Friday, March 20, 2015

Monstrous Humans - by Charlotte Ference

To delve into the question of God’s location, mercy, or even existence is important in academic circles studying the Shoah only if the role that humanity played in this tragedy is examined in the closest proximity.  Catholic priests, Atheist intellectuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Protestant leaders were routinely captured and murdered in concentration and death camps.  The tragedy of the Shoah moves beyond questions of religion, and indeed demands that humanity answer for its crimes. 
            The Shoah happened without a reason.  It had causes, and it had events that sparked change, but millions of people were murdered for no grand reason.  I refuse to accept the reasons given by the Nazis and perpetrators of the Shoah for their actions- instead I focus on the lack of a reason.  Their reasons were false, their hatred excessive.  The heaviness that one feels on this ground is something I have never felt before.  It is impossible to place myself in the feet of the victims of the Shoah, just as it is impossible to place myself in the position of the SS Officers who executed millions of innocent humans.
Only wire separated the prisoners from the guards, and yet in Auschwitz I 
that wire declared one access to their own humanity

            Human is infinite potential.  This potential may unite us, or divide us, depending on which elements one fulfills.  Despite the options for which way potentiality will move, the human experience is only ever that which can exist in a world one cannot control.  There is too much danger to dismiss the acts of Nazis as those done by monsters, and there is an equal danger in relegating the Nazi acts to those of mere humans culpable of mistake. Judgement and compassion are both important in moving forward after the Holocaust, but they cannot be mutually exclusive.  Those who committed horrendous acts cannot be relegated to mere humans making mistakes, but instead exemplify the worst fulfillment of potential that humanity has ever aimed toward.  Not every perpetrator was a victim, and not every victim was a perpetrator.  The fact that there are righteous gentiles who exist and are recognized displays that the destruction Nazi rule demanded from its participants was not an unavoidable cause of evil.
Inside the National Exhibits of Auschwitz I

            It was not an alien monster running the Shoah and its goals, nor were these people the same as those who rescued people persecuted by the Nazi regime. It is dismissive to both the victim and the perpetrators to portray an either/or situation.  There is more than monster versus human, but it can never be simply one or the other.  There were both decent humans and monstrous humans actively participating in Nazi cruelty.  Why some people were able to resist evil ideology and others succumbed with total devotion is still unknown. 

I have written so many incomplete songs and poems in the past week struggling with the impossibility of this question, but this seems complete enough to post. 

Darkened Skies

If the trees grow strongly from soil that marks a graveyard
Do the birds sing louder
in their branches?

Because I know that there a monster in the attic
Of the house that is a human,
And its poison breath runs deeply in these rivers they call veins.

Air weighs too much to breath too deeply,
Hidden secrets once scripted now glare in the sunlight,
And I am reminded of why I came here.

Ash sinks to the bottom of ponds that bring us peace
But the fleeting moment only can demand  a calculated escape.
We flee from the fences that dared to hold us captive
Even just for some hours

As we live to honor theirs.

Charlotte Ference


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