Some days I don’t just wish I could unsubscribe, I pretty much need to, but it seems immoral, so I never do. It started when the Auschwitz Memorial made a plea over Twitter for help reaching a million followers, and pitching in seemed like an irresistibly right thing to do, despite obvious misgivings. It’s not that there’s anything essential I need to learn about the Shoah, the details of which I’ve studied at some length on my own (and not, sad to say, in school), starting when I was just a teenager, a braver time when I still believed there was nothing to be said for hiding from even life’s ugliest truths. It was just that now, in this time of growing Holocaust denial – an awful phenomenon that betrayed the fatal frailties and cruelties of the human psyche long before anybody had ever heard about QAnon and the “fake massacres” of children at Sandy Hook and Parkland, amid many other such rancid right wing conspiracy theories – pushing back seemed like duty. If the Auschwitz Memorial needed a million followers to help it get the message out, then yes, dammit, I was sure as hell going to be one of them. It was no effort at all, and cost me nothing. Quite literally the least I could do.
Then they started arriving in my timeline, day after day, often more than once in a day, every one of them filling me with sadness, dread, and heartache: pictures and brief bios of the slain. Some were family snapshots taken in happier times before anybody knew there was going to be a Final Solution cooked up by the monsters at Wannsee, and others were prisoner mugshots taken by the Nazis themselves, showing the doomed inmates of the concentration camps in their striped uniforms, some looking defiant, some resigned, many horribly, heart-rendingly afraid. Women, men, little children, old folks; doctors, lawyers, carpenters, plumbers and artists; Jewish people from all the lands Hitler conquered, one after another, paraded in front of my horrified eyes every time I logged in to see what the Lincoln Project was up to. Like these:
There was one of a particularly beautiful young woman which hit me even harder than usual, for the not very good reason that she had such an attractive, captivating face:
Doesn’t it feel like you would have liked her? Don’t you suppose she’d be somebody who’d engage you in intelligent conversation about all sorts of things? Can you help but wonder about where she was from, who knew and loved her, what her laugh sounded like? Try looking at her without imagining what she felt when she realized what they had in store for her. Try not to ache inside at the appalling viciousness, the tragic waste, and the terrifying prospect that it can always happen again, because it did happen again, in Cambodia, and Rwanda, and the Isis Caliphate, and maybe soon in Yemen and God knows where else if humankind never hauls itself out of this festering gutter…truly, there’s no way at all to properly grasp the enormity of the crime of scientific, systematic genocide. It’s too big. In a way I understand how Holocaust denial might gain traction, at least in part – it is, after all, unbelievable. Even when you know it’s true.
I swear though, brutal reminders of the horrors of the recent past, how terrible people can be no matter their veneer of civilization, and what’s ultimately at stake when the yahoos march with their tiki torches in Charlottesville chanting “Blood and soil!” and “The Jews will not replace us!”, are in my case wholly unnecessary. I know. Honestly, I know. Far from never realizing the history and the grim truths it teaches, I’m in danger of losing my grip if I can’t, at least sometimes, at least for a little while, put it all out of my mind.
But every day the pictures come, and I can’t bring myself to stop them. It just isn’t right. We have to bear witness, especially when the likes of Dimwit Donny are granting licence to all of those very fine people, upstanding American patriots like the obvious exemplars of the Master Race seen here, to crawl out from under their rocks:
You see images like that and you can’t help feeling that this is all building up to something, something that can only be purged by blood and fire. Sometimes it feels like it won’t be very long before we find out, one way or the other.
Meanwhile, the pictures will keep coming.