27 January 2015


“We cannot understand Fascism, but we can and must understand from where it springs, and we must be on our guard...because what happened can happen again...For this reason, it is everyone's duty to reflect on what happened...

Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it."

Primo Levi, If This Is a Man

"The history of man is the history of crimes, and history can repeat. So information is a defense. Through this we can build, we must build, a defense against repetition...

There is no denying that Hitler and Stalin are alive today... they are waiting for us to forget, because this is what makes possible the resurrection of these two monsters.

Hatred can be nurtured anywhere, idealism can be perverted into sadism anywhere. If hatred and sadism combine with modern technology, the inferno could erupt anew anywhere."

Simon Wiesenthal

"We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road running through the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his hand behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us."

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another on and upward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look then was more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth--that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.

I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when a man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way--an honorable way--in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life, I was able to understand the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory."

In front of me a man stumbled and those following him fell on top of him. The guard rushed over and used his whip on them all. Thus my thoughts were interrupted for a few minutes. But soon my soul found its way back from the prisoners existence to another world, and I resumed talk with my loved one: I asked her questions, and she answered; she questioned me in return, and I answered...

My mind still clung to the image of my wife. A thought crossed my mind: I didn't even know if she were still alive, and I had no means of finding out (during all my prison life there was no outgoing or incoming mail); but at that moment it ceased to matter. There was no need to know; nothing could touch the strength of my love, and the thoughts of my beloved. Had I known then that my wife was dead, I think that I still would have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of that image, and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying. "Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death."

Viktor Frankl, Man's Search For Meaning

"Upon her recent passing at the age of 76, I took the opportunity to reread Bubby's memoirs. In four different instances, my grandmother had stood—amid the smoke of the crematoriums, the barking dogs, the trampling boots and swinging clubs—on the infamous 'selection line' at the head of which Mengele and his minions stood, pointing left and right, sentencing some to back-breaking labor, and sending others to the gas chambers. In each of those instances, somebody would come along and say or do something that would change Bubby's fate from certain death to tenuous life. In one such incident, she already had been sent to the line of those marked for death when a man appeared as if from nowhere, physically removed her from that line and shoved her into the other, without saying a word.

Indeed, the miracles and the mysteries of the events of those days abound along with the horrors and the tragedies. In contrast to the vile actions of the "Angel of Death" were the noble and heroic actions of many "Angels of Life" who stood ready to risk their own lives for the sake of saving that of a stranger.

It is thanks in no small part to "Angels" like these, who stepped out from behind their own misery and grief to come to the aid of others, that generations now live on to tell the story. How clearly we see the infinite ripple effects of single acts of kindness and compassion, even if accomplished in a split second..."

Yossi Refson, Angels of Light

"The perpetrators were scholars, doctors, nurses, justice officials, the police and the health and workers’ administration.

The victims were poor, desperate, rebellious or in need of help. They came from psychiatric clinics and childrens hospitals, from old age homes and welfare institutions, from military hospitals and internment camps.

The number of victims is huge, the number of offenders who were sentenced, small."

Commemorative Tablet at Tiergartenstraße 4, Berlin 

"This lack of reaction arose partly because many in Germany and elsewhere chose to believe Hitler's claim that he had suppressed an imminent rebellion that would have caused far more bloodshed. Evidence soon emerged, however, that showed that in fact Hitler's account was false...

The controlled press, not surprisingly, praised Hitler for his decisive behaviour...In a letter to Hull, Dodd forecast an even more terroristic regime. 'The people hardly notice this complete coup d'etat. It takes place in silence...I would swear that millions upon millions have no idea what a monstrous thing has occurred.'"

Erik Larson, The Garden of Beasts

"The inability to identify with others was unquestionably the most important psychological condition for the fact that something like Auschwitz could have occurred in the midst of more or less civilized and innocent people.

What is called 'fellow traveling' [collaboration] was primarily business interest: one pursues one’s own advantage before all else and, simply not to endanger oneself, does not talk too much. That is a general law of the status quo."

Theodor Adorno