Twenty years ago, Holocaust survivors talked with school students and civic groups, putting a personal face and story to the greater horror. Fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors are alive now to share their stories in person. Thankfully, many documented their truths via the archives at US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem, and numerous books, articles, and videos. There is great wisdom there, free for the asking.
And so here we are, a third generation away from those horrible events, and the question is as relevant as ever - have we learned the lessons of history so we can, with confidence, say 'Never Again'?
Prejudice and racial/religious profiling still exist worldwide, including right in our own country, our own towns. People are still lumped into categories and weighed against a popular standard in an assessment of worth. Genocide, wiping out entire populations based on some defining feature, still happens around the world.
In addition to the prevalence of anti-semitism in today's world, the 'other' victims of the Nazi regime also continue to be viewed as lesser human beings, still fighting for basic rights and basic dignities. This includes people who are homosexual, disabled, Roma Gypsies, or anyone who resists their government's status quo.
So no, even with two recognized dates in which to examine our prejudices and our actions toward one another, we haven't learned. The possibility of another holocaust is quite real.
God help us.
And that's why I continue to read and write about those years. I can't change history, and I can't fix the world. But I must do what I can to share what I've learned with subsequent generations. Anyone who reads Risking Exposure and its sequel (my work-in-progress) will hopefully see how dreadfully simple it is to move from feeling prejudices to verbalizing them to acting upon them (or turning a blind eye while others do so.) Only awareness of the historical cost will prevent us from going down that road again.