In the 1950’s, right after WWII, I attended high school in Germany. One day, all students were called into the large chemistry hall. Without a word from anyone, we were shown a film, taken by US soldiers, depicting what they found when they entered one of the infamous concentration camps. We watched as the soldiers stood in disbelief in front of mountains of dead skeletons. We saw ovens and gas chambers. At the end of the movie (made mandatory by the US occupation forces), we were sent home, again without a word from the teachers or principal.
I felt sick. At home I asked my family where they were when all that slaughter was going on. Well, my mother said, I did speak to a neighbor about the way the Jews were treated. That evening the man who watched our street for the Nazi Party came to our apartment and advised me to keep my mouth shut. He insinuated that it would be a shame if something happened to the mother of such an adorable blond, blue-eyed little girl.
Now, recently, several letters to the editor in The News-Review suggested that we not teach American children the true history of the atrocities committed to Native Americans and African Americans in the past. This was equated with bad-mouthing the US or being unpatriotic. I disagree! If we are ignorant of the true history of our country, we will not be vigilant to prevent the same mistakes in the future.
Germany has “fessed up” to its horrendous history concerning the Jews. Billions of Dollars in reparations have been paid to survivors, but, more importantly, all school children are informed of what happened. Recently the country has taken in over a million refugees from Syria, some are Christians and some are Muslims, as well as thousands who have fled African nations such as Eritrea.
Not all Germans are happy about this. The alt-right Party called AfD (Alternative for Germany) is strongly against immigration and harbors fascists and holocaust deniers. But, as in any true democracy, they are allowed to hold seats in the German Parliament. Nationwide the AfD receives about 8% of all votes.
Much of our present political upheaval in this country is being blamed on “AntiFa” on the left of the political spectrum. Hitler and Mussolini were fascists. If one is not an anti-fascist, then one must logically be a fascist and, consequently, against democracy. You can’t be pro- fascism and pro- democracy simultaneously.
As the famous holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said: “It isn’t the past which holds us back, it’s the future; and how we undermine it today.”