Except eternity
And who will come - to flower our graves? With us still here - covered with dust Remembered by few but forgotten by the majority
Stay with me angel - dont get lost in history Dont let all we suffered lose its meaning in the dark That we call memory