I have read numerous books on the Holocaust, seen a few good movies about the Holocaust, and had extensive talks with a dear friend of mine who recently passed away who spend a good deal of his childhood in Auschwitz…not to mention other Holocaust survivors who I have talked to and learned their stories.
You might think after so much exposure to this era in history that I might be somewhat immune to new stories about the atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jews, and other groups such as the Gypsies, and Communist; and yet the last thing I am is immune. If anything I have become more embittered and disgusted by the actions of the Germans…about the inhumanity they showed they were capable of against fellow human beings.
Back in the 80’s when I still had grand plans about visiting as many countries in the world as possible, the only three countries I said I would never visit were Germany, Japan, and Italy. The atrocities they committed against fellow human beings I could never forgive.
When people would ask me that if I was German or Japanese, and put into the same circumstances, do I actually think I wouldn’t have followed the orders to kill? My answer was always the same, “That one never knows but I would hope to God that I would have the courage to say ‘no,’ and let them take my life before I killed innocent women and children.”
The idea that all German and Japanese citizens were not complicit in the actions of their country men and leaders does not fly with me. Unless you were among the resistance groups against these heartless bastards you were most certainly complicit.
As I got older my stance against these countries softened because I didn’t think the younger generations should have to pay for the crimes committed by their ancestors. And another factor was my advance knowledge of world history during the last 120 years. Sadly, the atrocities committed by the Germans and Japanese were not isolated. There was Turkey’s Holocaust against the Armenians, Stalin’s Holocaust against his own people and the Ukrainians and the Poles. Russia and Syria’s atrocities against Syrian dissenters and innocent children, women, and the elderly, and of course the European colonization of Africa as so brilliantly written about in “Heart of Darkness,” by Joseph Conrad.
And of course, America’s embrace of slavery that lead to a Civil War, and even after emancipation the prejudice and murder of blacks across the south and the introduction of the “Jim Crow Laws,” that limited blacks from voting and attending the same schools as whites.
Finally, a word about Roxane Van Iperen’s novel, “The Sisters of Auschwitz,” which in my opinion is one of the best books I have read about the Holocaust. It centers around two sisters, Janny and Lein Brilleslijper and their families and friends who form a network of resistance against the occupying Nazis who have invaded the Netherlands.
The book is an extensive look at how families are split up in the hope of surviving, children living apart from their mothers and fathers, friends of the resistance hiding out in different houses trying to escape the Nazis’ brutality. The hope that the Brilleslijper family and Jews throughout the country put into the Allied liberation of their country which seems like it might never come, and finally the deportation of the family and friends to Auschwitz. The scenes in the concentration camps are so real and horrifying that even this veteran of Holocaust history simply cringed with disgust and pity.
Ms. Iperen also shed’s light on Ann Frank’s family and how her and her sister died in the Bergen-Belsen camp, and how Janny and Lein were their friends and witnessed their deaths. The novel is based totally on facts, documents, letters, and interviews with the sisters and surviving members of their families and the resistance. Sadly, that is the saddest thing about this novel…that its story actually happened.