Who would you be?

I’ve read and studied the events of the Holocaust and one question always strikes me: Who would you be? One picture comes to mind called “The last Jew of Vinnitsa” and focuses the question very well. In the photo there is a young clean shaven German soldier aiming his weapon at the head of a Jewish man who is on the edge of a ditch filled with dead bodies. Around him are his fellow soldiers and they are watching the last murder of the day. So, who would you be?

You may say that you wouldn’t be any of them. Are you sure? The young soldier was brought up praising his leader, learning in school how great his nation and people are. He learned that strength, courage and patriotism were attributes more desirable than those of compassion, mercy or wisdom. He was told he was special, given authority and power over the undesirable. Does it sound familiar?

The Jewish man is helpless before them. Nothing he can say would stop them. Nothing would make sense of what is happening. Like most that were outside the cultural majority, he probably kept to himself and minded his own business. He probably never dreamed that people would come and try to kill him or his people simply for being different. The State he had no control over has decided he simply wasn’t wanted or needed.

Then there are the observers. Granted, the other soldiers probably have blood on their hands but at this moment, they are watching a man who has done no wrong beyond existing being killed. Are they seeing this as evil? Are they ashamed? Are they too scared to say this is wrong because they are with the group? Do they find solace that their nation can do no wrong and this must be right?

So once again, who would you be in this scene? The person who is willing to do anything for their nation, even to murder if the nation tells you to? The person who is trampled under the boot of the mob with no voice or power to stop the injustice? Or are you the passive observer that will watch evil but say or do nothing?

Decide who you would have been and then decide who you will be today so this scene will never play out again.

James Kendall



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