Today marks the 70th anniversary of the first transport to Auschwitz. The people being treated like cattle were almost all young women aged 16 to 22, the breeding stock of their towns and villages, who spent 4 days standing up without food and only a little water, no sanitation and no hope.
The unspeakable horrors of what happened at Auschwitz and other concentration camps do, in fact, need to be spoken about. We need to remember just what we, as individuals and as groups, are capable of and understand that Germany wasn’t alone in experiencing a loss of conscience. Other nations under similar complex pressures of poverty and loss of national pride turned to hatred and scapegoating to help the Nazis process people into things.
It doesn’t take much to uncover our own desire to dehumanize each other. Listening to the rhetoric around unemployment today I’m reminded of the Nazi camp workers who were proud to be employed in driving cattle trucks full of Jewish people, taking the possessions of Romany people, herding disabled people into gas chambers, shoveling Gay peoples bodies out of the chambers. Their pride rested on the fact that they were not unemployed and that they were doing work that powerful people had told them was right and proper.
This recent event in our history is endlessly complex and revealing but on this 70th anniversary I’d like to draw your attention to Rena’s Promise.
Rena was on that first transport, her sister Danka arriving in Auschwitz a few days later. What kept them alive when others died was that they loved each other and cared for each other. People on their own had no reason to live but Rena and Danka and other individuals lived for other people. And survived.
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