“Auschwitz must be comprehended in the context of its historical past, be recognized when it happens in the present, and not be ruled out blindly for the future.”
Gunter Grass “A Father’s Difficulties in Explaining Auschwitz to His Children”
“My children have their doubts. They say: You don’t believe in anything anyway. I admit to my unbelieving life, and tell them: As soon as belief gets ahead of reason you can count on the demise of both politics and literature. Examples include the belief in one God, the belief in Germany, and the belief in true Socialism.”
Gunter Grass “Literature and Politics”
I have been reading a lot about the early part of the 20th century in Germany and the events and effects of what occurred then and there.
W. H. Sebald “The Emmigrants”, Ursula Hegi “Stones from the River“, Gunter Grass “The Tin Drum”, Roberto Belano “2666”, and a graphic novel “Berlin”, as well as many works by Kafka have been giving me some understanding of the enmeshing social and cultural atmosphere that produced the horror that was Auschwitz and the whole nightmare of the Holocaust and the insuing costs that left scars on the world.
Fear is the common thread that weaves this tapestry of doom. Fear disseminated by people who want to control the destiny of a nation and use it to hypnotize people and by degrees convince them to accept inhumanity as the only appropriate measure to protect their way of life.
Every time Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck speaks about what we should fear and why we must act on those fears. I am thankful that we have for the moment pushed them to side to focus on some of the pressing issues that face us as a nation. When they use the examples of Hitler and the Third Reich to paint the current political situation in blackest most fearful terms, they are actually using the methodology of the Nazi’s. I think we should fear unreasonable, unsubstantiated fear and single minded devotion to blind faith in anything. Let’s think things through and look for evidence. Let’s keep our eyes and minds open to posibilities and continue to fill the air with our dreams for a world full of people who can discuss and celebrate differences without the shadow of unreasonable fear. Then Auswitz will be behind us, as well as Rawanda, and Vietnam, and Iraq, and Afghanistan and torture for freedom’s sake.
We do have a long way to go before we are far enough ahead of this thing that it can’t creep up and bite us in the ass again. Maybe we need better rearview mirrors, or maybe take turns looking out, but we have to know what the thing looks like in order to avoid it. When we are looking for a high-stepping, swastika resplendant mob it might sneak up on us in the form of some nice people concerned about morals, or anti-terrorist legislation to keep us safe. Your favorite relatives and best friends could be involved. That is how it gets in when we are afraid to disagree with nice people about their bad ideas and unreasonable fears. Fear is the monster that closes the mind to humanity: careful listening, respectful conversation, and diligent open-minded inquiry are the weapons that will slay it. These are the things that keep us from reliving the horror of Auschwitz.