As Survivors Fade into the Night
More than seventy years after the weapons of the Second World War were silenced, time begins to remind us she waits for nothing and no one. We can fit a lifetime between VE Day and the moment you now read this, and thus had all the opportunity we were afforded to learn from those who lived through the conflict and survived the Shoah. All the eyes which beheld the atrocities, all the voices that've lived to describe those days of days—we are necessarily burying them to that great common denominator called Death. Time will soon betray how wisely we stewarded these living resources, how much we're learned, and to what degree we've held the past dear so as to build better futures for our children.
My family and I lived in central Europe for several years while I was young, giving me access to opportunities rare for American kids. I'm probably the only one related to Uncle Sam who has never seen the Grand Canyon, but saw Florentine monuments to the Renaissance before I could write in cursive. My mother let no long weekends or summer breaks pass us by, and I'm grateful for every mile we ran up on our old minivan. We saw both the beauty woven throughout European culture, and the scars she bore with shame.
We visited Dachau when I was six or so; a bit young, admittedly, to stare at a photo of bodies falling to a firing squad as you stand on the field where it was taken, now green with even grass. Time allows some atrocities to hide for a while. Years later, I would read Elie Wiesel's Night in a junior high World History class and remember that field, those furnaces and the tears streaming down my mother's cheeks as she led us through the camp, its own kind of graveyard for ghosts. I am thankful for these early impressions in my life, and I understand they are uncommon. Yet with my generation facing the greatest crises since the collapse of the Third Reich, I do not believe we can afford to steward history irresponsibly.
Of dust we are, and to dust we return; Elie Wiesel joined most of his contemporaries yesterday, leaving the world with one less voice bearing witness to what we've seen. His life was not without its controversies; none are. As we wake up to a world with one less survivor, one less voice to speak of the Shoah, we wake to a world less one mind aware of what mankind can do. As we bury our grandparents, we owe their legacy to their grandchildren.
For that, we must tell their stories.
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