As a well designed tribute to one of the most diabolical examples of genocidal mania, Yad Vashem is without parallel.
The history of a well planned, scientifically structured attempt to exterminate a people is documented in a sensitive way without being maudlin or melodramatic. To the contrary, the step by step campaign starts in a relatively innocuous fashion and desentitizes the masses as it builds toward a Final Solution. As Hitler and cronies assumed positions of power, gentle steps toward the depersonification of the Jews were subtly put into place and escalated in a way much the same as a symphonic conducter would raise pitch and tempo while creating the mood of a Wagnerian opus.
In hindsight, the results were inevitable; but it is easy to imagine the mindset of the Jews of Germany, by and large fully assimilated, thinking that such targetting was aimed at more ‘obvious’ Jews and not at themselves. Many were members of German citizenry for generations, occupying positions of power and prestige, considering themselves as German first, rather than Jewish.
As kristallnacht manifested itself in 1938 and yellow stars on sleeves and backs became the norm, the die was cast. Success in Germany emboldened the Nazis to expand their Master Plan intent on ridding the planet once and for all of ‘the problem’.
The cold, calculated deceit was a further affront. Victims had no idea until the gas was turned on, the rifle chamber clicked or the exhaust pipes of vehicles were attached to their rooms, that the end was nigh.
I was made aware yesterday that with the inevitable onslaught of the approaching Russian army, the Germans scrambled and made every effort to demolish the death camps, intent on leaving no trace of their deeds. To me, the implicit awareness of their murderous and heinous activities, which motivated them to cover their tracks, is a huge moral indictment. I can rationally accept the idiology behind exterminating what was considered to be ‘vermin’, but that the Nazis conciously realizing that their subhuman behaviour begs the question of awareness and morality. Obviously, based upon the intent to camouflage activities, they were aware that their actions were socio-pathilogical and deviant. Should not this awareness create a moral dilemna whereby acting in such fashion impacts the psyche of ‘civilized’ individuals? The Yad Vashem story gives me great pause and great pain. It allows me to realize and accept that, given the proper set of circumstances and the proper utilization of propaganda and soft core brainwashing, if it could happen in a culturally advanced society such as 1930’s Germany, it can happen anywhere.
As a Jewish Quebecer, over the past fifty years watching governmental powers selectively erode segments of particular groups of citizens’ basic rights had caused me to associate the PQ’s actions and activities with those of Nazi Germany. Sometimes, reflecting on my mindset, I self-corrected, thinking that I was being overly sensitive to the situation.
After seeing Yad Vashem and learning about the fate of six million of my cohort and how it was insideously manifest on what could have been me and my family, I have promised myself that not only will I no longer self-correct, but I will redouble my voice to ensure my rights as well as the rights of those around me.