Seared in my brain forever are the Nazi military films and German newsreels showing lines of unsuspecting women and children outside of what they thought were showers only to find out that the water was gas and pictures of the piles of nude, emaciated bodies being bulldozed into mass graves.
Burned in my memory forever are the Allied military films and American newsreels showing survivors at the camps when they were freed. They were nothing but barely-breathing skeletons with layers of transluscent skin stretched over their bones, looking like those zombie-like dead people in horror movies, walking slowly, in a trance, out of their graves.
Haunting images reinforced in schools
These haunting images that we saw in our homes were reinforced in our schools, at least the ones I attended. The history teachers in my junior high and the two high schools I went to devoted a considerable amount of time to teaching us about the Holocaust. They wanted to ensure not only that we were well informed about one of history's greatest tragedies but also that we would do our part in our personal lives and in our political actions to make sure that this pitch-black dark part of history would not repeat itself.
My Holocaust education was continued at home. We were your fairly typical WASP-ish family, and our very white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant condition was potentially made worse by its roots in the South, where the hatred of Jews was a close second to the hatred of blacks with the hatred of Catholics a distant third.
As my father's career took the family out of the South, my parents befriended some Jewish couples. My mother related to me and my brothers the horrors of the Holocaust as told to her Jewish friends, some of whom had relatives who had survived the Holocaust. I supplemented my mother's stories from her Jewish friends with accounts I heard from Jewish classmates who had relatives imprisoned at Nazi death camps.
While my Holocaust education at home and school did not cause me to join the Anti-Defammation League or buy a Bond for Israel or consider converting to Judaism, it did develop in me a strong appreciation of the resilience of Jews, from their slavery in Egypt to their slavery in Europe, and a strong repulsion toward anti-semitism.
That appreciation and repulsion admittedly have been latent through much of my adult life. Sure, there had been the occasional flare-up of anti-Semitism in the U.S. Graffiti on a temple here. A swastika on a Jewish home there. But there was no new Holocaust to enrage me, to activate the appreciation and repulsion that had been instilled in me.
But the enraging is beginning. Maybe I'm overreacting but I sense a rebirth of an attitude that led to so much death. The rebirth is flaring up big-time in Europe, where I've read articles about Europeans who wish Hitler had "finished the job." The rebirth seems to be not as pronounced in the United States.
Worried about terrorist voices
With not just the blessing but also the actions of the United Nations, the decades-old Zionist movement finally found a Jewish home in Israel in 1948. Jews from around the world who had long sought a place where they could escape persecution in their homelands finally saw their dream come true of living in peace and harmony with fellow Jews.
From its beginning, Israel was not welcomed by its Arab neighbors, and now many in the United Nations - and in Europe and the United States - view the Jewish sanctuary for their own huddled masses as a Jewish haven for bloodthirsty, land-grabbing, Arab-abusing Zionists who want to push their weight around.