HIstory | Teen Ink


April 25, 2008
By Anonymous

“It's burning, brothers! It's burning!
Oh, our poor village, brothers, burns!
Evil winds, full of anger,
Rage and ravage, smash and shatter;
Stronger now that wild flames grow --
All around now burns!
And you stand there looking on
With futile, folded arms
And you stand there looking on --
While our village burns!”

- Mordecai Gebirtig “Our Town is Burning”

When WWII began, my grandfather was one of the first young, ambitious men to be drafted into the war. He proudly joined the Army Air Corps with as much honor as the next man. During the time he served, he flew 33 missions over Germany. He bombed the concentration camps below, each time hopefully freeing the lives of those who once suffered unimaginable torture during the time they were forced to spend there. Though he never witnessed close-up what the people below him went through, he was deeply gratified to know that he was a part, even if a small part, of ending what we now know as the Holocaust, the world's first and what we all hoped last, genocide.

My grandfather knew just as much as every other American about what was going on during this horrific time; one man had somehow managed to begin wiping out every human being that didn't live up to his “standards.” The media and especially the government, kept most of the crucial and gut-wrenching details hidden from the American population. Supposedly, this was caused by the New York Times failing to report on the holocaust; thus sending the message to any other aspiring paper that the holocaust wasn't major news at the time. Despite this, shouldn't the fact that innocent people were being murdered be enough to push US citizens over the edge? It wasn't until millions were killed that we decided to send US troops to Germany, but why that long?
Even though America took so long to stand up and respond to what was happening during this genocide, my grandfather makes sure that I never forget what went on during this time. He talks often of what him and his men went through to save those who were suffering, and just how much the lives of those who were suffering truly mattered. I realize now that sitting through all the stories he told me are what set the foundation for what I believe now. The holocaust and all who were involved shouldn't be forgotten; regardless of the painful memories it brings back. It's the agony of what happened that reminds people to help prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again. We must also remember because one day, we will be the ones who will have to tell the story. The lives of the survivors won't live on forever, but I know I want to make sure their story does.

Growing up in my family, I never understood the separation of race, religion, or anything of the sort whatsoever. I never thought of people as black or white, asian or hispanic. I never saw my fellow students and friends as Christians or Jews. When I grew old enough to understand and when I became aware of race, of religion, of stereotypes, I was let down immensely. It was incomprehensible to me that my friend's grandparents, who I learned were Jews, suffered because of their religion. When I looked at a person, I saw a human being. Someone that had a family like I did. Someone who had passion, and dreams that they wanted to follow with all their heart, just like me. I saw someone who shared pain, and someone who knew the gift of laughter. I never saw anything less. I still don't. I respect people for what they hold within themselves.

Judgment of sheer appearance is key. It opens the lock to misconception and jumping to conclusions. It shows the naive nature of our strengths and gives power to our fear and weaknesses. When we become afraid of what we don't know, we give into what we think we can't overcome. Overcoming this fear is what will make the world stronger. It will mend the broken, feed the hungry, and clothe and shelter the homeless. When we learn to accept every human being as a neighbor, a student, as a friend, we will finally close off the gates of prejudice and hatred.

I realize that as humans, we need to share our opinions and find a way to compromise. I also realize that as students that earn an education as we do, we need to spread our knowledge to those who need it most. We need to stand up for those who have fought for us. We need to act as a voice for those who are no longer with us to tell their story. We need to show the world that we know and that we understand that every step we take counts; for every step is always one step closer. I want to show people like my grandfather that this generation will be the one that conquers over genocide, starting with Darfur. I want the world to know that every individual means just as much as the next. So always remember, use your knowledge of what has happened in the past, especially with the holocaust, and help create not only a brighter future, but a ultimately a better world.

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