I’ve just finished reading The Journey Back from Hell: Conversations with Concentration Camp Survivors.
I read a book or two about the World War II Holocaust at least every couple of years. Although I wasn’t born when it took place, from a very young age I heard the stories, watched the trials, saw the movies that depicted it, and kept abreast of the repercussions.
This title is among the best I’ve read, although there are numerous typographical errors throughout. One example: 50 is written SO. There are more than a dozen places where this type of anomaly occurs, at least in the Kindle version, which is the one I bought and am reviewing here. It also uses French, German and Polish terms at times–including lines of poetry — without translating them to English for English readers, which is another frustrating demerit. Otherwise, it’s a terrific tome.
I can’t help but wonder how anyone could have survived the degradation and horrors of Auschwitz and other concentration camps and managed to come out of them with a sound mind. Watching one’s loved ones murdered before your eyes or torn away from you to be sent to the gas chambers; having to live and work in filth and inclement weather, winter and summer, and be fed so poorly that you ended up skin and bones is quite beyond most people’s experiences, let alone imaginations.
And after liberation, it took time for things to get measurably better. No one on the outside could bear to listen to the survivors’ stories; they were hushed and shunned when they tried to debrief with anyone other than fellow survivors. They continued to be treated like vermin that got away from the Third Reich’s Final Solution. I was in tears several times at the way the survivors were treated or ignored.
As a self-proclaimed optimist, a person who assumes the best in others, it’s very hard for me to agree to pick up a book like this and dive down into the slurry of human depravity to recognize the haters that live among us. This book is especially relevant right now, I think, with Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and their minions at the helm of our nation, men who are doing what we did in World War II: not allowing war-torn refugees into our nation for fear of endangering or degrading it.
As long as there exists the idea that there is an “us” and a “them”, holocausts will continue. The moment we deem another human being less than our own beloved friends and families, we are at risk this happening again and again. Today it’s the Muslims. Yesterday it was Japanese-Americans, Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and other designated “undesirables”.
I read these things to remember how quickly power, in the wrong hands, can destroy lives. “All it takes for the furtherance of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS. We know better.
WE MUST STAND UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMAN DIGNITY in ALL ITS FORMS.