“Confronted with the persecution and murder of Europe’s Jews, witnesses had a choice of whether or not to intervene.” –from The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s article, “CHOOSING TO ACT:  STORIES OF RESCUE.”

Conflicting testimonies abound regarding how much everyday citizens who lived during the years of the Holocaust knew—here, in Germany, Poland, France, England, and more.

  • Some have claimed, “We never knew what was going on—they didn’t tell us . . . we had no radio . . . no news . . . no idea.”
  • Some have claimed, “We knew things weren’t right, but not how bad it was, we never guessed how bad it would get.”
  • And some have claimed, “We heard things, but what could we do?  We were just one person, one family, and we were afraid of what they would do to us.”

After WWI, impoverished Germans longed for a leader to bring order to their chaos.  When Hitler emerged as a self-proclaimed benevolent savior to the German people, a hardliner promising to raise them from economic straits and the punitive measures of the Treaty of Versailles, the populace joyfully embraced him. When that meant tolerating the loss of liberties and harsh treatment of some, many said, “So be it.  We must all make sacrifices.  They’re not really Germans, anyway.”

“So be it” is a slippery slope. Once we step into the mire—even for a moment—we’re not likely to regain a foothold.   Refusing to tolerate ostracism, ridicule, or hate in any form–saying “no” to the persecution of others, even when our knees quake–requires standing on solid ground.

That stand on solid ground was not taken in sufficient numbers in Germany.

Research studies have demonstrated that if one person raises their voice against injustice, more will rise and stand with that one.  The group, once inspired, regains its voice and sense of moral compass; members strengthen members.

But that stand  did not happen in sufficient numbers in Germany, either.  And  for so many, our own moral compass kicked in too late.

Yesterday, I watched via the web, the U.S. Holocaust Day of Remembrance ceremonies held in our capitol’s rotunda.   I listened to impassioned speeches by politicians and historians as they recounted acts of heroism—of those who survived the Holocaust and of those who risked everything to rescue others.  And then I listened, saddened, by recounts of fear, ignorance and apathy that preceded cover-ups, and failures to act–moral failures.

I sensed urgency in the call that we learn from the past and do better in the future.

I took seriously the warning that once again our world confronts a country’s leader, this time in Iran, who with the zeal of Hitler would annihilate the Jews.

Will we do better in the future?  Will we do better now?

Our Holocaust Memorial Museum’s article ends, “We must never forget, however, that for each person who was rescued and survived the Holocaust, countless more were killed.  As we remember stories of rescue, therefore, we must first honor the memory of Holocaust victims by countering indifference with vigilance and apathy with action.”

Strong words.  Important words.  Words that must charge and change us before we lose the power to change the world.

Let’s linger in the garden awhile longer today.  Fragrant French lilacs are in full bloom, and the white bridal wreathe  is stunning.  What lovely centerpieces they’ll make!  Coffee?

I look forward to seeing you, here, in the garden next week.

God’s rich blessings,

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