Tolkien, artist

Engineering Evil

I'm in the process of watching "Engineering Evil" on the History Channel, a two-hour examination of the Holocaust with lots of photos, artifacts from the US Holocaust Museum,. etc.  I realize this is not everyone's cup of tea, and I also realize that there is a good possibility that this will give me nightmares tonight.  But it is a fact of our history that has to be faced, and it is part of my personal family history. & nbsp;

I was fortunate to be adopted by two wonderful people, both of them European Jewish refugees.  My father, who was Czech, lost his older brother in the resistance, and his sister, my aunt, was imprisoned in Theresienstadt Concentration Camp where she, fortunately, survived by pure luck.  My grandparents on both my mother and father's side were killed, my father's parents in Auschwitz where my grandfather's trunk was found by my half-uncle more than 40 years later.  My mother's family, all twelve brothers and sisters that she had, her parents and grandparents were all killed.  So yes, the Holocaust touched me personally, even though I was born after it was over and even though I was not a blood relative.  

I will never forget.  I am a believer in kindness, but I totally understand how evil can exist in the world and how it can grow to encompass large areas in the Shadow.  I have friends in nations that were overrun by evil in those days, and I can't hold them responsible for deeds that they did not commit or condone.  I refuse to feed into hatred and allow it to carry on down through younger generations into the present day.  But, at times, when I see a program like this, when I see my aunt's name in a list of prisoners in the camps, when I see my father's passport stamped "J" or look through his few carefully saved documents from that those times I wonder.  How could something like this have been allowed to happen to the Jews, to the homosexuals, to the Gypsies, to the people?  Everyone was scarred, physically or mentally.  Everyone was affected when they realized what the war really meant - on both sides of the conflict, European and Pacific - both had their horror stories  And everyone should be on guard against something of this nature ever happening again, even though genocide has happened in Africa and Southeastern Asia since WWII.    

Sorry, I just had to share ... I'm now stepping down from my soapbox and crawling back into my personal nightmare.  Please accept my apologies for sharing my paranoia.  

- Erulisse (one L)

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I am so sorry. I go back and forth between wanting to watch such documentaries and being sorry that I did. My mother-in-law is a survivor of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, as teenager. Her younger brother also survived and her mother, but her father committed suicide shortly after they were released. The damage for her was incalculable, that she did survive and make a productive life for herself is amazing and a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit. But she passed a certain amount of the effects of what she had suffered onto to her children and even her grandchildren--the damage runs deep. My father-in-law's parents who immigrated to the US before the WWII, lost their entire extended family, a few dozen people.

Edited at 2011-11-16 04:02 am (UTC)
Perhaps my understanding of this horror, a subject that I have studied and given talks about since I was in my teens, is why I can find it easy to write about the Dark Side. I have seen evil face-up, I know the contours of its smile, and I have watched it in action. Thanks for your comments, I am sorry for the family of your Mother-in-law and her family.

- Erulisse (one L)
A Holocaust-second-generation children is a well known term in Israel.

It is an acknowledgment of the trauma these people have as a result of what their parents survived.

Sadly, I find that today, those who are 3rd and later generation, tend to be less interested in this painful part of history.

I too, find it hard to watch this type of documentaries, as well as the more artistic creations such as Schindler's List, or anything about Anne Frank.
A painful subject, but thank you for sharing.
Our ability to kill millions with the push of a single button can push WWII into the background of the minds of our current generation. And I understand that. But I also know that evil walks this world and that it will crop up again somewhere, somehow, until the Final Battle.

I appreciate your words.

- Erulisse (one L)

Edited at 2011-11-17 11:49 am (UTC)
I know a lovely family, caring gifted people who lost most of their relatives in the Holocaust.I'm so sorry your family lost so many too.

Man's inhumanity to man is shameful and wicked and sadly continues.
I am constantly amazed at how totally evil man can be towards man. I truly hope that I never truly deeply understand that thought process.

- Erulisse (one L)
I think it is lack of empathy, Erulisse. When you cannot put yourself in the position of another person and imagine how they would feel, they become things, and therefore what is done to them does not matter. I do not understand lack of empathy, but I do believe it underpins all evil acts and is, if you like, evil. Which is why to me, the word compassion is probably the most beautiful word in the dictionary.
I'll never forget when I was a kid seeing televised pieces of the Nuremberg trials about the experiments on victims at the camps. Horrible. I remember seeing Shoah and I think it ended with a contract or a letter that laid out the specs for building a truck to gas people in. It was unimaginable to think of someone coldly writing this out and others undertaking to build it without questioning its purpose.

But we don't seem to learn. I'm afraid there is a rather large contingent of our society that would have us go right back there. The ones supporting waterboarding terrorists, wanting us to bomb other countries at the drop of a hat, wanting us to shoot illegals trying to come over the border and put them in inhumane prisons. I just hope we don't ever have anything like this happen again.
My uncle Ed, my godfather and as close to me as a blood uncle, was an attorney at the Nuremberg trials. When my godmother died a few years ago, my cousin was going through her papers and found a treasure trove of papers dealing with WWII, and letters, etc. to her father. She donated some of them to the University of Denver, a nationally-recognized center for the study of WWII, others she has appraised and may sell because there are some valuable letters in there. It was totally amazing. She got to be on TV and featured in several articles because of her donations.

- Erulisse (one L)
I will never forget, either.

And I watched parts of that documentary last night. As difficult as it is to watch, I'm very very glad the images and stories are still being told.

My DH was resigned to the fact that I will watch almost anything pertaining to the Holocaust, but he thought this one was quite good too. I'm just pleased that so long after the fact, as you said, the images and stories about this are still being told. It gives me hope that we will always remember.

- Erulisse (one L)
(((hugs you)))

I think your reaction is completely believable. My aunt and uncle (really, more like my parents) were connected to the camps - my aunt was the child of two camp survivors, and my uncle was actually born in the camps. He wasn't a prisoner; his parents were ethnic Poles living in Germany and they were forced to work there but were paid and did not live in the same conditions. His older brother (my uncle was the youngest of I think eleven) did live through a lot more of the reality of that because he was a priest and had been arrested for providing forged baptismal records to Jews.

I share all of that to tell you: you're not the only one for whom this whole situation is complicated. I avoid Holocaust things now because my aunt and uncle both died a few years back and I don't need the reminder. But I really understand the impulse - I have it, and acted on it at other points in my life.
It is incredibly complicated for those of us who were touched directly by this terrible time of history. I like to think that I would never allow such a thing to happen again. About three years ago we had an Islamic study center move into a building quite close to my shop. One night I was leaving my shop for the night and saw a truck parked by the utility pole in our parking lot. A man was putting a poster or two up on the pole. After he left, I walked over to see. It was hateful stuff against the Muslims and, even though it frightened me, I pulled it down, returned to my shop, and phoned the police about it. I remember quite clearly thinking that if I had to die about something, then dying because I tried to stop racial hatred was probably a good reason. I was afraid for several days, though, and my DH said that I should just have pulled the pages down but not phoned the police. No. It was important to not just sweep this under the carpet.

- Erulisse (one L)

I lived in a predominantly Jewish area in London as a child and I knew many of my neighbours had lost family in concentration camps in WWII. Many of them never spoke about what happened but a few did. I got the impression, even then, that constantly living for tomorrow is a waste of life today, and that some events will always carry a raw grief no matter how long ago they happened.

I believe that until one meets people who have suffered such pain and loss, one cannot appreciate the extent of just how badly affected survivors were, and continue to be, or how evil and cruel others were to them. There is no denying the person who looks you in the face and tells what happened - they are not detached, as documentaries often seem to be or even reading material. It is not that there is a lack of capacity - it is just that there are no personal markers to gauge it by because it was all so unbelievable and terrible and so far removed from our personal reality. This might be why we do not become more actively involved when there are genocides in other countries. It is not in our face, so we do not see it :(

Have you heard of Stanley Milgram's experiments? He tried to find out why people do such terrible things and came up with some interesting, if rather depressing, conclusions.

Sorry, I have gone on forever!

Yes, I have heard of his experiments and they disturbed me a lot, actually made me a bit sick to my stomach. I look at those and hope that I would have the courage to stand by my convictions and not cause pain to any other living thing.

- Erulisse (one L)
I would hope that I would too. I found it amazing that people were so willing to be cruel - they did not even have to be coerced into it, just guaranteed that they would not come to legal harm.
I don't suppose we'll ever know how brave we are unless we are put to the test, but I would hope that our basic decency would override any desire to cause harm. What a crazy world we live in :-)

- Erulisse (one L)