Working in an American Auschwitz
Feb. 14, 2014
When I was but a wee child, actually a very young teen ager, I was blessed to have a teacher by the name of Mrs. Haley; aka: (respectfully) “Haley’s Comet.” She taught a class that I suspect is not offered anymore, but was mandatory in my time; it was called “Civics.” Mrs. Haley taught us “government,” the constitution and where it came from, social responsibility, debate, and so many other lessons that have served me well over a lifetime.
In 1960 while I was in Mrs. Haley’s Civics class, the Israeli Mossad brought what we would call “a high priority target” by the name of Adolph Eichmann to trial in Israel for genocide and crimes against humanity and the world news was all abuzz with the story.
Mrs. Haley, as she was prone to do, used the then current event as a learning opportunity. I was tasked to work with an exceptionally bright and gifted classmate by the name of David C. to report to the class on the Auschwitz death camp. That summer I learned more about the depths of man’s inhumanity to man than a young mind should ever have to. My partner in that effort actually built a scale model of the “processing plant” attached to the back side of the gas chambers with every work position carefully labeled. I still see that model in my mind from time to time.
That experience did, in fact, teach me many things, but it also left an unanswered question burning in my mind: How could prisoners willingly work in that “processing plant” day after day? About a decade or so after that report was presented to my class, I had the extremely rare pleasure of having met one of those people who worked at Auschwitz. And the respect and admiration I felt for that lovely lady that day has lasted throughout my life; the absolute definition of courage and determination. The only thing that has come even close to that dark page in history would be the “hospitality” shown our P.OW.s in the “Hanoi Hilton”; profiles in courage all.