Opinion: What have I done?
Teacher's note: What follows is a rare glimpse of the sensitive and passionate nature of teenagers in our town. Erin agreed to publication upon my assurance that her raw emotional response to the Holocaust, upon visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., would be a meaningful contribution to Fairfield's commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Erin and her sister Kassidy are leading the Harmony for Haiti fundraising drive which has already secured more than $5,000 in support from Fairfield's Rotary Club, Bigelow Tea Company, and hundreds of individuals. Erin and Kassidy will represent Fairfield Warde High School at the League of Women Voters symposium, "Women's Participation in Society and Government" at Quinnipiac University on April 28. -- Jim D'Acosta, teacher, Fairfield Warde High School
The trip to Washington D.C. was an overall pleasant one. The free time in the afternoon was leisurely and the meeting with the veterans was informative. Everything was as it was supposed to be. But I can't help but remain unsettled from the Holocaust Museum.
I know everyone will be writing about the Holocaust Museum, and I suppose that's a good thing. The museum is certainly successful in touching the visitors, leaving them disturbed. There was a quote in the Hall of Remembrance, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground." When I saw that I just ... woke up. When I read it, the quote was screaming at me. At me.
I don't understand. I really, really don't. I almost don't believe the Holocaust did happen. Because I can't fathom this idea. A government of humans spending money, building concentration camps, labor camps, death camps, for people whose crime is living. How an entire country can go without knowing, or can go along with a massive genocide of millions and millions of their neighbors. Someone needs to draw a picture for me, because I don't understand. How did a madman become in charge of the country? How did it work out that his Cabinet was just as insane? How did people take this sitting down? That's my main question.
How did the world let this happen? It took 12 million people to be murdered before we finally stepped in. What I don't understand is that there is a museum dedicated to this genocide, screaming and pleading to all, this cannot happen again. But it is. Darfur, Sudan, Rwanda -- what are we doing? There is murder because that group has lighter skin, or because that group prays differently, and I don't understand how we let it happen. Yes, we let the Holocaust happen. And then everyone goes through the trouble of building a museum and teaching the horrors of the Holocaust to children. But. It's. Happening. Again. And we are not doing everything physically possible to save the innocent being raped and murdered.
But there's still a whole lot I don't comprehend. Like how so much hatred can be ignited by the color of her skin, or the god he prays to. To the extent that they will pillage towns and slaughter families, children, the elderly, women and men, and still manage to sleep at night. No, I can't process it.
Hitler was not the devil. He was a confused man. He thought that Jews were literally filth, that they plagued the world. That Jews were the reason there was disease and evil in the world. Such confusion mixed with power resulted in the mass murder of 12 million humans. But how did this confusion start? How did it spread? Where the hell was this "God?"
A person can read the definition of the Holocaust: "The genocide of European Jews and others by the Nazis during World War II." That's easy enough to understand. But there must be something wrong with my brain because, for some reason, I don't register a simple definition. I think of the herding of humans into carts that are so crowded and so hot that people die right there. Literally so full of people you can't sit. And you're driven for hours. You know your destination will be a hell hole, you know that. And I suppose that's the only distraction from the sweltering heat of nine dozen other bodies crammed together. Being in a place so terrifying, then ripped away from your family or the one person you know, to soon realize that that awful smell is your parents' burning remains. How does a person lead a group of children into a chamber, hear them choke and gasp until they're dead, and then drag their bodies into ovens to be burned?
To be in command of a place where flakes of flesh of the dead rain from the sky. Where there is the smell of burning hair and flesh of a human being. Hours upon hours of work. Dragging rocks, loading coal, on an empty stomach after months of little to no sleep and food. I don't understand how a person survives that. What do they have to live for? With the end nowhere in sight, how does one keep going? How can you possibly survive those conditions when there is so much hatred hurled at you?
And how did we get here? A place where there is still Nazism, where there are Holocaust jokes, Jewish jokes, anti-Semitism. How did we not learn?! How can we be so unprogressive?! We're so wrapped up in worthless activities and claim we don't have time to help. Wake up! How did we reach a day when the humanitarians are a minority?
America did take action to help Haiti. But I hear that organizations fly down there, dump money, get their picture taken and leave. The rainy season is coming, which means that money that went to giving devastated Haitians tents will soon be useless because a tent won't shelter them from flooding and monsoons. We didn't even bother to make sure the tents were pitched on high ground.
How can we be more progressive? How can we be more loving? Is it human nature to forever rage in war? To never be connected? That's what I've devoted my life to figuring out.
I know one thing. I am deeply, deeply sad watching what humans are turning into. What we have done, and what we have become. The fact that we're not learning from something like the Holocaust ... truly unsettles me. This mess of violence and war makes me sick to my stomach. What have we done? And what have I done? I sit at my computer and complain about the human race, and whine about the wars and genocide, but what am I doing? Spending hour after hour in this damn building, "learning" things I don't care about and will not use, when I could be out there, doing what I need to do. I hate school because it's wasting my time, and it's wasting my energies. I want to be educated, but ... I want to be doing things. I want to get things done. Mop up the blood of my brothers and sisters, and move on.
"What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand." (Genesis 4:10,11)
Erin Clark is a junior at Fairfield Warde High School.