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More Tales of Inhumanity and my Close Experience with its Genesis

January 27, 2015

Sometimes sadness buries you like ash from a volcano buries a town.

While driving to breakfast a few days ago, we played a game in which each of us would tell the others a story. In response to a friend’s retelling of the Christian myth in which he mentioned Jews, a small boy accompanying us blurted out, “I know about Jews, they are jealous of everyone.” When I asked him where he had heard such a thing, he responded, “Everyone knows that. I thought it by myself.” Later he made a similar racist comment about blacks and Obama; again claiming that everyone knew it and that he thought it up all by himself.

When I pointed out his best friend was black like Obama, he said that it was different. I asked him how many Jewish children he knew attended his school. He answered that they were the jealous ones.

Like the suffocating chilling stench of a newly open grave cripples one’s will to breathe, I felt the overwhelming darkness plunge me into the pit of despair. My mouth felt filled with ash, things began to turn grey and dark. The innocent like the ignorant and ill-informed defend their insecurity by insisting their basest thoughts are their own.

What sort of despicable human being would teach hate to a seven-year-old?

Recently I ran across the following in a Brad Delong column:

Diary of Chaim Kaplan in the Warsaw Ghetto:
4th August 1942

In the evening hours

I have not yet been caught; I have not yet been evicted from my apartment; my building has not yet been confiscated. But only a step separates me from all these misfortunes. All day my wife and I take turns standing watch, looking through the kitchen window which overlooks the courtyard, to see if the blockade has begun. People run from place to place like madmen….

[He describes how a friend has obtained a factory job by bribery]

My lot is even worse because I have neither money nor a factory job, and therefore am a candidate for expulsion if I am caught. My only salvation is in hiding. This is an outlaw’s life, and a man cannot last very long living illegally. My heart trembles at every isolated word. I am unable to leave my house, for at every step the devil lies in wait for me.

There is the silence of death in the streets of the ghetto all through the day. The fear of death is in the eyes of the few people who pass by on the sidewalk opposite our window. Everyone presses himself against the wall and draws into himself so that they will not detect his existence or his presence.

Today my block was scheduled for a blockade with Nazi participation. Seventy Jewish policemen had already entered the courtyard. I thought, ‘The end has come.’ But a miracle happened, and the blockade was postponed. The destroyers passed on to the Nalewki-Zamenhof block.

When the danger was already past I hurried to escape. Panic can drive a man out of his mind and magnify the danger even when it no longer exists. But already there is a fear that my block will be blockaded tomorrow. I am therefore trying to lay plans to escape with the dawn. But where will I flee? No block is secure.

Thousands of people in the Nalewki-Zamenhof block were driven from their homes and taken to the transfer point. More than thirty people were slaughtered. In the afternoon, the furies subsided a bit.

The number of passers-by increased, for the danger of blockade was over. By four in the afternoon, the quota was filled: 13,000 people had been seized and sent off, among them 5,000 who came to the transfer of their own free will. They had their fill of the ghetto life, which is a life of hunger and fear of death. They escaped from the trap. Would that I could allow myself to do as they did!

If my life ends – what will become of my diary?

These are the last words written in his diary.

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