Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Evil That Men Do Lives After Them

Years ago on a trip to Boston, I ate burgers at b.good and hopped the T to Faneuil Hall, where I found the Freedom Trail and figured I'd follow it a while.

But, then I noticed something nearby that drew my eye.

It was a capricious instant that spun me into a profound experience. Just around the corner, I approached The New England Holocaust Memorial, with its sextet of glass pillars reaching skyward.

Each pillar represents a concentration camp, and a walking path threads the base of each glass column. Steam rises from grates on the sidewalk in a creepy visual that evokes both the ghostly apparitions of lost lives and the smoky evidence of ovens and burnt bodies. The glass panels that comprise the pillars are etched with numbers representative of the numerical identification tattoos from the arms of the victims and survivors.

Walking through each symbolic figurative camp, one finds personal quotes and factual statements that are haunting days and weeks later, revealing that you can't possibly understand the horror of that scope of injustice.

"When my parents were sent off to the camp,
I gave my good shoes to my father
because I thought he'd need them
if he did physical labor.
When I saw my mother for the last time,
I hugged her and said I hoped
she didn’t have to work too hard.

I never dreamed they'd be dead
within such a short time of their departure."

- Jack Polak, MAJDANEK

* * * * * * *

"My younger sister went up to a Nazi
soldier with one of her friends.
Standing naked, embracing each other,
she asked to be spared. He looked
into her eyes and shot the two of them

They fell together in their embrace
-- my sister and her young friend."

- Rivka Yosselevscka, CHELMO

* * * * * * *

"Isle, a childhood friend of mine,
once found a raspberry in the camp
and carried it in her pocket all day
to present to me that night on a leaf.

Imagine a world in which
your entire possession is
one raspberry and
you give it to your friend."

- Gerda Weissman Klein, SOBIBOR

* * * * * * *

"I remember stooping down and picking up
a piece of something black near the
crematorium. I realized it was a bone.
I was going to throw it down again,
and I thought, my God, this may be.
all that's left of someone

So I wrapped it up and carried it with me.
A couple of days later, I dug it out
of my pocket and buried it."


Humanity is at its own mercy. And evil is relentless, I think.

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