The Ashes of the Past

magine you have been forced to a strange new land because of the way you are. You are packed in darkly painted train. This train is riding the railway to hell on Earth. Next stop, a concentration camp. Your deprived stomach is empty, and you are coughing up blood. The stench in your train car is unbearable, mainly due to the putrid smell of decomposing bodies. In your car you deeply gaze at tree after tree of a snow filled forest. You wonder if you could try to jump out towards freedom; if death now may be better than a worse death later. Then abruptly, a new smell and even taste is in the air, ash. You have heard rumors of what will soon happen…..death. There is now nothing more to do, but wait. For numerous years these scenes of suffering, like the one above, happened constantly and were even commonplace. In the Holocaust, race and ethnicity determined who lived and who died. 11 million people were wiped off the face of the Earth, just because a few people did not like what those people believed in. These people were not soldiers, nor were they criminals, but just ordinary people; husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, sons, daughters, children. It is our duty to not let names of these people, and what happened during this sinister time in 20th century be etched out by history. As British philosopher Edmond Burke best put it, “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it” (Burke).

In 1945, when Allied soldiers liberated concentration camps, what they found inside was pure hell. The “undesirables” would be disposed of by any means possible. The were gassed, starved, shot, beaten, and burned. On April 26, 1945, American forces of the 157 infantry regiment found something they would never forget. This something was a place called Dachau. Shoved into this barbed wired hell like cattle, 67,665 poor souls were found barely surviving. The survivors were like the walking dead. They were as pale as snow; they had dealt with the rancid smell of death on a daily basis, and all had suffered greatly. Yet, these were the lucky ones. The only intention the Nazis had for these people being there was for them to die. They were all marked and were waiting for their number to be called. The liberators and the survivors of these concentration camps will never forget what happened in those years of chaos. They have met firsthand what human evil truly is. Nearly seventy years after the fact, these people still wake up in a sweat from a nightmare about the Holocaust. They hope every day, “never again”.

It has been about 70 years since the Holocaust now. The saddened youth that survived this tragic time are now very elderly and wise. It is up to us to listen to their wisdom because it is now our duty to prevent atrocious acts like the Holocaust from happening. We need to hear what the survivors have to say about a time when the world was turned upside-down. We must listen attentively to every word they echo. We must never forget.





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