Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and in commemoration of that event, some valuable resources have appeared online recently. These include the film at the head of this posting, which appears in an article by George Arnett in The Guardian today. Arnett writes,
Precise numbers are still debated, but according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the German SS systematically killed at least 960,000 of the 1.1-1.3 million Jews deported to the camp. Other victims included approximately 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and at least 10,000 from other nationalities. More people died at Auschwitz than at any other Nazi concentration camp and probably than at any death camp in history.
When you click on George Arnett's article, be sure not to miss the "More on This Story" section immediately below it, which provides links to a rich smorgasbord of other Auschwitz commemoration stories published by The Guardian for this anniversary of commemoration.
At Slate, Liam Hoare reminds us that, though they are barely remembered, there were also gay victims of the Holocaust, men targeted by the Nazi regime with claims that their "effeminacy" polluted the racial purity of heterosexual Aryan manly men, and so they needed to be eradicated: Hoare writes,
In collective memory, gay victims of the camps have long been neglected, but in the past few years memorialization has begun to recognize gay suffering.
At his blog Hepzibah, Alan McCornick focuses on the fascinating story of Jennifer Teege, who, in a 2013 book entitled Amon. Mein Großvater hätte mich erschossen, tells the story of her shocking discovery as an adult that her grandfather was the notorious Amon Göth, commandant of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. As Alan notes, Göth is said to have shot prisoners of the camp for sport from his balcony, and then loosed his dogs to tear their bodies to pieces.
Tegge's mother, Göth's daughter Monika, had an affair with a Nigerian man, and Jennifer is the child of the affair. Her mother gave her up for adoption when she was an infant. Her book's title is a statement that her grandfather would have shot her as a biracial child.
Note the additional resources to which Alan points at the end of his posting for those seeking material to read or watch as the anniversary of Auschwitz's commemoration arrives. Some of these resources are in German, others in English.
Karen Armstrong asked a question about Auschwitz in 2004 that I think we'd be remiss to forget on this day commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz:
Since Auschwitz, the civilized West had become the culture that had massacred its Jewish inhabitants, and this act of genocide tarnished all our other achievements. If we had cultivated a vicious hatred of both Judaism and Islam for so many centuries, what other mistakes had we made and what other misapprehensions had we nurtured? (Spiral Staircase [NY: Random House, 2004], p. 257).
As Etty Hillesum, who was murdered at Auschwitz in 1943 several weeks after her parents were gassed there, reminds us, this horror unfolded in the midst of . . . normalcy: after watching a train transport 3,000 Jews east to Auschwitz on 8 June 1943, many of them infants with tuberculosis, Hillesum writes,
The sky is full of birds, the purple lupins stand up so regally and peacefully, two little old women have sat down on the box for a chat, the sun is shining on my face – and right before our eyes, mass murder. The whole thing is simply beyond comprehension” (Letters from Westerbork, trans. Arnold J. Pomerans [NY: Pantheon, 1986], p. 56).
And what does that mean for us today? I ask myself.