Friday, January 31, 2014

The Holocaust in Color

Wagon filled with corpses at Buchenwald crematorium, April 18, 1945
We’ve seen these images before. But Yori Yanover is right. Seeing them in color takes it out of the ‘fog’ of all those black and white images we’ve seen (probably hundreds of times) and makes it seem more real… more immediate. And seeing the horror on the faces of the townspeople near the death camps of Buchenwald and Dachau truly brings home the horror of what Nazi Germany did to the Jewish people.

Not that those black and white images do not get to me each and every time I see them. This is why film-maker Steven Spielberg filmed Schindler’s List in black and white - the news film medium of that era. For Spielberg, for me, and for countless others who were born after the 1945 the Holocaust was in black and white.

After many years of watching these films the Holocaust starts to take on a historic tone. But the color in this film brings makes these scenes immediate, as though it were happening today. That is how we see news events now - ‘live and  in color’. So that watching this was almost like watching it happen right now. I recoiled when I saw the dead naked bodied piled up in a heap. These were human beings, Jews, just like me and most of the readership here. It didn't matter how religious they were.

There are a lot of horrible tragedies and injustices in the world today. Genocide included. One doesn’t have to look very far to find it.

What is unique about the Holocaust is that it was perpetrated by a people who were among the most civilized and advanced in the world against their own citizens who up to that point were an integral and respected part of German society. Germany was a civilization that produced Beethoven and Bach; Goethe and Schiller. A civilization that was on the cutting edge of science and technology. A civilization that was so enlightened that anti Semitism was practically nonexistent. At least on the surface.

German Jews were fully integrated into society. Academia, the professions, the trades, the military... you name it Jews were a prominent part of it. So successful was Jewish integration into German society that many Jews considered themselves Germans first and Jews second (if at all).

It is beyond human comprehension that a civilized people can be so morally reprehensible. It is beyond human comprehension that the average citizen in Germany knew what was happening to their fellow citizens - people who were their friends and neighbors; their lawyers and doctors - and yet did nothing! Were these people not human?! How can they live with themselves knowing that this was going on? They had to know. Especially in those towns that were near the crematoria. The smell of burning flesh must have filled the air in those towns daily!

It took a United States to shake up any semblance of humanity among those people. After liberating the death camps the American military leadership, starting with General Dwight D. Eisenhower, forced those citizens into the death camps to face the reality of what they already knew. You can see the horror on their faces in living color as they march in and begin to see what was there.

I think this film is an important reminder of man’s inhumanity to man.  This period in history is inexplicable. I can only surmise that mankind no matter how civilized - is capable of this kind of behavior when morality is absent. Without morality - exterminating an entire people is OK - if you perceive them to be an inferior race.

The Holocaust was real. It happened. And let no Holocaust denier ever question it. Thank you to Yori Yanover and the Jewish Press for putting it this on their website. It is available for viewing below. Watch it and weep!