The Spokane Community Observance of the Holocaust has announced the top three selections in its 13th annual Eva Lassman Memorial Writing and Art Contests. The contest theme is “Speaking Up for ‘the Other’.”
The contest asked participants to learn about the Holocaust and read about or listen to some of the many stories of survivors who were labeled “the other” by the Nazis, and address two questions:
1. What are the lessons you learned from their stories that had a major impact on you? Why is it important to speak up for those who are considered “the other”?
2. Who are “the other” today? Based on the lessons you learned, what are you motivated to do to speak up for them?
The first place essay in the middle school category follows.
By Emmalee Beck
Mountainside Middle School
The Holocaust is one of the most devastating and hateful times in history. It’s impossible to know how many lives were lost during this tragic time, but we have somewhat of an idea. About 19,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, 70,000 homosexuals, 220,000 Roma (Gypsies), 250,000 people with physical and mental disabilities, 6 million Jewish men, women, children and many more were labeled “undesirable.” These people were shut out, blamed and labeled as “the other.”
The people who fell victim to the Holocaust didn’t do anything other than be themselves. They were blamed for the problems of others; they were looked down upon; they were told they were lesser. And most people started to believe it. As a result, hate became the normal. Hatred for “the other” became so normal that people began to stop questioning it.
The famous story of Anne Frank shows what it was like during the time that Jews were called “the other.” The people who were helping Anne hide were breaking the law, and the person who turned her in was obeying the law. Anne spent two years in her famous annex with her family as well as others before she was caught and sent to Auschwitz, and then to Bergen-Belsen, where she died of typhus. We can see now that it was absolutely horrible and twisted, but back then it was the normal. It was seen as “necessary.”
Anne’s diary has become a world famous book and was translated into over 70 different languages. It provides us with knowledge on what it was like for “the other,” and can provide a lesson on why it is important to speak up for those who are “the other” or the outsider or anything in between. Anne didn’t have any choice other than to go into hiding, all because of how the hatred from one man branched out and grew so much, but also because people allowed it to happen. It’s important to speak up so that no one will have to experience what Anne, or anyone else in the Holocaust went through. The same thing goes for speaking up for those who are “the other” today.
Some people argue that there is no such thing as an “other” today. But sadly, that is not true. People of color, the LGBTQ community, women, and many others are still discriminated against. In fact, hate crimes rose 17% in 2017. More than 7,100 hate crimes were reported with over 8,000 victims, according to the FBI 2017 hate crime statistics. Of that, 60% of victims were targeted because of their race, 20% were targeted for their religion, and 15% because of their sexual orientation. People like to pretend that these numbers aren’t real, and what a perfect world it would be if that was the case, but sadly, they are very real. It’s time we start to act like it. It’s time we start to see these people as real people, and not just statistics. It sickens me to know that some people still see these numbers, and continue to be hateful toward people, as if it doesn’t mean anything.
Even the smallest acts of hate are still hate. I still hear people use the word “gay” as an insult; I still know people who think using racial slurs is OK; I still know people who treat women as lesser; I still know people that spread hate. We’ve come so far, but there’s still further to go.
What we can do to defend “the other” and speak up for them is to say something when hate is being spread. If something is happening, like if someone is harassing someone, or even if someone is simply making a “joke,” we have to at least say something. If we don’t, we’re letting that person know that the behavior is OK, and we become part of the problem.
History is bound to repeat itself if we don’t learn from it. What we can take away from the lessons we have learned through this specific event in history is that hate spreads like a wildfire unless someone puts a stop to it. If we don’t learn from our mistakes and speak up for “the other,” then hate will only grow and grow until it becomes normal again.
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