Hy Penn – 3/14/11

Faces.  Young faces – pure and innocent with no worries and no prejudices.  Old faces.  Faces with wrinkles so deep I wonder what is hidden deep in these crevices.  Could there be a hidden past buried inside?

Old men walking down the street in Munich… did that one round up my mother and her family and place them on a train to Treblinka or did that one tattoo a number on my mother and grandparents arm at Auschwitz…

Our young guide at Nuremburg made it clear that he could not be held responsible for what happened in his country not so long ago.  But he felt he was responsible for not letting these events happen again.

Faces.  These old faces passing by with their hidden past.  Hopefully there is remorse.  Hopefully they have taught the young faces – their children and grandchildren – not to hate… not to repeat the past.


About Holocaust Museum Houston

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, we teach the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.
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7 Responses to Thoughts

  1. Slocklear says:

    Berlin is a fascinating city. Both historic and modern cosmopolitan. We’ve been here three days and we are leaving early tomorrow morning for the Netherlands. A Holocaust survivor living in Houston, Chaja, who is from Holland and was in two camps as a toddler is meeting us there to show us her story.

    In Berlin we’ve visited the The Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a unique display of many stele of various sizes and heights.

    We toured the museum Topography of Terror with a young Jewish man who explained the exhibit of both WWII Nazi and Cold War Soviet persecutions of people living in Berlin.

    I walked through the Brandenburg Tor (gate) and saw where the Berlin Wall divided the city and visited Checkpoint Charlie at the American Sector.  Comparing the Berlin of the 1930s-1940s, the Cold War era until the wall came down 1989, and the city of today is quite compelling.

    Yesterday we toured Sachsenhausen camp. So cold, too many atrocities occured there, especially murders of Russians. The inhumanity described there is hard to imagine.  Then we drove to Ravensbruck, a women’s camp, where women were subjected to medical experiments and brutal conditions. We saw the crematoriums at both camps, where the Germans tried to destroy the evidence and used the ashes of these poor prisoners to fertilize their gardens. Both camps were used by the Soviets after 1945 where many more deaths occured.

    Last night we attended a Shabbat service at one of the few remaining synagogues from the Nazi era. It was tucked inside a courtyard surrounded by apartment buildings so the Nazis did not destroy it. Then we ate dinner across the street at the Kip’s Big Boy American Diner.

    This morning we toured the original and the new Jewish Museum of Berlin, a very controversial exhibit and structure, geometric design intended to disorient you as you walk the linear corridors symbolic of the life and alienation  of Jews in Berlin.

    This afternoon we had free time so my roommate and I strolled the area, our first day of sunshine in a while, and we shopped a bit and stopped at a cafe for cake and coffee. Nice and relaxing, a positive ending in Germany after so much sadness.

    I’ve learned so much – heard so much – seen so much. Sometimes overwhelming. Much more appreciative of my family, my friends old and new, my life.

    Love to you all. Susan

  2. Slocklear says:

    Day 5: still cold and drizzly but we were inside most of the day. My thoughts today remain with the youth. We started today with a city tour of Berlin, both east and west. The wall separated families and put a division between more than just the city of Berlin. Visiting the Topography of Terror with our guide Tobias gave me hope for the future of Germany. Tobias has chosen, at a young age, to dedicate his life to educating others about the dark events of the Third Reich in Germany. The team at the House of the Wannsee Conference museum teach visitors from all parts of the world and especially try to influence the attitudes of German youth. The question continues to arise, even from our Croatian driver, how could this happen? What sort of people were these perpetrators? How did bystanders, many in the
    photos of Jewish persecutions, allow the Holocaust to happen? Why did so few resist?
    I was struck by the Grunewald Station Memorial – 50, 100, 1000 Jews at a time deportd from Berlin on trains; no choice, not knowing where, unaware of their fates, and many were children, so innocent.

    The starkness of the Holocaust Memorial. Dark, cold, without life. I took lots of photos. After boarding the bus I was looking at a booklet of the memorial and saw a photo of a green tree in the midst of the blocks. LIFE! I didn’t see a tree! I got out and ran down the rows in the dark, in the rain…I had to find the tree. Finally at the edge of the site I came upon life, green leaves, hope. Made me smile.

    The school memorial with the scrawled names and dates on the yellow brick wall. The blue bear in the courtyard with the inscription: “we are the children. We are the future.” Children know. Let’s hope they never forget. Yes, Hy, the Golden Rule, no matter what religion, there is a version to guide us. Love one another.

  3. Mary Lee Webeck – 3/16/11

    Day Four: Moving toward new insights. . .

    On the fourth day of our trip we explored the continuum of possibility in human culture, decision making and behavior. We spent a frigid morning with Alexander Letetzki, the engaging and wonderful guide who led our group on a walking tour of Weimar, Germany, considered by many to be an epitome of German culture and creativity. Literature, art music, government; all of these facets of human possibility emerged and were celebrated in Weimar. I thought of how the Nazi era shattered and twisted the use of art, culture, government.

    Another dimension of human possibility entered my consciousness in a new way later in the day. Buchenwald. It always makes me almost physically sick to share Buchenwald with others seeing it for the first time. It is not good or fair to introduce caring human beings to this space and history. And yet, I must. Today, there was the most eerie, dense and thick blanket of enveloping fog. Normally, at the Buchenwald Memorial site, I feel amazed by the pastoral vistas as the natural beauty juxtaposes with what happened there. Today it was different. Lonely, shatteringly cold. The air was thick and moist. I was chilled to my soul. The air was enveloping. Not being able to see what I knew was there added a dimension of uncertainty to my steps. I took picture after picture, of the trees, of the building slowly emerging from the fog as we approached. Until we were very close, they were unseeable, surrounded by the fog. As I shot those images, I was lonely in a way I have never known, though I was surrounded by friends, new and old. Each time I enter a Holocaust site, and stand amidst its historical and psychic space, I am changed. I must think in new ways, as an educator and as a person. I am not who I was earlier. I am new. I am old. I care deeply for those with whom I shared this experience today, and I thank each of you for entering into these explorations.

    In the memorial space of the Small Camp, we all joined together to remember, with candles we lit, with flowers, with a heart shaped rock and reciting Kaddish. Jerry Rochman shared the story of Siegi Izakson and Martin Warren, both survivors of Buchenwald. Today, as the chill entered me physically and emotionally, I had some small and slight sense of what it may have been like to be exposed in a thin, striped uniform. There are so many ways to understand.

    • Hy Penn – 3/16/11

      One question I ask my young pediatric patients is “Why should you be nice to people?” Although I get a variety of answers, I use this question as a “teaching moment” to remind them of the “golden rule” – if you are nice to people – people will be nice to you.

      As we walked through Buchenwald near the German city of Weimar and learned of the inhumanity that a person is capable of doing, it became obvious that the Nazis ignored the golden rule that they, too, had learned as children.

      The fog was so thick today – buildings and monuments popping out of nowhere as we approached them – the past was popping out, too, making us remember.

      The air was cold and damp as we walked the grounds wearing layers of clothing, unable to imagine taking the same steps in only a striped uniform and with an empty stomach.

      What an evil time this was not so many years ago. If we could just learn to treat everyone with dignity and respect. If we would all remember that “golden rule.”

  4. Cynthia says:

    Hy — your reflections are beautifully worded. Thanks for sharing with us!

  5. Slocklear says:

    Susan Locklear

    Hy, thank you for your insight. I, too, noticed the faces and wonder how all of this knowledge of the past affects them. It is a heavy burden to bear no matter how one is involved. It is a burden also for the young ones…lots of past to overcome and a future world to influence. We can make them aware, we can teach and model. But ultimately it’s in their hands. I pray they make wise and charitable choices. Susan L

  6. Pepi J Nichols says:

    Hy, Germany was hard . . . much harder than going to Poland.
    Have a good trip, and thank you for your thoughts. If you go near Landsberg, please take a picture of my birth city.

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