My paternal Grandfather walked away from Auschwitz. His story echoes many, he was parted from his wife, and daughter. He never saw them again, and to this day their fate remains unknown.
My dad says his father never spoke about what happened to him. But he remembers every time the movie Exodus would come on television he would watch it, and weep. My granddad died when I was a baby, so I never got the chance to ask him about his experiences.
I learned as I got older though. I read of the horrors the Nazis subjected people to for being Jewish, or homosexual, ill or disabled. Anyone who didn’t match the idealistic “master race”, or had the nerve to speak out against them. I watched the clips of the infamous gas chambers, read testimonials of survivors.
Last year I had to chance to interview a local school trustee about her trip to Poland, the Czech Republic with a group of educators, and police chiefs through the Simon Weisenthal Centre.
She gave me one of folder full of information including testimonials from survivors, and stories of those who’d died. It struck me that amidst all the horror, and cruelty there was also hope they would survive.
And a lot like my grandfather did. He married again after the war, and eventually moved to Canada from Israel when my father was a year old. A lot more though died in that camp, and we owe it to them to remember.
We also owe it to them to learn the lessons history teaches us. So read about it, ask about, talk about it, watch it. It’s the only way to avoid the mistakes of the past.