We Must Not Forget Our Past
Courtesy of Phyliss Ewing
(The following is an e-mail sent to me from a retired military ex-pat now living in Arizona. With his permission I am sharing it with you. PE)
He wrote, “At this time, it is very important to remember a whole new meaning to what history is all about. When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why Eisenhower was so popular. Maybe this will explain why General Eisenhower warned us, “It is a matter of history.” When the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps, he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead. He did this because he said in words to this effect, Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses – because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.
This week, the UK debated whether to remove The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it offends the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. It has not been removed as yet. However, this is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving in to it. It is now more than seven decades after WWII ended in Europe. This is being sent as a memorial, in memory of thesix million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians, and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, raped, burned, starved, beaten, experimented on and humiliated while many in the world looked the other way! Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming The Holocaust to be a myth, it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.
For 15 years my late husband and I traveled with groups lead by a U.S. Military History Professor focused on the Allied campaigns. We scoured Europe, but oddly he emphatically refused to lead a trip to Germany. This fall my husband and I traveled via river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. I now understand the professor’s aversion to this side of the war. Our rooms provided a variety of movies including historical glimpses of what we were about to witness. Since I am a history buff and have a fairly good WWII background, I wanted to watch The Eichmann Show (2015) and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959).
Otto Adolf Eichmann was responsible for the murder of millions of Jews, Gypsies and Poles, all of which Hitler deemed inferior. Young Anne Frank, her family and other Jews were hidden in an Amsterdam attic for three years before being discovered and sent to their deaths in Nazi camps.
The Eichmann Show is a blend of Hollywood and actual trial film footage which took place in Ramla, Israel after his capture in Argentina by Israeli Mossad agents and indicted by the Israeli court on 15 criminal charges including crimes against humanity and war crimes. The trial was televised around the world because many people refused to believe the atrocities actually occurred. Eichmann denied all 15 charges, sat calmly in a glass enclosure without facial expressions, as eyewitnesses testified.
This particularly touched me because they witnessed their families being murdered before their eyes. The film producers wanted his reaction and confession. They finally decided to show him and the world actual film footage of what the death camps produced; piles of worked-to-death, starved, skin-stretched skeletons being pushed by a front loader into burial ditches. Their heads shaved, teeth pulled for the gold. The Russians arrived at the camps before the Allied Forces and discovered a room piled high with 70 tons of neatly-bagged human hair.
These films finally struck a nerve with Eichmann who admitted that these atrocities were his idea, but he did not order their execution. He was quoted as saying, “To sum it up, I must say that I regret nothing.” The three judges deliberated for four months and Eichmann was hanged, a sentence too good for someone so evil.
In Budapest we visited a synagogue. On the property of this holy place is a small graveyard with ten graves containing 3,000 Hungarian Jews. It was overwhelming and hard to comprehend. Nearby is a stainless steel willow tree, a Tree of Life, each leaf inscribed with an individual’s or a family’s name, buried just a few yards away.
There were many memorials to remind us of this horrid period in human history. On the river banks, Nazis tied Jews together. To save ammunition they shot the person on the end who then dragged the entire string into the river to a watery grave. The memorial left there is a collection of shoes. Another memorial was of one person in a building throwing a rope to another on the ground trying to pull them to safety.
On a bus tour through Nuremberg we passed Hitler’s rally stadium where he delivered his fist-pounding, screaming messages to thousands of brainwashed believers. Remarkably it has been left there as a reminder for all to see.
This brings me to what is going on in the U.S. today with groups wanting to destroy statues and memorials of our Founding Fathers, Civil War memorials and even a statue of Christopher Columbus. This is a modern day attempt to erase our history. By contrast the Mexicans are proud of their heroes and honor them with statues and celebrate their struggles with days of remembrance.
I go back to what General Dwight Eisenhower said when he ordered the documentation of the death camps of Germany, “It is a matter of history.”