“Those People”

Students view a memorial at the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Memorial at Buchenwald concentration camp. Photo by Sarah Lowther Hensley

The cold March wind bit at my face and whipped my hair. Bundled up in my nice warm coat, I shivered uncomfortably.

But it wasn’t just the wind.

It was the place.

I shivered and was uncomfortable because I was standing in the middle of what remained of the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Buchenwald…this place where prisoners worked themselves to death or were experimented on or were shot in the back of the head.

It was hard to grasp the cruelty that once reigned in this place.

What happened here seemed like ancient history.

But it wasn’t really.

I was 20 years old as I stood there that March day.

I was 20 years old.

But it had been less than twenty years from when this death camp’s survivors were liberated and the day I was born.

In terms of history – a blink of an eye.

I stood there that day humbled and heartbroken.

Today, I watched on-line as the world gathered at the gates of another concentration camp – Auschwitz – to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its liberation.

Survivors shared their stories.

Time has passed and fewer of them remain, but each has a story.

Each survivor – and each of the millions killed in the camps – has a story.

Their individual stories did not matter to their captors.

In fact, they were stripped of their names and tattooed with numbers.

Their captors did not see them as individuals, but as members of groups to be feared or despised.

Groups to be exterminated.

“Those people.”

They were killed because of their group – Jews, Romani, disabled, homosexuals, communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others – not because of who they were as individuals.

Today, as I watched on-line, I cried at the sound of the ram’s horn and as rabbis and priests offered prayers.

I cried as one speaker reminded us that it was the world’s silence, the world’s indifference that allowed Auschwitz to exist.

“Do not let this happen again!” he pleaded.

“Do not let this happen again!”

But we already have.

We still let “ethnic cleansing” occur in various locations across the world.

Maybe we don’t personally do it, but we are silent…indifferent.

We allow it.

My heart breaks when I read about extremists wiping out entire villages.

My heart breaks when people flee their homes in fear.

My heart breaks when, in Facebook posts and comments, I see people calling for us to go wipe out “those people” – or at least keep them far from us.

Not because of anything they as individuals have done, but because they are part of “those people.”

Auschwitz. Dachau. Buchenwald.

Those horrors are not really so long ago.

The people who were killed…and the people who did the killing…are not so different from us.

Each was a person.

Each had a story.

We are not so different.

We can be targeted.

We can do the targeting.

“Do not let this happen again!”

“Do not let this happen again!”

Maybe we start by listening to people’s stories.

Their individual stories…not the generalizations we tell about “those people.”

Maybe we stand up for those who are being targeted.

Maybe we hold people accountable for their individual actions, not blaming generalized groups for the actions of individuals.

Maybe we call people out when they start referring to “those people.”

Maybe we are not silent…or indifferent.

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2 thoughts on ““Those People”

  1. So powerful –  “Convert them or kill them” –   And am I not part of the silent majority-  isn’t it easier that way?  We recently had a tax re-evaluation in our section of the county.  I wanted to be vocal and object – the cover letter said some people would have see an “increase of 10% or more”.  The section we own that is only land, went up 500% – maybe that is correct, but I wanted to object.  Keith has passively discouraged me, and with the death of Rick B, the time to petition has passed.  I just want to be verbal to those at the courthouse so “they” are aware someone noticed.  Time has passed. I guess I am venting – thanks for your eloquent reminder of how the “silent majority” is acting by their inaction. Blessings, my friendjane From: Home Among the Hills To: ensmingr@frontier.com Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 6:27 PM Subject: [New post] “Those People” #yiv9163745506 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv9163745506 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv9163745506 a.yiv9163745506primaryactionlink:link, #yiv9163745506 a.yiv9163745506primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv9163745506 a.yiv9163745506primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv9163745506 a.yiv9163745506primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv9163745506 WordPress.com | Sarah Lowther Hensley posted: “The cold March wind bit at my face and whipped my hair. Bundled up in my nice warm coat, I shivered uncomfortably.But it wasn’t just the wind.It was the place.I shivered and was uncomfortable because I was standing in the middle of what re” | |

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