I enjoy reading books, and sometimes the perspectives contained within a book are so important that it feels compelling to document the main takeaways in order to best preserve them in my own mind as well as share them. Based on this I decided to create a couple of blog posts to share my take on a couple of good reads. The idea is to share a little bit about myself and also highlight some books which I thought were good, which could be interesting for readers.
With that in mind, and taking into consideration that I only read books that I really enjoy, I will get started with the first entry on this series.
This book deals with the Holocaust, and as such it is definitely not light reading. The book describes for the reader, with excruciating detail, the suffering and toil of Jews of diverse nationalities during this period and a preceding period, where Hitler’s rise to power is thoroughly documented as well.
While reading this section of the book, I was shocked at the parallels between that time and ours, and it was startling to observe the slippery slope that most citizens of Germany and most German Jews faced. In the period between 1933 and 1940, a minority of people were gradually turned from upstanding citizens to something worse than an animal, through the constant bombardment of anti-Semitic rhetoric and legislation.
This book is a mammoth, sitting at over 800 pages filled with the testimony of people who recorded their suffering at great personal expense, at a time when access to their most basic necessities was purposely denied. Their desire to have their death, torture and relentless neglect known was a big motivator for me to continue reading until the end, despite the massacres being depicted stirring a lot of pain within me.
While grim, the holocaust was not the end all for Jewish suffering, and the book documents the great efforts that governments around the world undertook to erase the evidence of their suffering and deny them access to their owned property, in the interest of preserving the gains made by those who made massive profits from the massacre.
Now, by observing the reactions of people who I told I was reading this book, it seems that despite less than a century having passed, we have reached a new stage of denial. Most people seem to be so uncomfortable with the thought of humanity being able to inflict this level of suffering to each other that the thought of reading a book documenting this era seems too unbearable.
I can’t deny that it destroys my faith in humanity and my innocence to read about this, but that is not my only takeaway. It is hard to describe the feeling, but the lessons that should have been learned in the wake of this tragedy are so valuable that I have absolutely no regrets, and feel more connected with what could have been my grandmother and grandfather, hadn’t they been able to emigrate to Argentina in time. The strength shown by both survivors and those murdered make me proud to be their descendant.
The book also serves as a guide for identifying fascism and its tactics, the need for which is sadly not gone. It also serves as a warning of what really lies behind fascist rhetoric, and how deadly successful their divide-and-conquer approach can be, thus highlighting the need for a unified response before it is too late.