27 03 2012

Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.

I’ve done thousands of pages of research over the past two years in preparation for the submission of my book, Such Secrets. The era is World War II,the setting is Europe, and the message I want to make clear is embedded in the first line of this post. While my story is fictional, I have been increasingly compelled to study and write about a dark time in our history; the unfolding of the Third Reich under the evil leadership of one man with a mission to eradicate an entire people.

Discrimination is an explosive word. We see it every day in the newspapers and we hear it on the daily news. My concern is that the word has become diluted. We see someone who ignores an older woman needing a seat on a bus and assume because she is a woman of color she is therefore being discriminated against. And yet that same ignorant person has already ignored pregnant women, handicapped persons and disabled veterans. The one doing the ignoring isn’t discriminatory–he or she is simply ignorant of the needs of others. This person has not been taught by caring parents that everyone, regardless of their station in life or their age or ability level, deserves respect.

Hitler knew what discrimination was. He practiced it with frightening clarity and a singleness of purpose. His plan spanned several years and was brilliantly laid out, one small step at a time. It was such a gradual transition–the gathering, isolating and withdrawal of rights of the Jews–that even the Jews themselves were unaware of the master plan. Enough time passed between each step that adjustments were made and the new way of life became the norm. By the time they realized the awful truth, it was too late. The noose was already tight around their throats.

I have a library of books dedicated to the systematic killing of the Jews in Europe. Most are first-hand accounts of the horrors of concentration camps. Many recount the brave underground workers who saved lives at the risk of their own. Man’s inhumanity to man is a grisly truth in each of those stories. And yet there was a seed of hope, a dim ray of light. Kindness still found its way into those unspeakable stories.

If there is any lesson to be learned, it is this: each person on this earth is deserving of our kindness. Each is a precious soul who at one time was born as an innocent. I don’t deny that some seem to be inherently evil. But the old woman dressed in rags, the young child with disabilities, the teenager of color, the soldier missing a limb, the drunk on a storefront’s doorstep–all of these are people just like us, with needs and dreams just like ours. If we can learn to care for our fellow men, what a changed world we would live in.

In the 1940’s a graphic picture of discrimination took shape. And we need to take note. Complacency is our worst enemy and our enemies’ greatest tool. Apathy leads to our figuratively falling asleep at the wheel. It will not end well.

The theme of WWII in Europe after the Germans were defeated is this: Never forget.

Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.



3 responses

27 03 2012
Julie McGraw

Have you read about what is going on right now (or at least very recently) in North Korea? Reminds me of WWII. Sad.

Love this blog post!

27 03 2012
Terri DeVries

I know. Persecution wears many faces, but none of them are justifiable. That’s where apathy comes in and allows this stuff to happen. We think if we just turn our backs and pretend it isn’t real, we don’t have to worry about it. Pretty sad.

28 03 2012
Julie McGraw

So we have something in common Terri! 😀 I can’t write, but I read a lot about child labor, modern day slavery, the sex-slave industry, poverty, orphans (etc.) It’s something I read about in blogs & in the news everyday. I’m going through the process right now to mentor an “unaccompanied refugee minor.” I have a training class tomorrow. I have a blog but have little writing ability. It was supposed to be a blog on our journey to adopt but that hasn’t happened yet. It’s mostly just posting about some of the letters we get from the children we sponsor but earlier postings have other stuff as I really started to research Ethiopia. You’re welcome to check it out. Not much on it.

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