I made a post a few weeks ago on faith in God, and asked why you believe or do not believe. That post led me to this one. I'm curious about how the faithful can maintain their belief in the face of things like Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka, Mauthausen, Sobibor. It was all I could do to not hate the idea of God after finding out about these things when I tried in vain to believe so many years ago, but I've learned not to hate something that holds no value within me in the first place. Instead, I want to use a loud voice in opposition to injustice and inhumanity. This is what gave birth to this, written for this Memorial Day, an extension of the Auschwitz memorial post I made last year. It will hopefully serve as a reminder for the shame I hope is felt every time you complain about something, anything insignificant. The guilt I hope eats you alive whenever you throw away your energy on something stupid, or whenver you don't hold the people you love in the highest value and esteem. The shame you should feel for not living a better life as a better person; a giving, selfless, humble being that is worth knowing. So who are you?
This is what happened when the God of the faithful closed his eyes and turned his back and yet the eyes of the faithful remained open.
When goodness and justice cease to exist when the world stops paying attention to entire cities that just vanish off the face of the earth forever.
You were robbed of your possessions, of your identity, your dignity, even of your prayer shawls and at times your beard in public squares.
All of your neighbors and all of your extended family shuffled down the street to the taunts of SS officers, humiliated with the branding of yellow stars and German spittle.
It is early in the 1940's, and the location is the platform at the Austerlitz train station.
Before all are lengths of trains brimming with the walking dead, all unaware of an already chosen fate, and they have no idea.
Cattle cars for the human cattle, all packed in from floor to ceiling, human tears, shit, piss, blood, and vomit covering the memory of bovine tears, shit, piss, blood, and vomit etched into the wooden floor.
The days before marked halfway to the systematic dehumanization, children taunted in schools, synagogues destroyed in the Kristallnacht (Night Of Breaking Glass) and the bodies of Jews left to hang in the open air as a warning.
From home to single room, to street, to cattle car overfilled with broken fragments of what a day before were intact, healthy families.
Children separated from parents gazing out of the window of a moving train, witnessing the last time they see their families, and they have no idea why.
The heat inside the cattle car is stifling, the stench overpowering, the fear and apprehension of what lay ahead unimaginable, and you are there with little room to move, no food, no water, no toilet - for days and days.
And the moans and screams, the constant, harrowing, maddened, unrelenting screams which go on for days - and still they have no idea.
The train stops abruptly, in an unknown place and the doors slide open.
"Everybody out! Leave everything inside! Hurry up!
Men to the left! Women to the right!" shout the strange, hollow eyed men.
In the blink of an eye, what remains of your family goes one way and the rest go another along lengths of barbed wire and under a smoke filled sky.
Giant smokestacks belching thick black smoke, ashes like grey-white tears vomited from the sky and coming down like snow, snow made of entire families.
You have no idea that this will be the last time you will ever see them alive again.
All possessions are taken - clothes, shoes, suitcases, jewelry, ever hair which is violently shorn off of everyone's head and collected for later use in making yarn and rope.
You are given a pair of thin, striped cotton pants and a matching jacket identifying you as a prisoner, though you've done nothing wrong and have no idea why, but that is what you are - no trial, no justice.YOU ARE UNWORTHY - YOU DO NOT MATTER - YOUR LIFE IS LESS THAN NOTHING.The beatings continue, the assaults on anyone for any reason, and all confounded by the utter confusion.
You see groups of people -men - women - children - all marched into different areas, all terrified and clueless, and they do not come back.
You are crammed into a barrack with row upon row of wooden bunks, a single blanket, no mattress, straw if you are lucky, and up to nine other bunkmates on a single platform.
You are forced to perform hard labor, you work in warehouses where the SS guards have free reign to kill anyone at any time for any reason.
You sort through enormous stacks of possessions - clothing, eyeglasses, shoes, jewelry.
You work with pliers pulling the gold and silver teeth from the dead and from the living.
You watch the living in the final seconds before death on the edge of a mass grave.
You work digging enormous pits to be filled with the stacks of bodies of other prisoners, some still alive.
You witness people marched into the woods and told that they were about to finally get a shower, then marched into a gas chamber and gawked at in their agonizing deaths by laughing SS soldiers looking through special peepholes.
You witness mothers and children stripped bare, marched into a small valley, and systematically massacred in a matter of minutes - the lingering shot again.
You witness babies and small children being thrown dead and alive into fire pits by the hundreds.
You witness the newly turned dirt squirming with the movement of those buried alive, hear their muffled underground screams.
You witness naked prisoners being forced to lie face down in mass graves before being shot execution style.
What little food is given is inedible to most, a banquet to the starving, emaciated masses.
You live in death, it is all around you - in the snow lies the body of the first person you ever kissed, the first person you ever danced with, the last person who ever made you feel beautiful and loved and validated, now a relic of life in mud and snow, rotting away.
You are forced to carry wagonloads of naked, emaciated bodies from gas chamber to crematorium - perhaps that of your mother, father, sister, brother, or child - it is all the same.
You load the lifeless bodies of your families and friends, neighbors, teachers, perhaps the young man you had a crush on but were too shy to talk to onto the hot steel of the crematory stretcher and consign them to fire and ash, in the last seconds of their physical being it was you that slammed the iron door and reduced them to cinders and bones.
You work alongside a bone crushing machine that grinds away the bones of the newly dead to absolutely nothing.
Onto the walls of the gas chambers, desperate etchings scratched into the thick concrete walls and wooden beams, cryptic messages from the dying to let you know they were here.
Everywhere, skeletal remains of the dead and dying - that one is dead - that one must be dead, but is not dead.
Days become weeks, weeks become months, you come to hope and pray for quick death to end your long, slow suffering.
You dare not think of what has become of your family, to do so is mental suicide.
Perhaps that is what the prisoners who throw themselves into the barbed wire and electrified fences think of until they can no longer bear it.
The fear, the anguished suffering, the loss - it has all taken root in the fragments of your rotting, destroyed soul - it will never go away.
If you survive this hell, if you make it out alive at the time of liberation, you will never truly escape this place.
You will never really get to leave it because it will never ever leave you.
"Work Brings Freedom" © Jude Bennett, 2002
On this Memorial Day, which is observed to remember those military service members who died in honor and service of our country, I ask that you also remember those who died for no reason whatsoever, who were not afforded any choice, all around the world - even as I type this last sentence. Remember them, honor their lives, never forget they were here.