Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, March 24, 2008

from A Year of Morning Thanks


I spent all day Saturday working over an old manuscript into a speech I'll have to give in less than two weeks--a speech on the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Most of it will have to do with the elaborate and systematic way in which the Nazis determine to go about "dejudification" of that small, lowland country. The speech will stay there--not wander into the death camps like Auschwitz or Dachau.

Sixty-three years ago, at just about this time, Allied troops liberated the concentration camp at Buchenwald. Many of the GIs who walked into that death came were war-weary veterans, no strangers to suffering and horror; but nothing prepared them for the horror they found in that death camp. Edward R. Murrow, the famous journalist, was with the soldiers, but he was so disturbed by what they found that he couldn’t write about it for a long time.

Way back in 1995, I taught a course in the literature of the Holocaust, a book a week, complete with special speakers, including survivors. With a month left in the course, I hit some kind of emotional wall. I had to push myself to read another word, and when I worked at, little went in. It was as if my mind, heart, and soul simply said, "no more." Even today, I have absolutely no wish to see Buchenwald pictures or read another word about the madness in the camps.

The speech is finished, complete with slides--but it's basically about how the Nazis pulled off something so horrendous most of the populace could not begin to believe it was happening, even if it was going on right under their own eyes. It's not about the ovens or those gaunt bodies piled up in railroad cars--and that's okay. I think I probably know as much as any amateur historian about the Holocaust, and maybe as much as anyone who's not a specialist needs to.

I’m thankful—I really am—that God brought a halt to my interest. I think I know just about as much about the evil that went on in those wretched places as I need to. That’s enough.

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