When was the last time you paused to note the sun rising to the new day? When was the last time you paused to note the beautiful sounds of nature around you? When was the last time that you watched the majesty of the ocean or a river running the rapids or over a waterfall? When was the last time you scanned the majestic desert or snow capped mountains off in the distance? When was the last time you viewed the clouds above noting the different shapes you could identify that the creator put there just for you? When was the last time you watched the sun dip below the horizon at days’ end and scanned the moon rise? When was the last time you told those you love that you loved them and were proud of them? When was the last time that you took the time to thank the Grand Overall Designer (God) for the day you just had? In fact, that you even had a day and so, so much more.
You may be wondering about both this litany and soliloquy that I have just gone through and perhaps, it has set your mind to thinking. Well this litany is based on what I am about to tell you. Now remember that I deal in Coaching and Leadership and thus I present this from a leadership perspective. What I am about to relate to you deals with both genocide and holocaust. Now this may be a topic you may not want to hear more about but I urge you, no, I challenge you to stay with me on this journey today.
Due to the recent Covid aka “Chinese” Virus that has impacted all of us, I have had more time to catch up on things. Thankfully because of the internet, I have been able to watch a fair amount of YouTube movies from years ago. I am also a firm believer that synchronicity takes place which means that coincidences don’t happen coincidently. To that end and perhaps due to the algorithms of YouTube, I came across Herman Wouk’s “The Winds of War”. I first became acquainted with the book by this title and the sequel “War and Remembrance” many, many years ago back in the late 70’s or early 80’s. I enjoyed every page of the story and was ecstatic when the TV version came out a few years later. This was then followed by the the broadcast of the 2nd book. It will be the second book that I will base most of my conversation with you today on but must set the stage by depicting that of the first book.
“The Winds of War” focuses on a US Naval Family in the late 1930’s. The years actually immediately preceding the outbreak of World War II. The story covers everything from the German, Japanese, Italian, British and of course US angles. While all of this is happening, naturally there is a story line that covers each of the different family members who are in Germany, Italy, Britain and the US. The main Japanese part does not really come into play until that fateful Sunday of December 7th at Pearl Harbor.
It is in the first book that we become aware of Hitler’s plans to invoke what will become known as the Final Solution. His intentions to purge the world of inferior races most notably the Jewish Race. In fact, parts of Hitler’s invasions into various countries such as Poland was so that he could begin to implement that plan. Many Jews, sought to escape to other countries and the United States but that was easier said than done. But clearly, you could really get to understand that the man (Hitler) who no one thought would start a war was putting all the pieces together so as to focus not only on world conquest but that of the Final Solution. So as previously noted, it is the 2nd book “War and Remembrance” that I am going to focus on. Herman Wouk did a great deal of research regarding the “Jewish Question” aka the Final Solution. His book was very precise and accurate and when reading the book you really felt as if you were right there from the time that the Jewish people and other so called impure races were rounded up and placed in the ghettos and then to the trains for the “Trip East”.
Before I continue, it is important for me to provide the definitions of both genocide and that of holocaust:
- Great destruction resulting in the extensive loss of life, especially by fire.
- the systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children and millions of others by NaziGermanyand its collaborators during World War II. The Germans called this “the final solution to the Jewish question.”
- Nuclear Holocaust…Just adding a modern day example as we are still living under the nuclear threat umbrella.
Naturally, the first thing that one pays attention to in the film is how all that is happening impacts the different characters who are in many different parts of the world due to the demands of the war. In particular, though, are the characters of Natalie Jastrow and that of her uncle Dr. Aaron Jastrow. Natalie is an American (Jew) who is living with and working for her uncle Aaron Jastrow in Italy. He is also an American Jew who has allowed his passport to expire because his work and life were more important to him than a nationality. To make a long story short, Natalie tried several times to get her uncle to realize that they were in danger and should leave Europe while they could which went unheeded to the point where they eventually ended up in Nazi concentration camps, the last of which was the dreaded Auschwitz.
It is here that I must point out that the director chose to use real film footage and the staging of realistic events which caused me at times to by pass those scenes but then I thought, no wait a minute. My not watching these scenes would be just like the others in the world at the time, who heard that these things were going on, and chose to ignore them or just not believe them. You see, years ago, when I was younger, I had no problem watching these films but now that I am older, its impact on me seems to be much different. It is so important for our younger generations to learn of these events. There are too many groups out there today who refuse to acknowledge the existence of these events or that they even took place.
Again to make a long story short, Natalie who had been pregnant and gave birth to a son while they were trying to find a way out of Europe found a way to get her child out of one of the camps they were in by faking his death. Of all the scenes that impacted me the most was Aaron Jastrow turning one last time to look up at the moon knowing it would be the last time he would ever see it as he was about to be processed. And this was followed by the a dump truck which had clearly come from the camp pulling up to the edge of a river and begin to unload its cargo. Its cargo was ashes! Yes, ashes! The combined mixture of the remains of hundreds, thousands and eventually millions of the people who had been herded into the trains. Fooled into heading into the showers to be disinfected. Murdered with the deadly gas and then placed into the ovens to finish the process. To see all those ashes just being dumped into the river left me with a cold chill running through me. The lives. The thoughts and dreams, the pros and cons of all these people just snuffed out and then treated like no more than the ashes of me stirring the ashes of a campfire that I would have attended as a Scout in my younger days. The watching as a civilization of human beings being eradicated for all time with no chance for them to create descendants to carry on. And then it occurred to me that it is said that all life originated in the sea. And thus, the ash strewn river would eventually find its way to the sea.
So what are some of the steps that cause an event like this to be able to occur? There are so many reasons. Apathy. The belief of Superiority. Nationalism. Communism. The following of leaders who convince you to the point that you become brainwashed. The ability of some to refuse to believe in such things. The ability of some people to hide from the reality that if its not impacting them, then all is good. I could and can go on and on describing this.
What is not unique is that most people think that the Holocaust by the Nazi’s during WW II was the only time this has happened. Unfortunately, this has happened and continues to happen all around us. I realize that we are in the 21st Century so I have chosen to focus on the 20th Century. Oh yes, genocide has happened all throughout history but I focus on the 20th Century in hopes that we may avoid it in the 21st.
I am listing the Top 5 :
- The Holocaust: Under the leadership of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis 1939-1945 responsible for the deaths of up to 17 million men, women and yes, children. This includes over 6 million Jews which at the time was about 1/3rd of the Jewish race.
- The Holodomor: better known as the Stalin Purge during the 1930’s where Joseph Stalin the leader of the USSR had over 7.5 million of his people eradicated.
- Cambodian Genocide: What used to be known as Cambodia and renamed Kampuchea under Leader Pol Pot responsible for the deaths of over 3 million people during the late 1970’s. No one was safe, especially doctors, teachers and thinkers etc. This was better known and referred to as the “Killing Fields”
- The Armenian Genocide: During WW I. The Turkish Government killed over 1.5 million Armenians and caused many more to flee to avoid being killed and slaughtered. I will add here that my step mother’s parents and siblings got out of Armenia and came to the US with literally only what they could carry. Other relatives were not so fortunate.
- Rwandan Genocide: This occurred because one tribe was trying to eradicate another tribe. The year 1994. Over 1 million dead.
And the list goes on… So my question for those of us who lived during the 20th Century is as to whether you were aware of these. Were you taught about them? Are you teaching the younger generations so that know about them and we can hopefully work to avoid future genocides as mankind learns to live better with each other?
I close with that which I opened. When was the last time you…because you never know when it will be the last time that you get to. The World has been impacted with a virus that knows no bounds. I urge you today, to let those in your family know that you love them and are proud of them. I urge you today, to make today your best day yet. Live your today because you have been given this today and give thanks for all the good things around you…..Before it may become too late.
Oh and just one last point to ponder…the old saying that those who do not learn from the past are condemned to live it again in the future…just know that both Marxism & Fascism are rearing their ugly heads again.