I took this class hoping to find answers to some of the difficult questions surrounding the tragedy of the Holocaust, but instead of answers, I’ve only gotten more questions. I’ve learned that some of the most important questions simply don’t have answers. Questions like “What kind of horrible human beings could orchestrate an event like this?” or “People must have been aware of the situation, how could they sit idly by?” or even bigger questions like “Where was God?”
The one question that particularly plagued me was as follows; how could a human being with any sort of moral compass ignore the tragedies occurring right in their own country? After visiting Auschwitz, it became nearly impossible for me to believe that those anywhere near a camp could ignore what was happening there. The camps were enormous, covering an incredible amount of space. I’m sure at the time they were operating it was loud, smelly and again, nearly impossible to overlook. Visiting Auschwitz and seeing just how close in proximity some houses were to the camps, it was clear that residents of this country were avoiding the issue. After learning about the torture, murder and general mistreatment of the prisoners of the camps, it hurt me to think that people could turn a blind eye. For me, it raised yet another important question; what would I have done?
It is so easy for me to sit here and say that I would have intervened. But what would I have done? I could have joined the underground as some non-Jewish members of the community had. But what if I had a family of my own and helping those suffering would be sacrificing the safety of my own family? Would I have been willing to make a sacrifice like that for people I didn’t know? In the Holocaust kingdom, a non-Jewish friend on the outside of the ghetto saved Alexander Donat’s son. This woman risked her life for another family’s child. I have incredible respect for this woman and would like to believe that if I was in her situation, that I would have done the same. But, once again, the difficult part about asking these questions is that you are never guaranteed and answer.
As thought provoking and frustrating as these questions are, they are nonetheless important to be asked. Although it is impossible to answer these questions because I am not in the position that these bystanders were in, it is important to ask them because it shows that I am recognizing the need to look out for those around me who are struggling. Despite not knowing what role I would play if a situation ever arose, I am showing that I am aware of the need for people to stand up and not be passive bystanders. To be socially conscious and active is incredibly important. To raise questions like “what would I have done?” is evidence of your inclination to do something. After seeing some of the horrible injustices imposed on the victims of the Holocaust, I feel more inclined than ever to not be a bystander and to use my voice against any wrong, either big or small.