Sunday, May 1, 2011

Words and Power

This segment will primarily be about the Holocaust, but also literary'll do the best I can.

Last night I got to listen to a Holocaust Survivor speak, and the power of words simply amazes me. However, words themselves will always fail in comparison to the experience, which the man presenting continually said, "How can I describe to you?" "There are no words to express..." etc. While words can tell a story, sometimes they just fall short and that's where our memories, our own experiences fill the gap where the words cannot go. 

Sentences he said that broke my heart (quoted to the best of my ability):
While we were waiting in line to be separated from the women and children, a woman refused to let go of her infant. A guard took the tiny baby, and slammed it into the concrete wall, right in front of the mother. The was in pieces. Many other mothers still refused to allow their children to be taken, they were beaten until they could no longer hold on. 

The thing(s) that kept us going were our faith, and the fact we were still with our family. When we arrived in Auschwitz, they separated the woman and children from the men. My father and I went one way, my mother and two sisters went into another line. I waved to them, and they waved back, it was the last time...(Here he broke down and started crying, which then I started crying...) It was the last time I saw my mother or sisters alive. 

He broke down again when he spoke about his father's death, his friend being beaten to death in front of him...This man had gone through so, so much and at the time he was just a young boy. His entire family was murdered, and he even buried his father in a mass, unmarked grave. I cannot believe that people can be this cruel, so uncaring...How can anyone let something like this happen to a single person, let alone the millions of people who were murdered?

And yet, all of these are just words. They project images and feelings into our minds, but they fail to do justice as to what these people went through. The man kept referring to America as the greatest place in the world, the greatest country, etc. I am so blessed to be living here, and have people like this man, this survivor tell his story, and how our troops saved his life. When he started, he told the room that we have no idea what hunger is, and it's true. Even if we grow up in broken homes where our family doesn't really feed us, it's somewhat close, but I feel that that child will probably have gotten more than anyone in the camps. If children here have their own clothing, if they're fed daily, if they're not forced to stand, to be exposed, to be defiled...I can't even imagine. My life hasn't been the easiest in the world, but my story is NOTHING compared to these people. 

These people had their identity stolen from them. Their heads were shaved, clothes were taken, books were burned. They were marked, labeled. Many rest in unmarked graves. Many were burned. Many had no prayers said for them while they went to their resting place. I put a lot of stock in names. A lot. Because of songs, poems, life. And these people were not even allowed to keep their names, the name that was given by their parents....

It's nice to get a dose of reality every once in awhile. 
And as we said last night, I will never forget.

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