Image of the Week
09-07-2019

           

At Bergen-Belsen Memorial


Hi All,

Recently we visited Germany to attend an international 3-D convention, and while there visited the Bergen-Belsen Memorial, approximately an hour's drive south of Hamburg. According to their website, ...

"After the outbreak of World War II, the Wehrmacht set up a camp for Belgian and French prisoners of war in huts at the edge of the Bergen Military Training Area. The camp was significantly expanded in the spring of 1941. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, over 21,000 Soviet POWs were deported to the camp until the autumn of 1941. Between July 1941 and April 1942, 14,000 Soviet POWs died there of starvation, disease and exposure.

In April 1943, the SS took over the southern section of the camp and turned it into an “exchange camp” for Jewish prisoners. The SS decided in the spring of 1944 to also use the camp for other purposes and additional groups of prisoners. This dramatically changed the character of the camp, the structure of the prisoner society and, above all, the prisoners’ living conditions. When the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was liberated on 15 April 1945, British soldiers found thousands of unburied bodies and tens of thousands of severely ill prisoners.

A total of 52,000 prisoners from all over Europe were killed in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp or died immediately after its liberation as a result of their imprisonment.

After the liberation, the British Army set up an emergency hospital at the nearby Wehrmacht barracks which developed into a camp for Polish and Jewish displaced persons (DPs). This was the largest Jewish DP camp in Germany, at times holding up to 12,000 survivors of the Shoah. The DP camp was closed in 1950."

One reason we specifically chose to vist this camp was that my mother, Shirley Rothstein, long felt a personal connection to Anne Frank, largely because they were both born on June 12, 1929. The grave site shown in the photograph is more symbolic than real. Anne Frank and her older sister, Margot, both died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen shortly before the liberation. In fact Anne and her sister are buried in one of the mass graves, and no one knows the exact location of their remains.

You might notice the stones stacked atop the grave site. It's traditional when visiting a Jewish grave to leave a stone.

The museum there presents highly detailed and personal accounts of what occurred there. Aside from a number of mounds marking mass graves, walking the lovely grounds at Bergen-Belsen Memorial site does little to portray the horror of life there at that time.

While in Germany we kept tabs on the news via BBC, CNN and previous day NBC streaming. And fairly regularly we discussed world events with friends from the 3-D community and others we met along the way.

I met a bright young 24 year old from Switzerland, and over a number of drinks at The Hat Bar jazz club in Berlin he helped me understand what we really need to do.

Switzerland is not a world force of the size of the USA or China, and it knows that. It is a country famous for its neutrality and dogged efforts to remain so. It has lots of political parties, and even tiny parties get apportioned their fair share of legislators. Seven parties combined have all but 152 of 2609 legislators. Their most popular party has a little less than 23% of the 2609 legislators.

No single party can dominate the political culture in Switzerland. To legislate and to get anything done, they need to find ways to work together, to solve the issues relavant to Switzerland The have to face pretty much the same issues as we do: health care, labor, immigration, climate change, population growth, etc.

Coming out of that discussion I believe that ...

Winning the White House, getting rid of Trump and his goon squad cabinet is critical, but it isn't enough.

Taking back the Senate and retiring McConnell is essential, but it isn't enough.

We, ... and by "We", I mean good-hearted, caring people, us, our friends and neighbors, who every day either have to turn our eyes and ears away, or else watch the horror show America has become, and what America has come to represent ...

We need a clear political victory in the 2020 elections, but it isn't enough.

What we need, ... what we really need ... is to learn to talk and listen to each other, and work together toward the common good. And those we elect to represent us need to take professional pride in being willing and able to do so.

Common good is not just talking about citizens of the United States. It's not all about us. To hell with "America First", it's an old, overused, mean spirited slogan that pops up frequently in our history, in almost every country in the world (just substitute the country name).

Americans are and always have been citizens of the world. We are an international country, a huge blending of diverse cultures and ideas, a melting pot, and proudly so. We can't allow ourselves to be defined as Americans and Aliens, as legals and illegals. No longer.

We need to win big in the upcoming elections, but even more so, we need to reach out to those we oppose in that election, talk the them, hear their concerns, and invite them to the table to help decide where we're headed.

We need to overcome our tendencies and history. It's very likely impossible, but that's what we need to do.

Barry Rothstein

I send out a weekly email of these. If you'd like to be included, please go to the contact page and send me an email.

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