Professor Lisa Lykins
September 26, 2012
“How Do You Kill 11 Million People?”
How do you kill eleven million people and get away with it? It is a question that certainly needs to be thought about and answered. My favorite period in history is the World War II era. My thinking was really changed when I read the book “How Do You Kill 11 Million People?” As the author stated so vividly, “you begin with a lie” (Andrews). This book began by questioning the history that I had learned about the Holocaust, this then caused me to re-evaluate what I had seen in movies and ultimately my own personal eyewitness experiences. In the following paragraphs, I am going to describe my personal experiences at Dachau, Buchenwald, and Corrie Ten Booms residence which was used to hide the Jews, as well as explain how the following research has changed everything that I had always believed. Sir Winston Churchill said these famous words: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The general public’s perception was that the Jews were forced into concentration camps during the early part of World War II however, this is not correct. “Actually the Nazis normally came to cities and towns and told the Jews that there were threats against them. These Nazis normally did not come in uniform or possess weapons. The Nazis convinced the Jews to allow them to put up barbed wire around them in order to protect them from outside threats. The Jews were convinced that the Nazis were their saviors and actually had their best interest at heart. The Nazis returned again and told the Jewish people there were more threats and tighter security was needed. Relocation was the best solution. The Jews continued to believe the Nazis were protecting them and boarded trains that were headed to not safer surroundings but to concentration camps.”(Andrews) A great majority of Jews were never heard from again. The townspeople we unaware of what was happening. “In at least one German town the railroad track ran behind the church. An eyewitness stated: We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it, because we felt what could anyone do to stop it?” (Howes) This book triggered somber memories for me because it reminded me of experiences I had while stationed serving in the military in Europe. Dachau is located 18 kilometers or 10.8 miles northwest of Munich, Germany. It is the oldest Nazi concentration camp. It was set up in March 1933 and constructed to house a maximum of between 8,000 and 10,000 prisoners. However during the war the population increased to between 22,000 and 30,000, roughly three times the maximum capacity. It reached its peak sometime in 1944 when it reached more than 60,000 prisoners. “In interviews with townspeople two days after the liberation of Dachau, many felt forced for business reasons and by the SS to support the Nazis. The townspeople said they were lied to in every respect. When asked whether they realized that in the last months a minimum of 13,000 men had lost their lives within a stone’s throw of where they lived, they claimed shocked surprise.” (Howes) During my tour of duty in Germany between 1974 and 1977 I visited Dachau. In the town I asked for directions but mostly I was ignored. Eventually I located the camp. Upon arriving there the first thing I experienced was an overwhelming sense of evil. The sun was shining while I was in the parking lot, but once I entered through the gate it became cloudy and I did not see the sun anymore is was if no sunlight could dispel the gloom. I toured the facility and actually went out to the area where the barracks and showers had been. “The prisoners were told to undress. Everyone was given a towel and a piece of soap. There was no hint ever given that they were to be executed. There were about 15 shower faucets suspended from the ceiling from which gas was then released. It took approximately 10 minutes for the execution.” (Howes) Most of the showers were still intact. Believe it or not, I thought I smelled gas. Inside the main facility the first thing I was confronted with was a continuous video of a bulldozer pushing bodies into this mass grave. I left there in disbelief that anyone could actually do this to another human being. While I was stationed in the Netherlands, I had the opportunity to visit Corrie Ten Boom’s home in Amsterdam. Dutch homes are normally row houses. They are two to three stories and the family business is on the first floor. The family normally lives on the floors above the business. From the outside I would never imagine it being more that a clockmaker’s workshop and sales floor. However, upon entering the second floor I could actually see the living spaces in which the Jews were hidden for their own safety. The Jews were told to be absolutely silent during business hours and they could only come out of hiding in the evenings. Can you imagine trying to be that quiet or better yet keep your children quiet? The Jews knew that failure to do so would result in their death and the death of the family that was hosting them. “Corrie Ten Boom and her family saved 35 Jewish lives” (Ten Boom). The Ten Boom family was eventually turned over to German authorities and Corrie never saw her father or brother again; she did however witness her sister’s death in the concentration camp. Of their entire family, Corrie was the only one to survive. At Dachau I experienced evil; at Corrie Ten Boom’s home there was love and peace which made a difference in these people’s lives. As I entered the residence there was a giant visitor’s book where people could sign their name and write a short note about their experiences while there. It was very powerful; many people expressed prayers, poems, thoughts and blessings. My feelings when leaving there were of gladness, that someone made a difference in the Jews’ lives. While in Amsterdam I had the opportunity to visit the memorial for those who lost their lives at Buchenwald. “Buchenwald, one of the largest concentration camps, was established outside the city of Weimar, Germany in July 1937” (Museum). This memorial represents both the Dutch and Polish people lost at Buchenwald. The memorial is constructed to look like a smokestack or silo. The silo had windows at various heights. The memorial is approximately six to seven feet high and an eternal flame is visible through the windows. There is also a plaque in Dutch and English commemorating the people who died at the camp. Even all these years after the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands ended, there are still bad feelings between the Dutch and the Germans. I experienced this firsthand when our Dutch landlord advised that it would be better to speak English than to attempt to speak Dutch and speak German by mistake. The Dutch and German languages are very similar so I can understand why it could be offensive to the Dutch people. Years after leaving the Netherlands we purchased our first home in Fort Wayne. We found out that our neighbor was a concentration camp survivor. She and her sister shared several stories about their experiences. This was a humbling experience, in that I had the opportunity to speak with someone who had experienced all the atrocities and lived to tell about it. The book “How do You Kill 11 Million People?”, seeing Dachau, reading Corrie Ten Boom’s book along with visiting her home and finally the purchase of our home in 2001 intertwined together to create a significant impact in my life. ” In Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography, he wrote, ‘the great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one’. This book was widely read by the German people.” (Andrews) I leave you with this question: can this happen again? "All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing." -- Edmund Burke. When we look at our world, what do we see? Governments are toppling, financial markets are tumbling, and traditional values have been swept away. Are we seeing evidence of evil prevailing and good men doing nothing?
Andrews, Andy. How Do You Kill 11 Million People? Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011. Book. Howes, Alfred L. "Dachau." 20 August 1970. US Archives. PDF. 26 August 2012. Minnesota, University of. Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies Buchenwald. n.d. Web page. 27 August 2012. Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial. United States Holocause Memorial Museum Buchenwald. n.d. Web page. 27 August 2012. Ten Boom, Corrie with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. The Hiding Place. Peabody Mass,Henerickson Publishers, 2010, 2010. Book.