A blogger who publishes his content using the moniker of The Catholic Traveler recently shared his observations on social media about his recent trip to the former concentration camp of Auschwitz. I visited the former concentration camp of Dachau when I was stationed in Germany back in the late 1980s, so I read his post with interest. After reading his post, I made an observation that I thought was worth sharing, but first - I have to put things in perspective. To do so, I will repost the full contents of his original blog, with full credit given to Mountain Butorac (aka "The Catholic Traveler") as its author.
I visited Auschwitz for the first time the other day. I'm not sure how I feel about it. It's one of the most awful places in the world, yet they sell donuts at the snack bar.
Many people traveling with me posted things like "no words." That's how I felt at first too. It's why I often wait a while before commenting on things - to be sure I have the right words, rather than just emotions.
During our visit the sky was grey and there was a steady cold rain. We trudged through thick mud to get from barracks to gas chambers to crematoriums. Everything about the visit was uncomfortable, even the guide.
She spoke English with a heavy German accent and an even heavier lisp. She showed no emotion at all, even when saying...
"These people are being separated from their families. They are told they are going to shower after the long journey, but they are being sent to die. Their family will never see them again."
"Kids and the elderly couldn't work. They were stripped naked and sent to the gas chambers to die. Here's their hair."
"Pregnant women and twins were used in medical experiments. Their screams could be heard across this courtyard."
She was great, I would use her again, but it was all very creepy. As it should be, I suppose.
Two things that struck me...
How often the guide stressed the proof of what happened there. I've heard of Holocaust deniers, but assumed it was a small group of people like those who think Elvis is alive.
I also never considered how many people thought what they were doing was right and just. They felt these people were a threat to their way of life. An inconvenience. A burden.
In interviews with SS guards after the war, they were asked how they could justify killing babies who were of no threat. Their answers were that they were useless, needed the attention of the mother to survive, and would eventually grow to be a threat.
When asked how they could do such horrid experiments on people, they responded that it was essential for improving their medical system. Doctors and nurses felt it was completely ethical to drown newborn babies and inject all sorts of things into people to further their science.
Just incredible. I'm still processing it.
I think it's a place you must visit. But don't get the donuts.
-- Copyright 2022 by The Catholic Traveler.
My personal experiences at Dachau evoked the same emotions that Butorac tried his best to explain, but words failed me as they did for him. When you are standing in a place where unspeakable evil was committed on a daily basis, it is hard to fathom how someone / anyone could allow themselves to torture and kill their fellow human beings without so much as a second thought.
And yet, as I considered recent political events in the United States and re-examined some of Butorac's statements after I removed his references to World War II, I was left with the following excerpt:
"I also never considered how many people thought what they were doing was right and just. They felt these people were a threat to their way of life. An inconvenience. A burden. In interviews ... they were asked how they could justify killing babies who were of no threat. Their answers were that they were useless, needed the attention of the mother to survive, and would eventually grow to be a threat [to their way of life]."
The remaining verbiage that we are left with is just as incredible - and just as creepy - when compared to the arguments that I hear in sound bites on the daily news. The devaluation of innocent lives whom people regard as an inconvenience, or a burden, or a threat to the way of life to which they have grown accustomed has apparently not been limited to history or geography.