Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stand United and Know the Truth

"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, for I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, for I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the gypsies and I did not speak out, for I was not a gypsy. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, for I was not Jewish. Then they came for me. And there was no-one left to speak out for me." - Martin Niemöller, Dachau Survivor

Thus far, we have visited Dachau and Mauthausen, both concentration camps under the Third Reich. Families were divided and taken to various camps, depending on their abilities. The elderly were some of the first to be terminated, along with women and small children. With such horrible things happening all around, why didn't communities rise up against the Nazi party in an effort to stop the extermination of innocent people? Did they know what was going on around them? The Survivors and Veterans on this trip have answered those questions for us from their perspectives. Gershon Ron, a Holocaust Survivor, said "I was lucky. Very lucky."

The mindst of the people who lived through the camps is remarkable. These camps were all throughout Eastern Europe even though we only hear about a few. Realizing how wide spread it was sends chills down your spine. Our tour guide through Mauthausen grew up around the area. She said the camps were not discussed, even 20 years after the war was over. It wasn't until later in life that she decided to research the concentration camps and discovered that she grew up very close to one. Her parents and neighbors who lived there while all this was going on, didn't speak about it, even though they knew, to an extent, the inhumane atrocities that were happening.

Our tour guide also shared a quote from a German WWII Veteran, "I spent my youth in obedience, my soldier's life in denial, my adulthood in regret and sorrow, and my old age in acceptance." That sad but real understanding can disturb any American who has never lived under Communism or experienced that kind of tyranny. In America, we are very used to freedom. This trip has given us a better appreciation of that freedom by sharing these priceless moments with such incredible men. And the responsibility that comes along with that is high.

"The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." - Edmond Burke

This experience, if nothing else, has taught us that we can't sit back and watch as life goes on around us- we must be active participants, seeking out truth, and standing up for what we believe. As Americans, and especially as Christians, we believe that if we stand together in Christ, we can overcome all things. We begin to walk in the light of Christ, when we stand united and know the truth.

Seeing these sites and hearing the stories of people who were deeply affected first hand at these concentration camps, have given us a glimpse at what human depravity can produce.

Austin Plummer, senior
Bonnie Andersen, junior
Dr. Hall Duncan, WWII Veteran

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