Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kate Ann Gonta: Listening

Tonight we had a discussion with Father Manfred about the Dialogue after Auschwitz.  Father Manfred is a German Roman Catholic Priest who had lived in Poland for over 20 years. 

He opened up our discussion about how the Holocaust happened successfully.  Auschwitz was not only the killing of people but also of a racist ideology. Hitler believed that the mixture of blood was the original sin. The Germans saw the Jews like an illness, which had to be gotten rid of.  The SS were Hitler's soldiers who carried out his plan.  The SS were taught to have no compassion toward the enemy.  They were forbidden to have human feelings toward the prisoners. The relationship between the solders and prisoners was killed and that is why Auschwitz was possible. 

He than talked about the three perspectives of Auschwitz; the Jewish perspective, the Polish perspective and the German perspective. Each is very different. 

The Jews mostly lived in Poland at this time and because of what happened at Auschwitz, they have a very deep shock and wound that goes in two directions.  The first direction is to their neighbors; why did they let this happen? Why was this possible in a Christian Europe? Can we trust Christianity? The second direction is where was God? Why did he not interfere? What happened to the covenant?  After the Shoah, the Jews moved to Israel.  They wanted to make Israel their homeland, a place of shalom, and a place to heal. However, Israel is not a place of shalom and it did not heal how the Jews are looked at worldwide.  Anti-Semitism is beginning again and the Jews are afraid that Auschwitz can happen again, however this time they will be prepared for it. 

The Polish perspective has two main features. The first main feature is one can not understand Poland without understanding their Christian history and the second is for Poland World War II began twice; the first time on September 1, 1939 when the Germans invaded and the second time on September 17, 1939 when the Russians invaded.  Poland was founded in 969.  A political structure united the different tribes. The new king would be from abroad.  In 1795 Poland was divided into 3 sections, Russia, Germany and Austria. During this time, there was a long period of martyrdom. If you gave up your life, God would redeem it. In 1918, Poland became its own country because of the outcome of WWI.  However this only lasted for about 21 years. World War II broke out in 1939 because Hitler and Stalin wanted to fix their mistake of letting Poland become its own country. Hitler and Stalin would separate Poland. The Poles would used as slaves. The Germans were eliminating the polish leadership, specifically when connected to the church. Elimination of polish leadership happened in areas that the soviet army occupied. In the underground, Pope John Paul II joined the priesthood. Immense leadership of the solidarity movement happened under him and this confirmed Christianity. For the polish WWII represented human dignity and freedom of the nation. 

It was not Christianity, but anti Christianity that made the holocaust possible. Both the Poles and the Jews were victims after the holocaust.

The German perspective is one of a perpetrators perspective. Germany did not have a long perspective on national identity.  When Hitler came to power, he gave identity to the German people.  The Catholic Church opposed this because they were connected to Rome, not to Germany.  The protestant Church also opposed this however, they respected that German people also have a soul and religious meaning.  The Catholic Church remained in opposition, but the Catholics were often happy because someone was bringing them out of chaos.  When the war was over there was no enthusiasm left because it became clear that not only was it a lost fight but a moral catastrophe. Not only were the Germans destroyed but people saw what happened in the camps.  It became difficult to talk to the children about this.  Once the children were old enough to understand, they began asking their parents questions such as what have you done? and what did you do?  The problem became Germany is guilty but not me.

Jews and Poles come to Poland to honor their people.  Germans come to Poland to honor the victims.

Talking about Auschwitz makes dialogue possible when all these perspectives are so different.  We will never totally understand the other, but we should always have respect for one another.  The main thing is to listen to the other and to talk about ourselves.  Listening opens up our hearts and lets the other person into our identity.  This is the only way in which we can bridge the gap between the Germans, Jews and Poles together again.  I plan on continuing to listen and to keep opening up my heart on this journey.


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