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  • Reverend James Squire

We Must Remember!

Recently Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash, two journalists from CNN, made a pilgrimage to Auschwitz to remember the 80th anniversary of the Jewish Uprising in Warsaw fighting the Nazis. I watched their feedback and remembered one very important thing about the ethics of the difference between print journalism and hearing peoples’ stories.

More to the point, this act of bravery on the part of the bravery of the Jewish people should receive as much coverage as possible to combat the significant antisemitism that exists in our nation. It Putin’s words as well that have had such impact in Russia, Europe and places such as Poland where he has stated the lie that he is fighting the Ukrainians who are Nazis.

In ethics there are exercises that point out that when you have direct experience of an unethical action, you are more likely to make an ethical decision. If you read a book which raises a question such as, “Would you help someone who is being bullied, many people would say, “Of course!” However, when you walk down a hallway and SEE and HEAR someone being bullied, you are much more likely in intervene and help the victim. My students agreed.

Our nation was well aware of what was happening to Jewish people abroad, but obviously there was not enough people who experienced it directly coupled with our isolation policies which forced our lack of action until the war came to us at Pearl Harbor.

I have attended many Holocaust workshops where certainly facts are given, but there are usually exercises on the power of authority and other experiences and videos that demonstrated what created the Holocaust and what it was like to live and die as a result of it. I had numerous survivors speak in chapel. What moved the community was when they showed the numbers imprinted on their arms. After her address, when they met with students, they were moved by those numbers. Students love to see and hear.

We must stand firm and strong with our Jewish brothers and sisters and not let the extremist right wing policies of Israel deter us. That also must be addressed as tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis are currently at a fever pitch.

There is another different aspect of ethics that is embedded in the Warsaw Uprising and it has global ramifications. Ethics is a discipline that deals with choiceless choices meaning choices that you would rather not have to make. One survivor was asked, “So you were making choices until you had to die. His response was very important, “No, I was making choices about how I was going to live until I had to die.”

One of the aspects of choice that creates a nightmare for people is when they are in a difficult situation and don’t have a choice. It is a human trait for all of us.

I have been to the Holocaust Museums in Washington and Jerusalem and they point out the nightmare of not having choices. In the museum in Washington, the visitors start at the top of the museum and via elevators make your way through the horrors that are depicted until you reach ground level. It is a one- way experience. Once you start, you do not have the choice to go back. It is similar to the museum in Jerusalem. It is a zigzag modern structure where once you start, you are compelled to complete the tour without choice to go back. I can’t remember if there is any warning before one begins.

Finally, let me take you back to where I began which is the power of direct experience. I welcome Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash into my TV room on a regular basis. Their direct experience of the death camps was one of the most moving events in their lives. They had loved ones die there. At times they struggled to find the words and were still struggling to process their experience. They said that it was like no other. Keep in mind that these two have covered a multitude of stories that could move anyone, but this was not news. This was their direct experience.

That is why I have included the video below which contains facts, but notice how the verbal recollections move you to a deeper spot. Remember it when we hear or see an antisemitic comment. What action will you and I take?

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