This week is Holocaust Awareness Week at CSU. Tonight we had a survivor's panel in which two survivors, Doris Fedrid and Walter Plywaski , of the Holocaust came to speak to us. I have wanted to go for the past two years but forgot both times or was busy. I made it a point to go however this year. World War II absolutely fascinates me but education is very important and valuable to me, as I feel it should be to everyone.
We don't realize it but we have a lot to learn from the past. And this is a part of the past that we can hear about in person. Not from a textbook but from firsthand account. It's been said that history repeats itself. This is not a part of history we want to repeat. Only through education can we stop the reoccurrence of something so evil and destructive happening again.
What struck me the most is a concept we have been talking about in my current world problems class. It's called the banality of evil. Walter spoke about his story. But not only that, he spoke of how different the victims looked from those inflicting such massive torture and death. The funny thing is, there wasn't really a difference, as he noted over and over again. What separated them wasn't appearance, but the evil ability of one person to see the other as subhuman. Evil doesn't look evil. It looks boring, unremarkable, insignificant. It looks like you and me. It's not recognizable. You can't point out someone on appearances alone and say "S/He is evil." In fact, one question posed to Walter was if any of the Nazis every showed any acts of kindness what-so-ever. Only two did. And he mentioned that one of those two was one very "brutal-looking man, big shoulders, lantern jaw"....but this man was one of two in the years he spent in camps who showed any kindness, slipping him a loaf of bread on three separate occasions. Evil is only seen through actions.
He also talked about how evil is remarkable in the sense that it wasn't just men who willing committed such atrocities. Women too. Women played as much an evil role as men. They oversaw the female population. And were just as heartless.
Yet these people could laugh and joke and act as if nothing was happening when just a several hundred yards away millions of humans were being brutally exterminated. They could wine and dine while they starved their prisoners. They could gather and sing in chorus' while Jews were being lined up to be shot for no reason just a few feet from them. Evil is in the acts.
What was unique of Doris was that she was deaf. She became deaf when she was two due to rheumatoid fever. The Nazis didn't just exterminate Jews....they exterminated the disabled, the homosexual, the handicapped, other races that were "impure". She made it through it all without being executed. And her faith still stands. Peter has no faith. He believes a God cannot possibly exist. But Doris thanks God for her life, and getting to spend time with her children and grandchildren.
Listening to their stories was remarkable and value and touching.
If you want more information about the events going on at CSU this week please visit www.holocaust.colostate.edu. As well, there are opportunities for you to learn on how to get involved in how to stop genocide and what you can do to help.