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May 31, 2011


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Alta Charo UW Law School

Interesting. My father grew up in Poland between the wars. He got out in September 1938; his mother and extended family all vanished save for one brother who managed to survive the war in Stalin's labor camps. My father's stories were very personal and focused on the people and the anti-Semitism around him in Poland between 1917 and 1938. Even after the many revelations over the years of the scale of planning and effort by the Nazis, his bitterness always remained more personal, more directed at those who had been hateful when he knew them and had been either indifferent or actively helpful in the path to destruction afterward. I remember that even when people would occasionally address him in Polish (which of course he still spoke perfectly) he would only answer back in Russian, or in English. Who, then, can say which is more chilling - the hatred of neighbors or the cold-hearted destructiveness of strangers?

Mark A. Edwards

Another excerpt from Auden may be even more apt:

Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot
Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)
And sentries sweated for the day was hot:
A crowd of ordinary decent folk
Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke
As three pale figures were led forth and bound
To three posts driven upright in the ground.

The mass and majesty of this world, all
That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes like to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.

But, to end on a more hopeful and determined note, I quote Auden again:

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Jen Kreder

You might find this article about the Auschwitz Museum of interest:

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