what have we really learnt from history?

August 27, 2008

I watched “who do you think you are?” on television this evening. I’ve watched it before & there have been some interesting episodes but this evening’s was incredibly thought provoking, very powerful and incredibly sad. It centred on Jerry Springer, yes he of the talk show where the weird & wonderful public flaunt their issues to the world. But this was nothing like that. No, it was an honest search by Jerry Springer to find out more about his Jewish background & what made his parents leave their homeland for the United States via England back in 1942.

What he uncovered was truely shocking. A family that fled their home town in what is now Poland because of the persecution, prejudice and small mindedness of a small town. Once settled in Berlin, it then proved necessary to flee mainland Europe in order to simply survive. Something which his grandmothers did not do and who in turn we learnt were led to their deaths in extermination camps.

The things I learnt were shocking. The discrimination to which the Jews were subjected.  How they were not allowed to work in certain professions.  How they were forced to leave their homes and live in ghettos.  And how ultimately many many 1000s of them were murdered.  I was also surprised to learn that this didnt just start in the 1930s but that anti-semitism began back in the 1880s!

As Jerry himself put it, the fact that this did not happen 100s of years ago in barbaric times but only a mere 60 years ago in a modern western civilisation? Wow, that’s really hard to comprehend. How could people treat their fellow men in such an appalling manner? How could they kill all those 1000s of people? How could they do all that just because they were Jewish?

If you didnt see the programme, I very much suggest that you watch it or read more about it on the BBC website.

It’s so hard to understand how these things happened, how whole generations of families were wiped out because of the hatred instilled in others by one man.  It’s terrible to hear about the atrocities which took place.

We immediately say that it wouldnt happen again, but how true is that? Are we really living in times when people arent murdered for their beliefs? When there is no persecution in the world? When people are not fleeing their homelands to survive? If we look around the world today and see the things which are happening in some countries then it seems that we have really learnt nothing from our history. That we have learnt nothing from all those who died needlessly in the past. Tha,t despite all of this, the racism and the persecution continues today.

That really is appalling.

I think it’s important that we dont just hide ourselves away from such awful events of the past.  We need to remember them & tell our children about them if we are to stand any chance of removing them from their future.

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