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Featured Column
Week of 2.7.2005
Special treatment - The Shoah!
          She’s a single mother, in her 40’s. She has a twenty year old son. She lives six houses from me. During the last five years I’ve waved at her a dozen times or so as she drove by as I was washing my car. We’ve spoken to each other two or three times as she walked her dog past my house. We talked about the weather, crowded freeways and the war in Iraq. I didn’t even know her last name.
           That’s why it was so surprising when she knocked on my door last Saturday. I opened the door and invited her in. She said, “Thanks, can I ask you for a favor?”
           My answer was a fumbling, “Sure, sure, I think so, what is it?”
           “I’m a little embarrassed,” she said, “My son, Clint, is going to college and he has to write a paper on the Holocaust, do you know much about it?”
           “Well, I’ve read a lot on it and I’ve seen a few of the programs that PBS has shown over the years. Actually, the Holocaust has always fascinated me.”
            My neighbor, Alice, then became more specific, “Do you think you could teach him about the Holocaust, so he could write his paper, you know, and get a better grade.”
           “Yeah, sure, I’ll do what I can, have him come by this afternoon.”
           Two hours later, Clint was sitting on my couch, saying, “I know a little about the Holocaust, but I don’t know why or how it happened. Seems like something somebody made up, it was so terrible.”
           I took a deep breath and began.
           “Clint, I’ll start and if you have questions, just stop me, okay?” Clint agreed, so I continued.
            “It all started right after World War I. Germany was in bad shape. They had started a war and lost it. Their economy was failing rapidly. It cost hundreds of thousands of Reichmarks to buy a single egg. Millions to purchase a quart of milk. The war ended in 1918, but as late as 1930 the German people were still drowning in their hopeless inflation. Poverty was rampant. The German people had no expectation of any improvement in their lives.
          “In 1932 a guy named Adolph Hitler came along. He was what you would probably call a “dork” today. An odd looking guy who had failed at everything in his life, but he could talk, and talk he did. He formed a political party – The Socialist German Workers Party. He promised the German people that he would lead them out of their ugly situation. He gave his followers hope where there was no hope.
           “Hitler, for some reason, grew to hate the Jewish people. He hated them with a passion. In 1933 he began a campaign to burn all books authored by Jews. In 1934 he passed laws forbidding Jews from voting or holding public office. Jews could not marry non-Jews. In 1939 Hitler started invading other European countries – Czechoslovakia fell, then Poland. At the same time Hitler started a campaign to eliminate all Jews from Europe. His goal was the “extermination of the Jewish race in Europe.”
          Clint interrupted, “Wait a minute, what did all the Americans think about this Hitler guy? Didn’t they talk to him or threaten him?”
          “Clint, it’s the damndest thing. Hitler started killing Jews and invading most of the countries in Europe and until December 7, 1941 America just stood by and did nothing. Then we were forced into World War II. By then, Hitler had already killed hundreds of thousands of Jews. He was building concentration camps in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany for the purpose of eliminating Jews. Hitler had facilities built in Europe that could kill Jews by the tens of thousands in a single day.
          “Beginning in 1942 Auschwitz, in Poland, became the center of the mass destruction of European Jews. Hitler and his Gestapo had marked all European Jews for total extermination – regardless of age, sex, occupation, citizenship or political views.
          “Auschwitz became Hitler’s major extermination center. It is estimated that over 1,100,000 Jews from all over Europe were exterminated at Auschwitz along with 140,000 Poles, 20,000 Gypsies, 10,000 Russian prisoners of war and 10,000 prisoners of other nationalities. The majority of all of these people died in specially built gas chambers immediately after their arrival at Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, the extermination camp had four gas chambers in which over 8,000 Jews were gassed each day. They were killed and their bodies either buried in mass graves or burned in giant incinerators.
          By this time, Clint was sitting on the edge of the couch, with his head slightly shaking back and forth. He blurted, “Are you telling me that because Hitler hated these Jews, Poles and Gypsies he had them killed by the millions and his own people let all of this happen?”
          “I’m sure that some Germans weren’t aware of what was going on, but most of them had to have an idea of the killings and the murders and so, “The Final Solution” continued.
          “By the end of the war it is estimated that from 5 million to 7 million Jews were murdered by Hitler and his henchmen. The Nazis, under Hitler also murdered thousands of Communists, Socialists, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and persons accused of “socially deviant” behavior.”
          Clint stood up and hands on hips said, “I knew there was Hitler and I knew he hated Jews, but I never realized how far he went. It’s terrible. How could he have killed so many? It’s the worst story I’ve ever heard. It’s unbelievable.”
          “There’s a word in Hebrew that Jews use, it’s “The Shoah, it means “The Holocaust.” It really happened. There are some Jews who survived the Holocaust. They have dedicated their lives to the proposition of “Never again.” We should all join them in saying, “Never again.”
           Clint thanked me and walked down our street to go home and write his paper. I watched him walk away – his head was still shaking back and forth.
A kid asks about the Holocaust
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
     
Ron Cruger