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A holocaust by any other name

Posted: April 20, 2017 1:21 p.m.
Updated: April 21, 2017 1:00 a.m.
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Cooper Ellis

As far as high school history classes go, students are bound to end up watching a film about the Holocaust on the off day that they’re not occupied by a worksheet or test. Films reassure students that the harrowing events leading up to the second World War were very much real. The visuals associated with the mass genocide of the Jewish people -- that of cramped train cars and men with guns and barbed wire and death -- tend to evoke a lot of emotion out of people. As a high school student myself, I know those emotions tend to display themselves in the form of tears or faces of disappointment, and in a phrase. “If I were there, I wouldn’t have let that happen.”

It tends to rise from the disbelief that the German people would go on to allow something such as a mass killing to go on for the several years it did. I take notice that people tend to look at a movie and say, “What would I do in that situation?” Watching horror movies for instance, a Holocaust film could very well be considered one itself; friends of mine have said they’d just fight the monster back and not run. Where an actor portrays a character running for fear of his life, viewers have the ability to remain calm and make claims such as retaliation. But a Holocaust film isn’t depicting an acted out event, not a script written by Hollywood screenplay aficionados. A movie like this has had a script written in the actions of subservient and evil men and of those truly fearful for their lives and the lives of those around them.

In saying something like, “If I were there, I wouldn’t have let that happen,” people do not always question what that would entail. They don’t really think about the risks involved or the cut off from the comfortable confines of civilization that are exchanged for realizing the poor deeds that men do when the rest of the world looks away. 

 The Holocaust wasn’t the tragedy to end all tragedies because more occur to this day. Genocides in Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Bosnia are easily overlooked by much of the world, whether that be because current affairs sweep them under the table or Kyle Jenner just released a new lipstick line. For those that think the internment and killing of people for their beliefs was wrong, look to Chechnya now. Here, men die for their homosexuality and the government condones it. They are thrown into modern day concentration camps, tortured and even killed. The foreign confines of Chechnya are in no hurry of changing this fact in their country, and to all of those who’ve ever watched a Holocaust film and projected, “If I were there, I wouldn’t have let that happen,” I ask you now: Will you let it happen?

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