Thursday, January 26, 2012

Auschwitz: Ignoring History, Predicting the Future

The gates of Auscwitz - a Nazi death camp

By Alan Caruba

The late Israeli scholar and diplomat, Abba Eban, (1915-2002) said, “History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.”

Similarly, Winston Churchill said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they have tried everything else.” In Churchill’s case, he was referring to the U.S. reluctance to become involved in another war in Europe, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 changed that overnight. By 1945, along with our allies, the wars in Europe and Asia were over.

Sixty-seven years ago, on January 27, 1945, elements of the Soviet army came upon the Auschwitz concentration camps to discover a Nazi killing machine, one of several such camps created to exploit forced labor and to systematically kill Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, clerics, prisoners of war, and anyone else deemed an enemy of the Nazi state, right down to children and infants.

The Nazis killed people on such a scale that it is almost incomprehensible. It happened within my lifetime and that of many others, some of whom are among the fortunate survivors. And yet, today, the denial of the Holocaust and the millions of other Nazi victims is an article of faith among Arabs in the Middle East and countless others around the world.

A January 25th Agence France-Presse article reported that “One in five young Germans has no idea that Auschwitz was a Nazi death camp, a poll released Wednesday showed, two days ahead of Holocaust memorial day. Although 90 percent of those asked did know it was a concentration camp”, the Stern magazine poll revealed “that Auschwitz meant nothing to 21 percent of 18-29 year olds.”

It is essential that people in their respective nations know their own and other’s histories. A hallmark of the former Soviet regime in Russia was the way it rewrote history and, in George Orwell’s classic “1984”, a work of fiction about communism, there was a Ministry of Truth in which history was rewritten.

In the United States, since around the 1960s, strenuous efforts have been made to alter the teaching of the nation’s history. The Founding Fathers are often portrayed as slaveholders to downplay their devotion to liberty.

Even they knew that slavery was an abomination, but their task was to create a new nation, one dedicated to liberty. The U.S. Constitution was approved by twelve state delegations in 1787, but in 1861, barely 74 years later it would take a Civil War to put an end to slavery and another hundred years to end the exclusion of African Americans from access to their full rights under the Constitution.

Several generations of Americans have passed through our school systems—literally controlled by the federal government after the creation of the Department of Education in 1979 after being transferred from the former Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, a legacy of Jimmy Carter’s single term. All curriculum taught in the schools comes from the DOE thanks to its control over a national, one-size-fits-all testing system introduced with the “No Child Left Behind” program championed by George W. Bush.

To not know about Auschwitz, whether one is German, American, or any other nationality is a failure on a grand scale because it means that it can be repeated. To not know America’s epic struggle to fulfill its promise of liberty leaves new generations at a disadvantage, as in the case of a fifth of young Germans today, ignorant of their nation’s past.

In today’s world, many worry about the fate of Israel, surrounded by hostile nations and openly threatened by an Iran seeking nuclear weapons. Its independence was declared in 1948, barely three years after the end of World War II. Its first task was to absorb, not only the survivors of the Nazi regime throughout Europe, but those who were forced to flee Arab nations in the wake of the war. Its independence was greeted with the first of several wars against it. The general hostility to Jews that preceded the Holocaust by centuries is a stain on humanity.

So there is cause for concern when one in five young Germans have no idea what went on in Auschwitz and the other Nazi death camps.

It is a concern when the Syrian dictatorship has already killed 5,000 of its own people to maintain itself.

It is a concern for Iraq, already falling back into an internal conflict after decades of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and the end of the U.S. occupation.

It is a concern for an Iranian dictatorship on the cusp of creating its own nuclear weapons.

It is a concern for Venezuela, held in the grip of Hugo Chavez’s dictatorship, an acolyte of Communist Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

It is a concern for Europeans whose political experiment, the European Union, threatens the financial stability of its member nations with the sole exception of Germany.

It is a concern for Americans who witnessed the unilateral limited nuclear disarmament of the nation and the huge reduction of its military power by the Obama administration, less than the lifetime after the end of World War II.

The world remains a dangerous place. That is the lesson of history.

© Alan Caruba, 2012


kenlowder said...

Once again, "those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it"

unclescott said...

Great insight...wish that we could get it made into a Superbowl commercial so that everyone could be introduced to some history...guess that we'll just have to keep sharing your posts and listen to Gingrich's speeches.....

scott adie said...

No question these mass murders are the most horrific crimes against man ever committed. Except, of course if you count the 50 Million babies we've slaughtered in abortion clinics across America since Roe Vs. Wade. As kenlowder said; "those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it". Apparently we haven't learned very much. Perhaps that's why there is such a concerted effort to rewrite or disavow these epic events in human history.

Alan Caruba said...

The error many people make when they compare the Holocaust to other genicides is that that the Holocaust was directed specifically at Jews for the "crime" of being Jews and was not related to political agendas such as the Armenian slaughter. Nor is there a relation with the abortion issue except that it involves the deliberate killing of the unborn.

LarryOldtimer said...

For me, regarding a general state of affairs, were I not to suffer greatly myself, it would be a great chuckle when a con artist ends up falliing for his/her own con.

Germany of today has benefited greatly with the con that CO2 is a harmful pollutant. As a consequence, Germany has stopped coal mining, and also has been decomminishing its nuclear electrical plants.

As a result, Germany is shortly going to be dependent on "alternative energy" sources, wind turbines and solar panels, for power production. Little in the way of power.

The cause of Hitler coming to power in 1934 was the huge poverty forced upon them in 1918, mainly due to the efforts of Woodrow Wilson.

It is my estimation that Germans will shortly living in great poverty. In history, Germany has always been warlike, particularly during periods of poverty.

It is truely a pity that real history is no longer taught in the schoolrooms of America.

What is looming over all of us is a terrible sight to behold.

In addition, America has all but abandoned Israel, our only ally in the great expanse of the Mideast. No good can come of this abandonment.