On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we remember the six million Jewish victims and millions of other victims of the Holocaust in order to help prevent future genocides. The big question of the holocaust is why: why do people kill, why so many people were able to do this in the heart of such a civilization? These questions push us out of our comfort zones to not just label these people as monsters, but as human beings murdering other human beings.
The reality of what humans are capable of doing is terrifying. These were people who worked day and night, night and day killing innocent people. Why do people bestow such monstrous acts upon innocent people? Auschwitz-Birkenau reveals the presence of absence. The answer to the why cannot be answered simply. When you step foot onto the grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau, you instantly feel the presence of absence. Though empty, you feel the unimaginable presence of those who walked, worked, and died.
“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” -Elie Wiesel
At my family’s Thanksgiving dinner just a week after my mother’s funeral, we set up the dining room in preparation for a family meal. We gathered around the table, left her sit empty. and felt the heart wrenching absence of her presence. No conversation could cut through the realization that she was no longer physically with us, but certainly could feel her warmth, see her smile, and hear her loving words. In a place like Auschwitz-Birkenau, you are utterly aware of what deliberately transpired even thought the place is desolate and empty. We remember in order not to forget.