By The Eagle
Anne Frank would turn 89 on June 12, had she lived. We wonder what she might have made of her life, whether she would have married and become a mother, a grandmother and, perhaps, a great-grandmother.
Alas, of course, those questions never can be answered. Frank was just 15 when she and her family were discovered by the Nazis hiding in a garret in Amsterdam and sent to concentration camps. It was at the notorious Bergen-Belsen camp that Anne and her sister Margot died of typhus — only weeks before the camp was freed by British troops.
We know of Anne and her family from the diary she kept during the two years the Franks remained hidden from the Germans.
Anne and her sister were among more than 1 million Jewish children who died at the hands of the Nazis in more than 1,000 concentration camps. They also were among more than 6 million Jews — two of every three living in Europe at the time — who died simply because they were Jewish. They weren’t the only ones to die. Some 5 million people with mental of physical challenges, Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Poles and Russians, among others, died for not being up to the German ideal of a “master race.”
Many Jews tried to flee the Shoah — the term for the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis — but America, Great Britain, Canada among other nations, refused to take them in. The Australian government — founded in a former British penal colony — said, “We don’t have a racial problem and we don’t want to import one.”
For some of the Jews, death almost must have been welcome after being used for the most horrifying medical “experiments.” Hair from many of the Jews was turned into thread or made into socks for German sailors or made into rope for other military needs. Skin from some of the Holocaust victims was used for lamp shades. It is hard for most good people to comprehend how such horrors could be carried out by any human being.
But just this month, a study shows that the Holocaust is fading from memory. Perhaps that is natural. Only a few survivors of the death camps or the men who freed them still are alive — and many of them are unwilling to talk about the horrors they experienced or had witnessed. Three in 10 Americans seriously underestimate the extent of the Holocaust, believing fewer than 2 million Jews died. For millennials — those between 18 and 31 — the number who guessed wrong as four in 10. No doubt many Americans don’t realize that 5 million others died in the Holocaust.
Auschwitz, just west of Kraków, Poland, included three concentration camps which housed some 1.3 million people — mostly Jews — between 1940 and 1945, when the Soviet army arrived. Of those sent to the camps, fewer than 200,000 survived, and thousands of them died within weeks of being freed due to illness and malnutrition. In the study released last week, 41 percent of Americans and an incredible two-thirds of millennials could not say where Auschwitz is located.
Why is it important for the world to remember the Holocaust? As Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
The world certainly has had genocides before the Holocaust and we continue to have them today, in Syria, in Sudan and elsewhere. We don’t know what to do, so most often we shake our head and then look away.
Over the 70 and more years since World War II ended, there have been numerous efforts to deny the Holocaust, to insist that it never happened, that it was, in effect, fake news. It is easy to reject those preposterous claims.
Of course the Holocaust happened and of course 11 million people — including 6 million Jews — were murdered simply for being who they were.
Harder to combat is the fading memory of those who lived through it, and the growing ignorance many of us have on just what happened and to whom so many years ago.
April 11, just as Holocaust Remembrance Day began, dozens of Aggies walked from the Academic Building on campus to the A.I. and Manet Schepps Hillel Building on George Bush Drive, urging all of us to remember the dark days when so many people died simply for being.
Remember we should.
And say, “Never again.”