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June 01, 1994 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1994-06-01

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Wednesday, June 1, 1994-- The Michigan Daily - 5

.Who is Ausclhwitz7'

By Jennifer Lott
I didn't know how to respond
when I was asked, "Who is
Auschwitz?" I looked at the person
who asked me this question, a
graduating senior at the University,
and found myself at a loss for
words. "First of all, it's a what not a
Oho..." My shock must have been
evident because he looked uncom-
fortable - but only for a moment.
He was quickly rescued by the other
three seniors we were talking with.
One by one they unashamedly
admitted their ignorance. Why had I
put him on the spot?
It is my turn to be uncomfort-
kble. Auschwitz, the name of the
olocaust's largest death camp - a
word which, for me, has always
been synonymous with evil - is
obviously not common knowledge.
If one does not know about
Auschwitz, how can one know
about the horrors of the Holocaust?
I have gently been told by
friends that I am being naive: "It is
lly to be shocked and useless to
remain upset." "People only really
care about issues that directly affect
their lives." "Obviously Jews think
it's important to remember the
Holocaust; it was a Jewish tragedy."
True - my Grandmother's 2-
year-old son was taken from her
arms at Auschwitz and tossed into a
bonfire. I, and most Jews, feel a

personal connection to the Holocaust
and a responsibility to remember.
Still, the reaction of my friends is
frightening and wrong. If our
collective memory about the
Holocaust boils down to "Six
million Jews were killed," we are all
in grave danger. It is not enough to
mourn their deaths. The fact that
Auschwitz happened is a human
tragedy - and it is a testimony to
our capacity for evil.
In Auschwitz Jews, homosexu-
als, gypsies, the mentally retarded
and the physically handicapped were
reduced to numbers. They were
classified as sub-human, and were
worked, starved, tortured, gassed
and burned. The men and women
who worked in Auschwitz and other
death camps were not a special race
of monsters, and the SS is not an
isolated phenomenon. They were
people with families and peacetime
jobs. They were wealthy, working
class or poor. They were not social
deviants or psychopaths. They were
regular people, just like you and me.
This is the year of "Schindler's
List" and this letter appears in a
newspaper that regularly plays host
to the ongoing debate over Holo-
caust revisionism. How can it be that
on the campus of a highly esteemed
institution of learning, three graduat-
ing seniors did not know what

Auschwitz was?
The Holocaust makes people
uncomfortable; it is unsettling to try
to understand state sponsored,
systematic genocide. Holocaust
revisionism thrives on this fact. Its
power rests in its ability to convince
people what they want to believe: that
the horrors of Auschwitz are too
unbelievable to be true.
Soon, there will be no witnesses
to refute this disbelief. Jews and non-
Jews alike must remain vigilant so
that we do not become victims or
victimizers. Pure evil exists and must
be recognized as such. There is
"ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia. Fascism
is on the rise in Europe. Skinheads
inspire international terror. Vladimir
Zhirinovsky spews anti-Sematic
rhetoric and wins a plurality of the
vote. David Duke is at once ex-grand
wizard and candidate for governor.
Holocaust revisionism is given
credence. Pure evil exists.
It is every individual's responsi-
bility to learn about and remember
Auschwitz because it is the embodi-
ment of unparalleled human evil and
the fruition of unchecked,
unexamined hatred. If we hope to
guard against evil in the world, we
must learn to confront the painful
lessons that Auschwitz teaches about
the potential for evil in ourselves.
Lott is a recent LSA g'raduate

Pay homage to summer
The caption on the cartoon read "Alaska." The two guys ogled a woman in the
distance. "Whoa, look at her," one of them said. "She's wearing only four sweaters!"
I thought about this in April when the sun finally came out and so did the skin on the
Diag. Despite all of the romantic notions of sleigh rides through snow and holding
hands through mittens, the truth is it's next to impossible to hit on anyone in the winter.
With hats over ears and scarves over faces, you can't see anyone, and if you do manage
to recognize that cute guy from your chemistry class, it's too cold to talk to him outside
without freezing. But come spring, he's out there with his buddies in the sun, just
waiting for you to join him lounging in the grass as he sits with his shirt off.
On the other hand, it's impossible to get anything done during the spring and
summer. "I'm going to go read outside" is a common excuse for getting some fresh air,
but don't be fooled: THIS NEVER WORKS. The only time you ever finish a reading
assignment outside is when your friends don't walk by, the sky isn't a tantalizing blue,
the wind doesn't blow your pages around, and no one is playing a very distracting game
of football or frisbee. If things really were like that, you wouldn't go outside to read
in the first place. And did you ever wonder why almost all the good universities in the
United States arein places that are cold enough to freeze your ass off? Iknow they claim
to actually get things done at Berkeley, but I still can't entirely believe it - they
probably tried to do it outside first. But during the winter in the North, all you really
can do is go to the office or the lab or home to read a book. Standing outside to talk to
people and be social is impossible unless you're willing to lose a few toes and fingers.
Social science has actually devoted some research time to this question, and
weather really does have an influence on culture -pretty much throughout the world.
The weather isn't just cold in Britain and New England - the people are too. The
people in Italy and the American South, on the other hand, are known for their warmth.
(I grew up in Texas and would never recommend living in the South to anyone, but it
is true that on the surface the people are very friendly. Of course, they're more friendly
if you're white and Christian.)
I've alsonoticed as ageneralrule thatlove,relationships and sex are more prevalent
in warmer places. You can show some skin without freezing; you can gather outside
spontaneously and talk; no one is in as much of a hurry. Heat makes us languid, returns
us to the Garden of Eden, makes us forget the abstract arguments of books and studies.
Good bookstores are a rarity in the South, as they are in Italy - yet London seems to
have them everywhere. On the other hand, Italy is the most romantic place in the world.
You could spend a lifetime strolling the streets of Venice or Florence with a lover,
soaking up the sun and eating gelati. Texas isn't particularly romantic, but the people
there understand when I tell them that I drive to see my boyfriend in Chicago every two
weeks, while people in Ann Arbor ask me howI can finish my reading that way.
Supposedly we get the summer off from school because way back when kids had
to help plant the crops, and school calendars have been criticized for adhering to this
antiquated schedule. Crops, phooey. Somebody probably tried to teach during the
summer and got sick of kidsgoingto Wrigley instead of class. Isuppose there are some
exceptions to this rule. For example, impressionist painter Paul Gauguin managed to
be pretty productive in steamy Barbados. The people in his paintings give him away,
however - they lounge in the sun, radiating sensuality. He also painted everything
when he was outside, so just like those people trying to read on the Diag, it probably

The Holocaust: no longer abstract

1.

By Jeff Keating
KRAKOW -- I made the trip to
beautiful Krakow as a tourist. For a
few days, I enjoyed it as a tourist,
doing the things we Americans like
to do. I sat in the market square,
mired the locals, indulged in the
Tood. Here, after a terribly sobering
experience, I decided to write on a
very serious issue.
I had never really thought about
the Holocaust - its causes, its
ramifications or its unanswerable
questions. In the past, I had read Eli
Weisel's "Night" and Alfred
Speigelman's "Maus," both
,sturbing, but enlightening books.
owever, the matter had never
really hit home. Like many, for me
being a non-Jew, the Holocaust has
never directly touched me or my
family. It has always been an
abstraction that I simply couldn't
grasp. A lesson in history that was
simply that: history. I must admit
that I never even paid that much
*tention to the issue. But, from this
day on, I will never do that again.
Yesterday, I visited the
Auschwitz and Birkenau concentra-
tion camps and then last night, in
Krakow, I saw "Schindler's List"

v

for the first time. It was an extremely
jarring experience. Everything I had
seen that day suddenly came to
grotesque life that night. When I saw
the scene where the women were
being herded from the train under
the very Birkenau gate I had stood
next to only hours before, I became
emotionally overwhelmed. I myself
stood at the steps of the crematorium
that held the human gas chambers. I
walked along the railroad tracks that
were laid with only one destination
in mind. I stood at the bank of the
pond where so much ash had been
dumped, the soil is still gray. Every
inch of ground in Auschwitz and
Birkenau has the blood of a prisoner
soaked in its soil. The wicked
concrete fence posts still stand where
the SS guards had left them. To what
was once abstract, now was terrify-
ingly tangible before my eyes.
Anyone who has ever doubted
that the Holocaust occurred is
wrong. Anyone who has ever
doubted that the systematic execu-
tion of a race occurred is wrong.
Anyone who has ever doubted that
these death factories didn't exist is
wrong. Make no mistake about it.

Auschwitz and Birkenau are real,
every fence, every barrack, every cell,
every oven. It is there.
If it be any sort of retribution for
the crimes committed there, today
Auschwitz is a peaceful place. In what
is, at the very least, tragically ironic,
the camp is almost serene. There are
trees and flowers. All the muddy
ground has given way to tall grass and
dandelions. Under the very sign
"Arbeit Macht Frei," the gate that
once held prisoners in, is welded open
permanently. Polish schoolchildren,
who must visit this place to graduate,
now sit and quietly eat their lunches
just feet away from the once electri-
fied fence. The ghettos of Krakow are
now indistinguishable from their
neighbors, and life goes on here.
In what is now 50 years later, the
evidence of the Nazi crimes glaringly
stain 500 acres. The greatest crime in
humanity - in our history - took
place here. It happened. I write this
because I've seen it. Let no one ever
think that the Holocaust never
happened.
Keating is an overseas correspondent
for the Daily Opinion Staff

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