The First Holocaust Conversation

Human history’s darkest period is a sensitive topic for a number of reasons. The political realities of how these events were allowed to happen is particularly unsettling, because it forces humanity to comprehend how an entire society could allow a government with a genocidal mindset establish itself like the Germans did.

It seems straightforward to describe the events as we know it, from the Reichstag Fire to the fall of Berlin. The death statistics, the extermination programs, and the human experimentation are all things most are well aware of. We learn about it in our schools and grow up knowing that these things weren’t a twisted Hollywood tragedy. It was real.

But how do you answer the questions of an inquiring young mind?

As I read stories online of Holocaust survivors reflecting on the era, the realization hit me that one day my eight-month old daughter will move beyond the stage of forming words. She will eventually learn how to communicate clearly, read books, and further interact with the world around her. With age comes curiosity and in time she will hear about many historical events, including the Holocaust.

How does one approach the topic?

The easy answer is with the truth. But then there come the “why” questions that make that discussion difficult.

One man used his strategic political skill to quickly bring the Nazi regime to power, and launch a massive extermination program to eliminate an entire group of people. But why?

Why would anyone want to take another’s life? Why would anyone want to do that to a group of people larger than the eye can see?

Why would the religious or cultural background of a human being matter? What about heritage could be so threatening?

Why did the German people allow this to happen? Why didn’t they stop the madness?

Explaining pure evil isn’t as easy as it sounds.

I’ll never forget the first time I watched “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas.” After viewing many movies on the era from “Jakob The Liar” to “Schindler’s List,” I gained as solid of an understanding as anyone not directly affected could. I’ve read stacks of books, researched articles, and done much in depth research on it.

But “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas” was an entirely different film. It was about children from different worlds who saw themselves as not so different.

Sometimes the simplistic world our children live in is more advanced than the adult ones. The adult world has violence based on religion, culture, heritage, sexual orientation, gender, etc.

Children see each other as human beings and relate to each other based on who they are as individuals.

The ending of “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas” really hit me. It does every time I watch it. Two innocent children who didn’t comprehend the cultural boundaries that society puts too much weight on, met a tragic death because they were friends and didn’t want to be separated.

When our children ask us why religion or culture matters enough to lead to murder, what do we say? When told it obviously doesn’t, they will ask why it was allowed to happen.

There are a thousand factors that contributed to the descent into darkness that Germany endured through the thirties. Many of these factors are political and because of that, become an even more uncomfortable topic for even adults to approach. It is disturbingly more uncomfortable for many than the Holocaust itself.

As an activist, I take politics seriously. As a writer, I take the issues seriously. The topics we discuss range from healthcare to the surveillance state, runaway spending to war. Debates carry on as these ongoing battles never meet resolution for their respective reasons.

Tackling the issues of our day isn’t difficult when we have our principles firm and work to enact them. But what does a father tell a child who wants to know about the “Holocaust” she learned about at school?

The first Holocaust conversation will eventually come. May our children carry on the message we are going to pass on from those before us. Never forget the hell that took place and what all those affected endured. Never become ignorant to the circumstances that led to the nightmare that befell upon Germany.

Never forget those who suffered because of the Holocaust. Let it never again be repeated.