Eighty one years ago today, June 12th 1929, Anne Frank is born in Frankfurt. Thirteen years later, on June 12th 1942, Anne would be given a blank diary for her thirteenth birthday. Before her sixteenth birthday Anne would die in Bergen-Belsen. The words she would fill that diary with would serve as a window through which later generations could come to believe that people, not just unfathomable statistics, were slaughtered in the systematic tragedy known as “The Holocaust”.
“I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met” -- Anne Frank
A couple of weeks after Anne died the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was liberated by British troops. All told somewhat more than ten million personalities were snuffed out in the Holocaust. People were killed for having Jewish parents, for having Black parents, for having Gypsy parents, for being communist, or homosexual, for being many things. Those that were killed were just as human as those that did the killing and we look at The Holocaust in horror that humanity can be so utterly absent from a human experience. Anne’s diary speaks to us and says “we were people”. Anne’s death speaks to us and asks “how could people do this to us?”.
It is common for people to blame The Holocaust on atheists. Not only do I refuse to take on that guilt I point to the following quote by Adolf Hitler:
“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. .. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison”
I do not mean to imply that all of Hitler’s motivations were Christian only that he was as much against atheism as he was against many ideas. It does not serve us to vilify a particular philosophy to rid humanities history of the Holocaust stain.
What scares me, more than anything else, is the thought that thousands of people got up and went to work on The Holocaust every day. Can be a banal evil that could saturate a modern life? Could it be that there may not be a line that thinking people cannot cross? Could it be that mankind would not create a hell on earth to mimic the one he imagines exists after death.