The Holocaust, one of the most tragic events in human history, met its symbolic end 75 years ago this week with the liberation of Auschwitz, the most notorious concentration camp of the Nazi era. World leaders have gathered in Israel to bicker over who was to blame and who suffered most, using the occasion to push revisionist narratives that benefit the histories of their own country instead of using the event as a time of somber reflection.

The truth is that there were pockets of people helping the Nazis everywhere. Part of the true horror of the Holocaust was the coercion and forced complicity that the Nazis exerted on people. After sending all of the children of a family to “work camps,” they would then claim the only possibility of reuniting was to cooperate with and facilitate the Nazi regime. The manipulation and lies that the Nazis forced on humanity can be symbolized by the last thing that many saw: The shower heads that seemed a promise of cleanliness but instead were a delivery method for poison gas, or the motto “Arbeit macht frei” the German phrase meaning “work sets you free” cynically posted over the gates of Auschwitz by the people who knew that the only reward for hard work would be certain death.

Everyone likes to think that they would stand firm in the face of such evil, that they would never capitulate or cooperate. But who knows what kind of justifications will bring you down a dark path, thinking that it is inevitable anyway, that some must die so others can live. Many just wanted to get their family back, and would do anything to see them again.

The fires of the Holocaust started in Nazi Germany and met brave and often futile resistance everywhere. But it was also met with complicity and cooperation. The Holocaust is a reflection of the worst of humanity, the worst in all of us. But it also reflects the human capacity for perseverance, for victory versus long odds, for forgiveness.

Having seen what complicity and turning a blind eye can do, we should never sacrifice our principles as a nation. We should never give a pass to fascist behavior for the promise of uncertain economic gain. We shouldn’t give a pass to people who separate children from their families, many of them to never be reunited, a truly despicable act.

Remember this week, and every week, the more than 6 million Jewish people that were murdered, and also the ethnic Poles, the Roma, the LGBTQ people, the intellectuals, the disabled, the leaders and many, many others — all of those determined by a fascist regime, with the support of a complacent and cooperating people, to be less then, or to be a threat, to be worthy of violence and death.

Be wary of signs of repeat behavior, the rise of white nationalism, or rallies where leaders advocate for violence against protesters. Be wary of leaders that identify some people as being less than others — by the color of their skin, or by the country that they are from.

Honor the memory of the Holocaust by believing that the rise of fascism can happen again and fight it everywhere you see it. We are the Jewish survivors of the concentration camps. We are also their Nazi oppressors. We share in their history because we share in their humanity.

Please take time this week to explore the stories of the victims and survivors. Read about the first official Jewish transport of 999 young women and girls to Auschwitz, separated from their families “to work,” some thinking that they would be home for lunch.

Read about a time not that long ago when families were separated from each other forever, to serve the ends of a corrupt regime, while a comfortable and complacent population looked on.

Adam Turner is a resident of Augusta.


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