“A Crime Without a Name”


“We are in the presence of a crime without a name.”

-Winston Churchill referring to genocide in a 1941 radio broadcast.  The crime would soon have a name.  It would be known as the Holocaust.

My wife and I toured the United States Holocaust Museum soon after it opened  I am not Jewish but it was a religious experience of sorts. The boxcar, the thousands of shoes, the bundles of hair.  The dead spoke to me in low, wailing voices.  They still speak.

My personal studies about man’s inhumanity to man has always focused around the Holocaust.  I’m sure my father’s participation in World War Two helped spark my interest even though his participation was in the Pacific.

Horror movies never bothered me…at least never bothered me once I realized men were more horrific than any vampire, werewolf or radioactive blob.  

The crematoriums at Auschwitz.  A  grainy, black and white, eight-millimeter film of walking skeletons, arms extended through barbed wire fences, the original thousand-yard stare on their faces.  Another scene showing bulldozers burying stacks of bodies in unmarked massed graves. These were testaments to horror…not a Transylvanian count dressed in a tuxedo, sucking on a neck. It was a horror story because it was real.

I have seen studies showing fewer and fewer know about the horror of the Holocaust.  Another study shows a third of all Americans are not sure it really happened.  I honestly don’t know how this can be. Whether I taught the US, World or European histories, I always made sure I taught the Holocaust and used it as a gateway to other genocides testifying to the cruelty and brutality of man.  Cruelty and brutality that seems to be on the rise…because it is being ignored.

I’ve never considered myself to be particularly ghoulish but I still have a PowerPoint I created on the Holocaust.  Having retired three different times only to return to teaching, I thought to purge my flash drives of all things educational, lesson plans, PowerPoints, worksheets, etc., might guarantee retirement.  There were a few I couldn’t get rid of, the Holocaust was one. It almost seemed sacrilegious.

After the Nuremberg Trials, world leaders shouted, “never again.”  It is easy to say “never again,” but unfortunately genocide continues.  While experts debate what is genocide, my guess is, “If you have to ask, it probably is.”  None have been on the scale of the Holocaust, but the number of incidents has increased: Bangladesh, East Timor, Cambodia, Guatemala, Bosnia, Rwanda, Dufar, Sudan.  These are the genocides that have occurred during my lifetime where a group in power has decided that the easiest way to deal with what they considered to be a problem group is to exterminate them.  The world has failed to keep its promise of “never again.”

My greatest of a great many concerns is that I have seen similar rhetoric right here, today, in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  My logical side says, “It can’t happen here.” My not so logical side says “anything is possible.” Our rhetoric has become abusive toward other groups of people and toward each other.  

I am sure of one thing, anything is possible if we forget.  Anything is possible if we fail to act. Anything is possible if we fail to love. 

The Holocaust was real.  Millions of dead were real.  Genocide is still with us.

Today is World Holocaust Remembrance Day.  We should take time to explain, to remember, to pray.  We should unite to make sure “never again” is never again.

For further musings, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The picture is of Jewish children liberated in 1945.