Last weekend, my wife and I traveled east from our home in Colorado to a wedding in New York. While there, we attended an exhibit we booked months in advance, at one of New York’s rich, cultural museums. It was called Auschwitz – Not long ago. Not far away.
A special exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Auschwitz, “Is the most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the history of Auschwitz and its role in the Holocaust ever presented in North America, and an unparalleled opportunity to confront the singular face of human evil.”
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and the Auschwitz exhibit brought that reality to life leaving many visitors in disbelief.
The entire exhibit was incredibly distressing – like the story of the wife and mother who realized her five-year-old son and other children were being sent to the gas chamber and couldn’t bare to leave him alone. So, she snuck inside with him where she also perished.
But to be honest, the worst part for me came at the very end.
At the conclusion of the Auschwitz exhibit, as you exited into the main hallway, giant projection screens chronicled the lives of the Jews years before they were sent to Auschwitz.
Real-life footage of Jews during happier times. Times of normalcy; times of celebration; times of certainty and safety.
They were ordinary families enjoying life and love and everything in between, unaware of the annihilating hatred which awaited them just a few years down the road.
The faces of Auschwitz
Faceless human beings were NOT killed at Auschwitz. They were men, woman and children whose hopes for the future now played on giant project screens before me – leaving my cheeks stained with tears. The thought that many of those smiling faces before me had been extinguished was heart wrenching.
At the end of the emotional journey, I thought about this beloved quote from Nelson Mandela.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
The propaganda during the time of Auschwitz was credited with spreading an inaccurate and odious message about Jews, which proves that people really do learn to hate.
What concerns me is I see parents propagating their prejudices to their impressionable children even today, sometimes subtly – others blatantly. The job of a parent should never be to teach their children to hate.
Eva Schloss, an Auschwitz survivor, was giving a presentation to schoolchildren. “A Somali girl with dark eyes hesitantly put her hand up and asked, ‘Do you think it will happen again?’ I can’t answer that, but maybe you can. Will it? I hope not.”