LC Van Savage
History repeats itself no matter how hard we may try to ignore and forget it. It has a tendency to recycle itself, and a personal history came to me the other day. We had #1 son Erick and family here for 2 weeks, the first for our annual full family gathering and the second because they were having extensive remodeling done in their home and wanted to stay away.
I was in the kitchen cleaning up (I’ll clean anything and everything if I just don’t have to cook!) and heard our grandson Dylan, 8, ask his father Erick about a TV show on the History Channel. He said “Hey Dad, why did all those people get murdered in Germany like that?” He was speaking of course about the Holocaust, a word meaning a ravaging catastrophe but today generically used to reference the methodical, meaningless slaughter of (far more than) six million humans before and during World War II because they were Jewish, handicapped, Gypsies, Homosexual, or anyone who did not fit Hitler’s idea of Aryan perfection.
Erick struggled with his explanation to Dylan, who asked a lot of questions, mostly starting with a confused “But why, Dad?” It was a difficult moment, but I was very proud of Erick’s answers.
I don’t know if he remembered, but they were mine. When he was the same age his son is now, I found swastikas carved and scrawled around the house, on books, papers, trees, everywhere. I remember having to stand still, to stay calm and to remember that Erick was very young. But there were so many swastikas. It was simply shocking. So I did what any other parent would do: I wanted to know something, so I asked.
He looked completely confused by my questions about those symbols of such hatred and horror scattered about and asked me why I was so upset. So I told him. I didn’t get totally graphic. I told him all the things that Erick told his son; that people had been killed because of their religious beliefs, or because their beliefs differed from a group of monstrous people who called themselves “The Master Race.” I told him there really is and was no “master race” but just the human race. We had a long conversation about it and I believed him when he told me he had no idea what those swastikas meant and that “all the kids were doing it” and no one seemed to know why; someone had seen them and thought it was cool to began scratching them all over.
Erick never did again and together we went to all the places he’d written or carved it, and got them erased. Did his pals do this also? I don’t know. I do remember discussing it with the other parents. I don’t know if they had the same passion for the subject as I had, and still have. It’s a subject about which I know a great deal.
I remember our young son Erick asking me in the same confused voice, “But why Mom? Why’d they do that? Why?” just as Dylan asked his father. It’s an answer one can give laden with facts, but when it comes down to the question of the very basics of human rights, basic humanity, I have no idea why people do the horrific things they do to one another, and especially why those things were done to people on such a monstrously huge scale back in WW II.
I’ve always thought I’d know if we’d done a good or even decent job raising our boys from how they treat their children, so when I heard Erick explaining to Dylan about the impossible-to-comprehend horror like the Holocaust and doing it gently and well, as I’d hoped I’d done for him, I knew we’d done a passable job, maybe even helping to prevent another holocaust from happening.
Click on author's byline for bio.
Cable Channel 3.