Holocaust, Follow-up

Over the July 4th weekend, a few weeks after the Bulletin's article on the Holocaust appeared, we joined a group of 157th Infantry officers at a small reunion in Tennessee and heard more first-hand stories about Dachau. Since then, also, there have been phone calls and letters relating to the subject. All have added to our information and understanding of those terrible times.

There were eighteen others at the mini-reunion, all of whom had survived the entire campaign (Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, Germany) with the regiment, and all had been present at the liberation of Dachau. The common recollection, apart from remembering the appalling human wreckage there, was the unbearable stench of the camp and its surrounding area.

After the invasion of southern France, several of the men had acquired cameras; one had liberated a 16mm German movie camera and film. We saw, in uncensored detail, slides and movies taken on the spot at that notorious camp on the first day of liberation. The pictures were not very pleasant.

One friend, a battalion commander at the time, calloused and embittered by almost two years of front-line combat and the terrible losses incurred by men under his command (especially at Anzio and Nurenberg), allowed his troops to deliberately execute about thirty German SS guards who had been unable to escape the camp. He was later court-martialled for his responsibility in this incident. Yet, he remained, even after the passage of 33 years, unrepentant.

The calls and letters from some of our local physicians have also been instructive. One wrote: "For us Jews this event remains a permanent painful scar, a living memory... Christians have not always fully grasped the significance of the Holocaust, and Jews have been preoccupied with Jewish loss and pain.

"The Holocaust" was probably, from root causes and moral lapse, more of a Christian than a Jewish problem. Occurring in a Christian society more than a thousand years old, it is time that Christians also study how this most obscene genocide in history could have occurred. It was not really a part of the war, but started eight years earlier in progressive steps. It was watched by the rest of the western world in a detached manner that allowed the Nazis to know that they could proceed without any limit. The war merely allowed a more impenetrable screen for the Nazis to work behind.

"Jews have failed to grasp that the Holocaust destroyed as many non-Jews as Jews, and, in mourning the loss of 6,000,000 Jews, we have overlooked the millions of others who died. In our preoccupation with the Jewish loss, we have failed to emphasize the universal aspects of the Holocaust."

Since World War II, major and minor holocausts have occurred, and continue to occur - in Russia's Gulag system, in China, and now throughout Africa and in Cambodia. Humanity and inhumanity, it seems, proceed side by side. We wonder if it will ever change.

(c) The Bulletin of the Muscogee County (Georgia) Medical Society, "The Doctor's Lounge", Aug 1978, Vol. XXV No.8, p.9

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