My mom’s always had a funny obsession with WWII. I had a teacher in the seventh grade who had a big impact on me – you know that rare “educator” who really touches lives – who had a German last name and made us watch what felt like every documentary ever made about the Holocaust.
I feel that educator would have loved my friend Wendy’s recent writing:
Hitler didn’t kill millions of Jews. The people of Germany did.
He convinced the people that the Jews were “dirtying the bloodlines”, “taking what ‘rightfully’ belonged to the Germans”, and that they were “spreading disease”. The people either believed it, sat quietly by and said nothing, or they spoke up and chanced death. Those who believed it, and those who sat by quietly, helped in the genocide.
Hitler had government, a large army, police, doctors, nurses, teachers, and scientists, all doing his dirty work for him. He was able to execute his sick and twisted plan because of people turning on their neighbors.
History doesn’t repeat itself, we repeat history.Wendy Liberty
People turn on their neighbors.
That teacher knew me in a time when I was mocked daily by classmates. I was the nerd, the “robot,” above average in terms of grade and height and verbal skills and below… far, far below, in terms of social skills. I was never the kid others would stick up for.
So it wasn’t hard for me to empathize with Jewish Germans. It wasn’t hard for me to internalize that you need to read the writing on the wall.
You need to know when to get on the train and when to not.
2020 was a revelation to me, not to discover how fearful people could be – see earlier point about middle school. It was a revelation to me to discover how brave people could be.
Joey Gibson asked me recently why I said he’d changed my life. I responded, “By giving us a way to fight back. To keep trying, not with anger but resolve.”
Jewish Germans didn’t have that opportunity. They had broken windows, and get on the train.
I believe we are meant to fight back for as long as we can. Too many patriotic Americans want to mask up and sit at home waiting for permission to march into real battle. But what if that day never comes?
What if by taking off the mask, you stop the trains and prevent the war?
We have to use our words.
This is not the Holocaust, and I refuse to act like a broken refugee. This state is my home. These trees, these rivers, and these buildings. I have people who built and planned and argued over all of it. And I did not suffer years of bullying and BS to be driven out now.
Are you with me?
I sure hope so.