Wednesday, May 04, 2016
My grandmother had an album where she kept photos sent to her and her aunt by her sisters'-in-law in what was then Poland (today Ukraine). These are some of the 60 members of my grandparents' family who were murdered by the Nazis - men, women, children and babies. Some murdered in the forest by local Nazi sympathisers, others in the Belzac death camp.
We know what happened to them because another cousin managed to survive the war by pretending to be a Polish Catholic. She spoke fluent Polish, wore a cross, attended church regularly, memorised Catholic prayers and was able to pass as a Polish Catholic woman. Unable to rescue any other family members she witnessed their fate, including the murder of her own husband and baby.
They are ordinary people taking ordinary family photos with no idea that this would be all that remained of them because they themselves would be turned to ash and dust by strangers who hated them simply because they were Jews.
They were not "collateral damage", their deaths were not an accident of war or plague or natural disaster or famine but cold calculated murder by the Nazis and their allies who devoted huge resources from their formidable war machine to the erradication of these peaceful civilians simply because they were Jews.
The mind cannot fathom the meaning of 6 million human beings let alone the mass murder of 6 million human beings. It doesn't have to though. Look at these children and parents, these are the faces of the 6 million, the silent testimony to the evils some of the most technologically advanced and supposedly civilised nations on Earth carried out against some of the most productive, hard working, learned and peaceful people on Earth. .
These are the family I will never know, the great-aunts and uncles and cousins who exist only as photos because they were exterminated by Hitler's henchmen. The children who are forever children, reminding us of the children they never bore, the generations of cousins who never were, the gaping hole in our family.
They have no voices, we must be their voices, voices which refuse to let the world forget or twist the memory of the Holocaust.
If you hear people question, if you hear Holocaust deniers or belittlers, supposed academics who question whether it really happened, don't be silent. Keep these photos in your mind, remember these faces of those murdered in the Holocaust, remember them and their suffering, their horrific deaths.
Etch the warning in to your soul - even the most civilised, rational and scientific men and woman are capable of the most heinous crimes against their fellow humans. Do not let others say "it could not happen today", "it could not happen here". Never forget so that it may never happen again.