Somehow, M’s alum group in San Francisco found him and sent a mailer for an unusual event. It was a screening of a film in which one of the last Auschwitz survivors walked the camp with two teen girls who were about the age she was when her family was taken to the camp.
Her name was Kitty Hart-Moxon and she told her story without embellishment or analysis. Just the brutal facts.
The concentration camps were industrial killings, institutionalized murder. More than a million were killed, mostly Jews–it’s the industrial nature of the murders that differentiates this from other genocide we’ve seen and other horrible executions. This factory of death (and others) were part and parcel of German life and it’s important to understand how it happened so it doesn’t happen again.
Every time I see photographs or footage of people being herded up by Nazis, what moves me the most are the mothers with their children. Footage in this movie of the mothers and kids who just arrived being walked immediately to their deaths in the gas chambers was searing, just searing. Kitty spared no detail as she dispassionately told her story, pointing out that the Nazis reduced these living, breathing humans to “consumable byproducts of the killing process.” Like when they pulled gold teeth to get at the gold, ripped clothing seams to check for valuables and took belongings from suitcases.
Friends who were teens during World War II joined us and we had a drink afterwards and talked about what was publicly known and not known about the concentration camps back then. They told us that the first they knew about it was when they saw newsreels toward the end of the war and that nothing was held back. Of course, they also knew that in 1938, the U.S. turned away the St. Louis, a ship of more than 900 Jewish refugees seeking asylum from the Nazis after Kristallnacht. Cuba turned them away. We turned them away. Some European countries took the passengers, but 254 died in the Holocaust anyway, including some at Auschwitz.
Not too long ago, someone asked me why I blog about the Holocaust, because I wrote about it after we went to Nuremberg last fall. It’s not a political statement, it’s a human rights statement. It’s all about trying to understand man’s inhumanity to man, and how a guy like Hitler could root himself in a culture and spread that kind of evil. Time passes, people forget.
Jews weren’t the first, they may not be the next but they won’t be the last. I’m not a Jew, but I want to do my part to make sure that no one forgets, ever.
If you’d like to see the film, it’s on YouTube, right here. I hope you’ll find time to watch it.