Sunday, February 19, 2012
Among my unpopular opinions ...
Disclaimer: I am going to catch hell for this post.
The artifacts at the National Holocaust Museum are not part of the permanent collection. They are on loan from Poland. Did you know? I didn't. Many of those loans have expired, and Poland wants the artifacts returned. I say yes, send them back! By all means, we must honor that promise.
The generation that lived through WWII and all its horrors (I include Hiroshima and Nagasaki, also all the heinous things that went down in Russia, in the horrors) is now dying off. Soon there will be no one left who personally remembers the Holocaust. To me this signals an opportunity to shift gears, to take the next step in healing from those terrible events. Hanging on for dear life to the horror of it - forever - is not healing. It isn't.
I believe what is remembered, lives. So what we remember is the worst of it all, allegedly so we will never repeat that experience. It doesn't help me in any way to think only of the most grisly details. The soul of Germany was completely destroyed after WWI. People were starving, there wasn't enough to eat, there weren't enough young men with both legs to work, to get the country back on its feet. When we humans are struggling for survival, we tend to look for the Devil. I see how it is that Hitler came to power and it freaks me out. When people are desperate, their judgment is affected. I don't see the German people of that time as wholly evil. They were fighting for their lives; when someone came to power who felt confident to point the finger at the Jews, I see how it was that people bought that evil lie. The entire country suffered a psychotic break.
This is not about me forgiving the Holocaust! What I wish is that we could begin to look more deeply at that era, find wisdom, compassion and healing from the events that occurred rather than furthering the horror, remembering the awful details from the camps: the piles of shoes, the hair, the bunks from Auschwitz. People tell me these artifacts are powerful reminders, but to me it's like passing a gory wreck on the highway, stopping to gawk. I do not see that this serves a positive purpose. In fact I believe we dishonor the people who wore those shoes by focusing on how they were tortured and killed while forgetting how they lived, the world they inhabited, before the war. I know, I KNOW ... you're going to let me have it now, hey?
Likewise I wish every museum in the world would return the spoils of excavation, send the mummies home along with the objects they were buried with originally. We've seen them, we have photographs. Let the mummies rest in peace. I abhor the desecration of ancient tombs and I think we desecrate the memory of the people who died in the camps by staring lasciviously at their teeth, their shoes. It makes me sick.
I wish to honor the victims of the Holocaust. I would love it if the museum became a library, a place to learn and study. The pictorial archives of the world that existed before the Holocaust are fascinating and life enhancing, tucked away in the library on the fourth floor of the museum. I love the library in the museum! The archives make me feel hopeful and happy. I have never been through the main exhibit as I know only too well it would make me want to throw up. There's no way that would help me in any way.
People say that remembering the horrors vividly in some way makes us better humans. I've had many an argument over this. No one has yet convinced me that this is true. We are still practicing genocide, aka "ethnic cleansing" in many areas of the world today. Has it really helped anyone to exhibit these sad objects? I think there was a time when it was important for people to learn these details, but that time has passed. Send them home, I say. Let's take the next step towards healing. Please?
L'chaim, and shalom.