Remembering - Looking Forward

I’m in Germany this week and the Airbnb we’re staying at in Berlin overlooks the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. I was born in this country (in a little town called Wremen at the base of the Jutland Peninsula right on the North Sea) and while not a dual citizen, have always felt a connection to this place.

With that being said, I think it’s important to acknowledge the genocide the Nazis perpetrated here during the late 1930s/1940s.

~17 Million people died.

~6 million of them Jews.

I think it’s important to give space to the stories of those who died - either in concentration camps as a persecuted minority or as those fighting the tyranny against their fellow citizens.

Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the concentration 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.
How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?
Four months after the failure of Evian, in November, came Kristallnacht. At the time, Karola Ruth Siegel was a ten-year-old Jewish girl living with her parents in Frankfurt. Nazis showed up at their apartment to arrest her father, a salesman. As they marched him off into a covered truck, he turned around and looked at Ruth, who was watching from the window. She waved, and he waved back. Then he smiled, so that she wouldn’t cry. She never saw him again.

Two months later, in January, 1939, Ruth’s mother placed her on a train with other German Jewish children bound for Switzerland—part of the Kindertransport. Her mother hugged her on the platform, Dr. Ruth told Merkel and the rest of us, and, to keep herself from crying, she began to sing songs during the train ride that would bring her back to the happy time when their family was together. Dr. Ruth survived the war and the Holocaust in Switzerland. Her parents perished in the Nazi death camps. “The Evian Conference gave us no help,” Dr. Ruth said. “If not for the Kindertransport, I would not be here today. I hope something more comes from this conversation about the Syrian refugees than came from Evian.” At this point she was looking directly at Kissinger. Now I understood why Merkel had wanted her at the dinner. There wasn’t a trace of accusation in her voice—the whole time she’d been telling the story in the same half-apologetic tone—but no one, least of all Kissinger, could have missed her point: You and I were the same as each other, the same as the Syrians. I have not forgotten. Have you?

Not really trying to say anything political here but I think the greatest power of remembering things like this is its ability to shape actions into the future. I think the German people collectively do a good job acknowledging the crimes of their parents and trying to do the right thing to protect displaced and persecuted people through their actions in admitting refugees and in forums like the International Criminal Court. I went for a bike ride on the runway at Berlin’s abandoned Tempelhof Airport yesterday. While designated a park, a great number of Syrian refugees now inhabit the outskirts abutting the gargantuan (it’s still one of the largest building in the world) terminal Adolf Hitler constructed during the late 1930s.