I am writing this in one of the small towns in Germany that on October 22, 1940 was among the first to railroad its Jewish neighbors to the Gurs holding camp in southern France and then to their murder in Auschwitz. Today is the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht that preceded the deportations in a national attack to break all the glass on Jewish stores and synagogues throughout the country. The death camps, “the final solution,” then ramped up, operating for only a couple years, leaving a bitter stain that will last centuries.
There is never a final solution for incoherent hatred, not in Baden, Gaza, Tulsa or Cherokee land. Hatred replicates, simmers in the hearts of the children watching their parents humiliate or be humiliated. There are few unbroken windows in Gaza.
Germany is the only place I’ve ever seen I’ve ever seen where the people teach their children about their inherited complicity in an attempt to break the cycle. It begins with the churches that have the most reason to hide from that history, as they provided cover for the worst atrocities. I visited a a youth camp in Neckarzimmern where Lutherans and Catholics created an astonishing memorial right next to the basketball courts where the kids couldn’t miss it. Each of the 128 of the local villages from which Jews were expelled created its own unique memorial stone which were then placed in a large Star of David on the campground as a collective sculpture. Artful, honest and stunning.
The website is in German, but google translation works. Go deep enough into the specific village’s monuments (such as Graben-Neudorf, #31 in the opening photo).Each explains how their neighbors where deported on that one brutal night. The monuments were done by students, many by confirmation classes learning the profound truth in the Talmud: “The secret of redemption is memory/remembrance.” At least these kids might not go along with the next hateful frenzy.
In Germany the memorials are created by the perpetrators, so their children will not repeat the cycle. Kids need grown ups to help them. In Germany, the grown up was the president Weizsaecker who in 1985 took the anniversary of the end of the war to declare the moment of liberation from their past, not capitulation to an enemy. His Historic speech is only comparable to Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, which by comparison was much easier to be a gracious winner. I wish that young Baptists in America were being taught their complicities instead of their parents worrying about hurting their feelings.
As you read this thousands of young Jews and their anxious parents pray the Iron Dome protects them from the rockets. And thousands of Palestinian parents parents pray the Jewish rage against Hamas will abate before it shatters every glass in the region. Every rocket and every shell is a seed watered by bitter tears that will bear the fruit of another horror.
The smartest president and First Lady we’ve ever had admitted they couldn’t figure it out. If it’s beyond the Obamas’, I’m not going to have any better idea. But I do know that the first obligation of every parent is to act out of wisdom, not another round of adolescent rage.