Saturday, April 16, 2011

On the Spectacle of Scandal

On April 11, 1945, fifty-five years ago this week, the Allied forces liberated Buchenwald, one of the Nazi prison camps of WWII.

Buchenwald had imprisoned almost 240,000 people during the eight years of its existence from 1937-45. It is estimated that more than 55,000 were killed there.

At its liberation in 1945, the Allied army marched almost 2,000 residents of the nearby German town of Weimar five miles up a steep hill so that they could see firsthand the atrocities of Buchenwald. These were crimes against humanity that had been committed right under the noses, to which they had pleaded ignorance.

Video footage, such as seen here or on World War II: The Lost Color Archives reveal the revolting sight that awaited both the Allied liberators and the German neighbors.

Even today, seeing this video footage or the photographs found at sites like the Holocaust Research Project is troubling to all but the most calloused. In fact, “troubling” is an understatement. It is hard to find a word that adequately captures a truly human response.

This parade of German citizens through Buchenwald could have been considered prurient, unnecessary, and something that people did not need to see. It was truly unfit for human consumption. It is staggering to the human mind to consider what depths of depravity had to exist for this type of environment to exist.

But it would awaken the people to what had happened while they stood by. It would open the eyes of the people who supported the Nazi regime, whether knowingly or because of deception, to see the type of abuse, mistreatment, and murder that had gone on right under their nose.

Only by seeing this abuse could they be shown the depths of depravity.

Only be seeing this abuse could future generations be reminded the cost of totalitarianism.

Today, there are those who say that scandals should not be exposed. It hurts the cause. It exposes well-meaning people. It unfairly labels people who did nothing wrong.It lumps too many people together. It does not resolve anything. It does not repair the damage.

And all of that is true.

And all of that is mostly irrelevant.

Public exposure of the atrocities of Buchenwald, Dachau, Auschwitz and Birkenau, Mauthausen, Treblinka, or any other prison camp would not bring back one single life. It would not reunite one single family. It would not undo one day of torture or abuse. It would not provide one meal for the malnourished prisoners. It would not remove the stench of disease and death.

But it would bring a lifetime of reminders, an image stamped so deeply on the human mind that the world should resolve never to let it happen again.

The uncovering of atrocity is an astounding spectacle.

But the scandal is worse.

May a generation arise that refuses to tolerate scandal and its cover-up, that treats victims with grace and mercy, that remembers the atrocities of past generations so that future generations can be spared.


silly test blog said...

Good thoughts, Larry. That's a helpful analogy.

Wendy said...

Um, that was me, Wendy. I made the mistake of once creating an account for a test blog, and now I live with the consequences.

Mark Ward said...

Well said, Larry. It would do us all well to not 'cover up' mistakes we've made in our churches or in our personal lives. Cover-ups should be exposed and the truth should be revealed. It's only when truth is revealed that lives can be set free.

I've never covered up anything in my ministry (both here or in North Carolina). When sin was revealed, we stood with the victim and their families; when confession was said, we made sure those who committed the crime(s) were prosecuted. Cover-ups, scandals, hiding and sending people away who have been victimized only shows the ignorance of our hearts. May God help us all.

Michelle said...

As Christians, we will do Christ and ourselves a greater service by revealing and taking care of problems scripturally then to try to hide or ignore them and then let the world reveal and condemn.


Micah said...

I've watched a lot of documentaries about the "labor" camps and the issues that the Jews faced after their liberation--a crisis of faith.

The part that makes me the most nauseated and embarrassed to be a member of the human race is the fact that the US could have emigrated a lot of the Jews before their countries fell and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But "staying neutral" was more important to our government, so the US sat by and did nothing. We're just as guilty as the people living near the camps, or even moreso because we weren't threatened with rape, torture and death for helping. Our motives were financial and political.

Hiding scandals hurts the victims even more because it's like having an abscess that never heals. They get slowly poisoned by having to keep their issues hidden.

Even today in America, we like to keep our heads in the sand like ostriches and not confront the atrocities committed in Africa--Rwanda and Darfur, and the Middle East under Sharia law. Nothing will change until we take responsibility for our own apathy and become more concerned about the people around us than our own menial lives and our pocketbooks.

PS--you should really get a Netflix subscription because the internet streaming has literally hundreds of documentaries on WWII that you would love. I can search my history and email you the titles of the ones I liked the best.