'Remember' — A Critical Call for All the World
It is the single word that marks the gate to a burned-out village in France that I recently visited. There, 642 innocent men, women, and children were brutally slaughtered by the Nazis one bright June day.
The charred homes, businesses, and church of Oradour-sur-Glane, a once-thriving village in the heart of France, have been preserved as a memorial to the victims who were destroyed by an evil that we must never forget.
On June 10, 1944, some 200 Nazi soldiers descended on the village in an orchestrated plan that would strike terror in the hearts of any Frenchman who would even consider resisting the rule of the Third Reich.
The soldiers ordered the women and children into the village church. The men were rounded up into three buildings and told they would only be held there while their homes were searched for weapons. The men didn’t panic because they knew that they didn’t have guns — the Nazis had taken them away long before.
What the men didn’t realize is that the doors to the church holding their wives, mothers, sons, and daughters had been bolted. They didn’t know that their loved ones were about to be gassed and then set ablaze. The men were not aware that they too were about to be murdered and their bodies burned beyond recognition. Many would be tortured first.
Today, when you walk the quiet streets of the village remains or stand in the rubble of the church, you cannot hear the screams of the innocent. The gentle breezes that dance through the town do not smell of burning flesh or smoldering ash.
But the burned-out buildings and charred debris offer poignant testimony of the evil deeds of which individuals and oppressive governments are capable.
It is a critical call for all the world. If we forget the atrocities, then we can easily fall victim to the lies, terror, and seduction that are used to control the masses.
Hitler knew that if he could control the culture, education, and leisure time of the people, he would be able to brainwash them into believing everything he said and doing anything he ordered, including acts of unspeakable evil.
He convinced even intelligent people that they should annihilate entire races. He convinced neighbor to turn on neighbor. It became a rite of passage in Hitler’s army for young Nazi recruits to destroy entire villages, to brutalize and murder babies and toddlers.
The oldest people in America and in Europe remember the horrors that Nazi Germany inflicted on millions because they lived through those awful years. They saw the carnage of Dachau, Auschwitz, and the other concentration camps revealed on their TV screens after the war was over.
They remember the hatred spewed at Jews. Some were Allied soldiers who offered up their lives to end Hitler’s terrors. Others are survivors of the horrors that enveloped their countries.
The next generation recalls the lessons from our textbooks and teachers who taught about the evils of socialism and Nazi Germany. But for Americans younger than 50, there is often nothing for them to remember because they were never taught true history.
When Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar refer to American concentration camps, they know not of what they speak. Yet they spout off shameful accusations against the United States — the very nation that has brought freedom to more men and women around the world than any other country in all of history.
When Ms. Omar says the U.S. government is “terrorizing” people in their neighborhoods, as she did in a recent interview, she displays her ignorance and disdain for all of those who willingly put their own lives at risk so that she might be able to freely practice her religion, so that she is able to walk the halls of Congress as a freely elected United States congresswoman.
Maybe it’s time for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Omar to take a stroll through Oradour-sur-Glane or stand in the killing chambers of Dachau. Even a simple journey down the street from the U.S. Capitol to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum would teach important lessons.
In fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would do a great service to our nation if she organized a field trip to the Holocaust museum for her ill-informed young subjects.
Maybe then they will know, and have something to remember.
Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at [email protected]