I see them every day. Often there are faces with names, small children, teenagers, young men and women, families, seniors. Most did not survive.
The Auschwitz Memorial @AuschwitzMuseum on Twitter posts information every day about the atrocities suffered at that concentration camp during World War 2. The names, often with photos, give me pause. I acknowledge each one, to remember them. They had families, parents, siblings, grandparents and lived like others of the time, like my daughter today, working, raising kids.
Mothers and children never survived the selection. People were separated into two lines when they arrived at the camp, one for the gas chamber immediately, the other for the camp. Young and old always went to the gas chambers.
Sometimes their occupations are listed. Poets, farmers, doctors, blacksmiths, priests, every occupation you can imagine. If they survived the selection, some died within a few months, or were executed by a firing squad. Others lived a bit longer. Some organized escape plans and were caught and murdered. A few actually escaped.
Every now and then, one is listed as a survivor of the camp. I always wonder how this person survived while so many died who had survived the selection.
They were predominantly Jews, over a million of them, also artists, educators, communists, Romas, homosexuals and mentally and physically handicapped.
I want to remember what happened. I want to be reminded every day that they lived but tragically, were deemed unworthy of life by people who were unopposed by others. People stood by and many did nothing as the children, students, adults, parents and grandparents were robbed of their possessions and murdered at the hands of monsters.
It started with talk about what was wrong with other people and why they weren’t wanted in Germany. This need people feel to purge our societies of anyone judged to be different is a common sentiment throughout human history. What is wrong with us?
The events of this past week in the United States highlight for me how close any country could be to a repeat of such atrocities. As Canadians, we need to look in our own backyards. There is a fascist/white supremacist element here. A group in the Canadian military was exposed recently and the Proud Boys founder was a Canadian.
Last year, a candidate for the leadership of one of the political parties in the country had the slogan, “Take Back Canada.” One could legitimately ask, “Back from whom?” This slogan raised eyebrows and voices across the country. People spoke up!
Canada’s history with indigenous people of this land is shameful. We took their children and sent them to residential schools. Many children died. For those who survived, the results of the abuse they suffered in the schools is felt generations later. We have begun to acknowledge our treatment of the Indigenous people and teach our children about this history. It is a beginning.
The Black Lives Matter movement has been active in Canada as well and treatment of Black Canadians by police here can be shameful and deadly. We have much to answer for and repair in Canadian society.
I see them every day.