The Spokane Community Observance of the Holocaust has announced the top three selections in the high school division of the 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 consider these questions:
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”?
Who are “the other” today? Based on the lessons you learned, what are you motivated to do to speak up for them?
If you go
The contest winners will be recognized at the Spokane Community Observance of the Holocaust at 7 p.m. Sunday at Temple Beth Shalom, 1322 E. 30th Ave., on Spokane’s South Hill. The winner of the Creative Writing Contest will read her essay at the Observance. Everyone is invited to attend.
Second place, writing, high school division
Lessons from the Holocaust
By Calvin Whybrew
Central Valley High School
When Helen Goldkind, a Holocaust survivor, was a young girl, she watched her grandfather cling to his Torah scrolls while being beaten to the ground by Nazi officers. Her heart screamed out “Somebody help him, somebody help him” but nobody came. She then watched her mother run after her brother, only to be beaten to the ground and kicked by officers in large boots. This is the brutal scene that Helen saw as she arrived at Auschwitz. If we can understand even the tiniest fraction of fear, horror, and despair that Helen felt, we can stand up and say NEVER AGAIN.
In 1933, Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power in Germany. Hitler brought Germany to war and within two years he had won considerable victories and additional territory. Success in the war greatly increased Hitler’s power and popularity in Germany. This level of success allowed the Nazi regime to pursue radical measures to achieve their political and racial goals. Through dehumanizing propaganda, the Nazis blamed Germany’s problems on the Jews. The Nazis were quick to exploit existing anti-Jewish attitudes in conquered territories as well. Across Eastern Europe, Jews were forced into ghettos. With the majority of people either on Hitler’s side or indifferent to his policies, he began the systematic killing of what would later total eleven million people. Jews were the main group of people that Hitler targeted, but he also murdered Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Soviet prisoners of war, and people with disabilities. Hitler likened the Jews to vermin, and he sought the elimination of people the Nazis labeled “the other”. On April 15, 1945, after a visit to a German concentration camp, Dwight D Eisenhower is thought to have voiced this warning: “Once, man did this to his brothers. In the 20th century, there existed a civilization for which twelve years returned to barbarism.”
The Holocaust didn’t occur because every German was racist, and fully supported Hitler’s plan to exterminate large groups of people. It happened because ordinary people failed to stand up and denounce the Nazis’ goals. Millions of deaths could have been prevented if decent people had stood up this evil. Fritz Gluckstein was detained for a week at Rosenstrasse by SS officers in 1943. Remarkably, he was released when a group of non-Jewish wives and husbands demonstrated and demanded the release of their loved ones. If more people had stood up and protested Nazi treatment, millions of lives could have been saved. This is a lesson to us all to stand up against injustice.
Sadly, in present times, the forces of hatred, antisemitism, and genocide still exist and must be countered. The Holocaust reminds us of our duty to the world and the people living in it. It reminds us of our sacred duty to promote justice, tolerance, and kindness around the globe. Rather than letting hate hijack our minds, we must strive to understand others and recognize that we all have the same basic right to life. Hatred and genocide can only occur when people are dehumanized. It is usually a lack of understanding that causes one group of people to hate another. Understanding and acceptance of others is a fundamental part of being a human being. We must all strive towards fulfilling the golden rule, as we are aware of the terrible consequences that can occur if we stray.
From 1975 to 1979, only thirty years after the Holocaust, the world witnessed another terrible genocide. According to the BBC, “In the four years that the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, it was responsible for one of the worst mass killings of the 20th Century.” The tragic deaths of the two million people in the Cambodian genocide represent one of the greatest atrocities of our time. Pol Pot’s Marxist ideology was responsible for the deaths of entire families and the widespread starvation in many areas of Cambodia. If something like this could happen just 40 years ago, it could happen again. We must be vigilant, and fight hatred whenever we see it.
Today there are many groups who are labeled “the other.” “In 2018, Germany recorded 1,646 anti-Semitic incidents,” which represents a ten percent increase from 2017, and a twenty percent increase from 2016. A survey by the “Bielefeld University in western Germany” concluded that these incidents “put Germany’s Jewish community on edge.” The survey found that “62% of Jewish respondents said they experience anti-Semitism in their everyday lives,” and 28% said they experienced “verbal attacks or harassment.” This shows that violent attacks continue in present times. “The other” could also be applied to Christians and Muslims in China. Under Xi Jinping, the Chinese government is “aggressively working” to control religion in China. Control measures include banning “online sales of the Bible,” burning crosses, demolishing churches, and forcing “dozen[s] of places of worship to close.” In Syria, Kurds are considered “the other.” Based on a report from “30 Kurdish activists recently released from prison” and “15 relatives of Kurdish activists still in jail,” the repression of Kurds has “greatly intensified” in recent years. Across the globe, people who are deemed “the other” are suffering.
President Obama once said that “an attack on any faith is an attack on all faiths.” In the same way, an attack on any group of people is an attack on all people. We know what can happen when we fail to stand up against injustice, therefore, we must do everything in our power to speak out against evil. President John F. Kennedy once said that “one person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” I encourage you to speak up for “the other” of today.
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