Thursday, January 27, 2005

What Shall We Remember?

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, one of the most notorious Nazi death camps of World War II. Many survivors returned to the site, not so much to remember their own horrors, but to pay tribute to those who lost their lives inside those walls.

I have not been to Auschwitz, but I have been to Dachau on two separate occasions. Each time I was struck by the respect the visitors showed. The bus ride out to the site was full of young college-aged kids who were loud and boisterous, but as we reached our destination, quietness took over, and for the entire visit people looked and listened. Most were silent, some cried, and others spoke in hushed tones. It wasn't the behavior I expected (or feared), but it gratifying to see people of all ages demonstrate respect and compassion for all who had suffered. And I felt a little proud that so many young people had come to a place of unbearable sadness to learn about our history as a global community and the horrors that we do to each other -- not hundreds of years ago -- but in our own century.

Likewise, during my trip to the Holocaust museum in Washington, DC, I was struck by the quiet. It is an enormous building, and people there seem to be intent on reading, listening and learning, instead of doing the 5-minutes power walk before hitting the nearest shopping emporium.

It's important to mark these occasions.

It's important to learn and not forget.

It's important to teach our children.

Yesterday, as I was ferrying TinyTuna from school to ballet, we were engaged in our usual twenty questions of "what did you do today?" I ask her every day, pushing her for details, because if I don't, her answer will be "the usual" or "nothing special." Me, being the nosy mother than I am, wants and needs to hear more than this, so I must ask specific questions about each subject and teacher, about lunch and recess, and so on and so forth.

As we hit the topic of recess, she suddenly remembered that they played a "really cool game."

"What game?" I asked.

"Torture!" She replied, happily.

Despite my deep desire to stop the car, turn around and start screaming, I decided to bite my tongue and attempt to gather further information (before I stopped the car, turned around and started screaming). I took a deep breath and said, "I haven't heard of that game. How do you play?"

"Well," says TinyTuna, very nonchalantly, "it's like Tag..."

(I exhaled)

"...and you have one person who is the enemy...."

(I bit my tongue again)

"...and the enemy tries to tag other people to make them like bad guys, and they try to tag other people too, until you don't have any good guys left because they've all become bad guys."

I drove in silence for a couple of minutes trying to decide what to do. Finally, I asked her, "Why do you call it 'Torture'"?

She shrugged and said, "I don't know."

After a few more seconds, I asked her quietly, "Do you know what the word torture means?"

She hemmed and hawed, trying to think of a defination, and then finally admitted, "No, not really."

"Well," I said, "Torture is where somebody tries to hurt another person as badly as they possibly can...but not quite bad enough to kill them. People torture people to get information, or make them do what you want them to do, even if they would never do it otherwise. It's just about the meanest most horrible thing you can imagine."

It was very, very quiet in the car for a long time. "I don't like that name," she said quietly. "I'm going to tell my friends we have to change it."

It's important to remember these occasions.

It's important to learn and never forget.

It's important to teach our children.

And then they can pass it on.


Anonymous said...

Well said...

Anonymous said...

When I visited Anne Frank house, someone in the crowd commented on pictures of Auschwitz that were in the museum...."There was no grass there when I was there, if there was we would have eaten it"

Sherry R.

nk said...

I always marvel at you, MamaTuna. It's tougher to not take the easy way out and be lazy with kids, but you are raising a socially conscious daughter.

Blessings on you.

Anonymous said...


Green Tuna please save your blogs somewhere so that someday Tiny Tuna can read them. She doesn't know it yet, and the tough years are still ahead, but she is the most exceptionally fortunate child!

Anonymous said...

I thought about posting something about the anniversary today, but your words are so eloquent, that anything I tried to write paled in comparison. And so I've left the topic alone.

But thank you for posting this. Your daughter is so lucky to have such an aware and well-spoken mother.