Erasing History is Dangerous
Every day or so it seems you read about another statue torn down and more history lost. Winston Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Why would the Jewish people be the driving force behind preserving Auschwitz and the other WWII Nazi death camps? Simple. Because they do not want the world to ever forget what happened there. We are doing a great disservice by destroying statues and monuments and other articles of our history both good and bad!
There are entire websites devoted to the development of Nazi ideology that tell the transformation of Auschwitz from an ordinary Polish town known as Oświęcim to the most significant Nazi site of the Holocaust—at which approximately 1 million Jews, and tens of thousands of others, were murdered. “Victims included Polish political prisoners, Sinti and Roma, Soviet POWs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and those the Nazis deemed “homosexual,” “disabled,” “criminal,” “inferior,” or adversarial in countless other ways. In addition, the exhibition contains artifacts that depict the world of the perpetrators—SS men who created and operated the largest of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camps.”
It wasn’t just Jews who were tortured, experimented on and murdered in the death camps. Religious zealots, political enemies, homosexuals, the disabled and others who were considered inferior were imprisoned and killed along with the Jews. But it was largely the Jewish people who got the worst of the Nazi hatred.
“From 1942 until late 1944 freight trains delivered Jews from all over German-occupied Europe to its gas chambers. Of the 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, 1.1 million died.”
“Around one in six Jews killed in the Holocaust died in Auschwitz.”
At the height of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp’s operations, an average of 6,000 Jews were gassed and cremated each day.”
OnJanuary 27, 1945, the Red Army reached Auschwitz . “Inside, they found prisoners covered in excrement and starving to death, children who had been used for medical experiments, and other shocking evidence of the Nazis’ crimes. At Birkenau, the guards had failed to destroy some of the storerooms where prisoners’ stolen belongings were stored before being transported back to the Reich. Among the remaining items were 7.7 tons of human hair, 370,000 men’s suits and 837,000 women’s coats and dresses.”
“While Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower had studied his World War II enemy, he was unprepared for the Nazi brutality he witnessed at Ohrdruf concentration camp in April 1945. Bodies were piled like wood and living skeletons struggled to survive. Even as the Allied Forces continued their fight, Eisenhower foresaw a day when the horrors of the Holocaust might be denied. He invited the media to document the scene. He compelled Germans living in the surrounding towns and any soldier not fighting at the front to witness the atrocities for themselves. “
My dad saw and liberated some of the death camps with the Army 35th Division. He told me firsthand of the horrors he saw.
The former concentration camps were turned into a museum that was created in April 1946 by Tadeusz Wąsowicz and other former Auschwitz prisoners.
A display of childrens’ shoes belonging to some of the victims of the camps.
James Hill for The New York Times
Preservation of the death camps includes an inventory that includes more than a ton of human hair; 110,000 shoes; 3,800 suitcases; 470 prostheses and orthopedic braces; more than 88 pounds of eyeglasses; hundreds of empty canisters of Zyklon B poison pellets; patented metal piping and showerheads for the gas chambers; hundreds of hairbrushes and toothbrushes; 379 striped uniforms; 246 prayer shawls; more than 12,000 pots and pans carried by Jews who believed that they were simply bound for resettlement.
“The museum has decided not to conserve one thing: the mass of human hair that fills a vast vitrine. Over the years, the hair has lost its individual colors and has begun to gray. Out of respect for the dead, it cannot be photographed.”
Child survivors of Auschwitz show a Soviet photographer their tattooed arms in February 1945. Galerie Bilderwelt / Getty Images
“Preserving Auschwitz is key to paying respect to all the people who went through the camp — those who died there but also those who survived,” Tanistra says. “Moreover, in abandoning the site, we will lose history to the Holocaust deniers.”
“Museum director Piotr Cywiński adds: “Deniers are people of bad will, and no document or object would convince them otherwise. The museum is important for people of good will who want to try to understand what happened. It is easier for them to answer that question when they see the place.”
Some of the few surviving prisoners of Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, 1945. (Credit: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
“While the physical site of Auschwitz Birkenau is located in the Republic of Poland, Jewish voices have had an influence on critically important decisions pertaining to the preservation and conservation of the Site. Most of these voices belonged to the Survivors. As the generation of Holocaust eyewitnesses passes away, we are committed to continuing the financial support for the preservation efforts and providing leadership for the Site.”
May this history never be lost or erased. May it never be repeated.