Denisa and I watched a really well done documentary last night: I Have Never Forgotten You. It’s focuses on the life and efforts of Simon Wiesenthal, well known Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter (which sounds like it would be a really cool profession–sort of like Vampire Hunter–but turns out to be really hard and difficult, and without the cool stakes and holy water). Bottom line is that it was very good viewing, although also filled with a lot of brutal history. (It’s the Holocaust–what else do you expect.) I came away from the film with a much better understanding of the efforts that went into punishing WWII war criminals. Three and a half stars.
But it also got me thinking. What is it that makes an entire people feel like it’s justifiable to look at another race and view them as animals, not fellow humans? How is it that we can do that? It wasn’t as if the Holocaust happened overnight. There were many steps taken that led to those gas chambers–steps that were very apparent. I remember when I lived in Weimar and talked with some of the people there–people who lived just down the hill from Buchenwald. They said that they knew what was going on at the concentration camp. When the wind blew just right, you could smell it in the air. Yes, they tried to pretend it wasn’t happening, or justify it, but people were dying by the thousands not a mile from where German citizens lived and played with their children, and no one did anything to stop it.
Wouldn’t you like to believe that humans as a whole would rise up and object to behavior like that? But I guess we just don’t. It’s still happening today in Africa and other countries, but we as a species go about our lives worrying about weight loss and LeBron James and who’ll be voted off this week. Because no matter how enlightened we are or like to think we are, when it comes right down to it, other people’s suffering isn’t our suffering. We might feel guilty other people have it hard, and we might throw a bit of money at them to make ourselves feel better, but until it becomes our suffering, we do nothing.
I don’t really have anything else to add to this right now. My brain’s still working on it. I’m interested to see if any of you have any insights to offer. Please–the floor is yours.