Last weekend, we spent Saturday afternoon at the CANDLES Holocaust Museum here in Terre Haute, listening to Holocaust survivor and Mengele twin Eva Kor speak about her experiences in Auschwitz, her journey of forgiveness, and her passion for making the world a better place.
While the Holocaust and World War II are very heavy things to talk about with young children, I knew I needed to share these realities with Lily - but in a softer and more abstract way while she's still little. Discerning what to teach her about and what to shelter her from has been one of the hardest aspects of being her mama, but I've been reflecting on the reality that children her age (and even younger) were forced to suffer through and feel strongly convicted that she needs to be aware of how prejudice, racism, apathy, and dehumanization can destroy our hearts and our world.
"prejudice, racism, apathy, and dehumanization can destroy our hearts and our world."
We had a few conversations about the Holocaust and war over the past couple of days. I tried to reinforce that it happened a long time ago, it was very far away, the Holocaust is over, and she is not in any danger so she doesn't need to worry. And I explained to her that the reason we learn about the Holocaust is so we can make sure it never happens again. My best attempt at a summary fit for a three year-old went a like this:
"A long time ago there was a very big war, and a part of this war was about a group of people - they were called the Nazis, who thought that certain other people weren't good enough or were less important because they were different. They hurt a lot of people, especially a group called Jewish people. This lady that we are going to listen to today is Jewish and her family was hurt during the war."
As she gets older, we'll fill in the gaps for her but this felt like a good place to start in terms of the history of it. We listened to Eva explain her life before, during, and after Auschwitz, and her account was so heartbreaking. (Lily stayed for some of it, but grandpa took her and Augustine to the park to play because they were getting fidgety and it was pretty intense.)
At the end of her talk, Eva offered us three life lessons that I wanted to share with you, as well. In terms of the "life lessons", I think Lily is perfectly capable, as all conscious human beings are, of taking these to heart:
Eva's Life Lessons:
And a few more lessons I took away from her lecture, the exhibit, and the Holocaust in general:
Each choice we make has importance.
The Holocaust did not happen in one day, rather it came about very gradually. Evil crept its way into the culture, the legal system, and the hearts of those involved. One by one, choices were made to marginalize, criminalize, and dehumanize Jews and other groups of people. Some chose to participate in evil directly and many chose to remain silent in its midst, until millions of people were left without any choices at all. Choose to do good, and do it now.
Everyone is important, special, and has a right to life.
Because we are all made in the image of God, are all equally valuable and no human life is worth more than another's. Regardless of any type of identifying factor (religion, ethnicity, age, ability, orientation or identification, etc.), we are all deserving of the right to life.
If you see someone hurting someone else, it's your job as a human to help them
While you're young, you can do this by telling a grown-up you trust. And when you are grown, you can do this by being a voice for those who have none, an advocate for those without power, and a helping hand for those in need. Countless Jews and non-Jews exhibited great heroism and through them, thousands of lives were saved.
Set your gaze upon heaven. In this life there will always be pain and suffering, but in Heaven we will live in perfect happiness.
Never, ever give up hope.
One thing that stood out to me from Eva's life was that she made a vow to walk out of Auschwitz with her sister, and she kept the image of this in her head until the day they were finally liberated. Faith may feel foolish, but we must never give up. We must hold fast to our will to survive.
DO ALL THINGS IN LOVE. BE STRONG AND BRAVE.
May we all seek the good of others & pray for those who persecute us and others.