Most kids at the age of ten have no worries; nothing can stand in their way as they wait for some of the best times of their lives to fall upon them. At the age of ten my Grandma had every worry imaginable; it appeared that everything was a blockade with nothing to do but follow a detour sign pointing towards her soon-to-be gravesite. At the age of ten my grandma began a time period of her life that most ten year olds could never imagine possible: the Holocaust.
I have heard many horrific stories from my Grandmother regarding her experiences during the Holocaust, but one in particular, a story from her death march, will forever remain in my mind; an experience so powerful that it would single handedly shape any person’s beliefs.
As the hundreds of skeletons, barley resembling women, were lined up to continue the march through hell, the tormenting and torture continued like any other day under the Nazi Regime. My grandmother watched as a Nazi soldier began to pick out specific girls from the line one by one. As the Nazi continued down the line of several hundred girls, he came upon my grandmother. Staring straight ahead, she prayed that she would not be selected to leave the group of women. But sure enough she was commanded to leave the line and join the other 54 death marchers selected. Next they were herded like animals onto Nazi trucks, and soon a man-made ditch came into her blurred view. “This is it”, she thought. She had managed to survive almost six years of demoralization, abuse, and starvation, and now It was all going to come to an end, with a mere bang of a gun. But something extremely unexpected happened: instead of lining her up with the other 50 girls along the edge of the ditch, she and four other girls were shoved to the side, each given a shovel, and told not to move. My Grandmother then witnessed as the Nazis murdered the 50 women within a few minutes. Unable to cry (this far into the war she was no longer capable of expressing emotions), she watched as their limp, lifeless bodies fell into the ditch behind them. Now it was time for my Grandmother to serve her purpose. At gunpoint she was forced to bury the 50 murdered women.
From my Grandmother’s experiences I have absorbed many personal beliefs, but one in particular stands out in my mind: We must never forget. Through the previous story alone, one can imagine how much pain, physical and mental, the Nazis brought about to millions upon millions of innocent people. They murdered over 11 million people, 6 million of whom were Jewish. Out of my Grandma’s family of 7 only she and her brother managed to survive. I believe that it is our responsibility as human beings to educate and be educated about what happened during the Holocaust so the 11 million have not died in vain.
Nearly sixty years later, similar atrocities are occurring in other parts of the world. People are still being victimized by overzealous, close-minded institutions. This forced me to act upon my beliefs because I will never forget. Last year I went to Washington D.C. with my Jewish ethics class, where a few other students and I lobbied our congressman in regards to the current conflict in Darfur. Although I doubt that personally lobbying my congressman had great impact on the United States’ action in Darfur, if millions act, we will see action.
As the number of living Holocaust survivors is beginning to dwindle, there are fewer and fewer first hand witnesses of the Nazis’ crimes against humanity. More now than ever, it is our responsibility to maintain the memories of the Holocaust. We must remind the world of man’s cruelty to man and counter those audacious enough to convince others that the Holocaust never occurred. I believe that if we remember the atrocities that have occurred in the past, we can prevent future genocides, or do what we can to bring current genocides to an end. If we never forget, the true altruistic nature of humanity will prevail because we will learn from the past.
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