A couple of weeks ago my family and I took a day trip to Washington D.C. to visit the monuments and take in some history. The last time I had gone for such a purpose I was on a class trip in junior high school and didn’t really appreciate it. I was mainly just happy I wasn’t sitting in math class. Being older and wiser this time, I was really able to drink in the history around me.
We went to see many of the monuments and took the typical tourist pictures including one of my daughter “holding” the Washington Monument between her two fingers. My favorite stop was to the National Archive where one can view the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. It really is surreal to stand and view those two hand written documents and gaze over the signatures. I could certainly write a blog focused on these two pieces of American history, but that is not my purpose today.
The subject of this blog concerns our final sight-seeing stop; The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I had been to this particular museum once before when I was in Washington on business and took some time for a little touring. Of course, the Holocaust Museum has its own unique atmosphere. No one is admiring displays or taking selfies. There is a somberness and a sobriety as one would expect. It is truly a place of contemplation.
We went through an exhibit entitled “Daniel’s Story” which took one through the life of a Jewish child named Daniel. It started off happy with memories of family and typical childhood antics. As one progresses through the story, however, invitation into the horrors of Nazi Germany are extended and one is taken through the rise of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (the Nazi Party) and their systematic shutdown of everything that contradicted their way of thinking. Soon we were shown the fenced-in ghetto where Daniel and his family were forced to move, and finally the concentration camp where Daniel was separated from his mother and sister never to see them again and the place where he would watch his father die. It was heart wrenching.
Growing up, my father was a bit of a World War II history buff, so I acquired better than average historical knowledge of the atrocities that went on in Hitler’s Germany. However, what one must always keep in mind is that these are not merely stories; people actually endured this evil. This was their life! To this day, I cannot fathom the depths of depravity that lead people to treat their fellow human beings with such absolute malice.
I mentioned that the National Archive was my favorite place that we had visited in Washington D.C., but the Holocaust Museum was, by far, the most impacting upon my soul. I am still feeling its profound effects today which is why I am writing this particular blog post. We would hope that something this evil would never happen again, but the truth is that it still goes on this very day! One wonders why it isn’t top on our list of news stories.
I have found that such things only make the news if there is a political advantage to them. If there isn’t, they are happily ignored so that room can be made for celebrities and fools to make Nazi comparisons about anything they disagree with. Only days after our trip to the Holocaust Museum I read that some crusading celebrity was comparing eating meat to what was done to the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Meanwhile, real Naziesque evils are taking place around the world and people are being slaughtered for nothing more than their ethnicity or their faith.
So, what is my point today? Merely contemplation. Don’t politicize it. Don’t try to liken it to your particular pet peeve. Simply sip a cup of coffee in a quiet place and contemplate it. What drives humanity to the depths of such evil? How can entire societies be duped into dehumanizing their fellow human beings to such levels that their lives become meaningless? It has gone on throughout history and despite all our technological and scientific advancements in this age, it continues today. Why?