Never Again…until…well…now

July 22, 2019

For European Jews, all roads led to Auschwitz

The Nazis at Auschwitz used the word Stücke or pieces to describe and completely dehumanize their captives. They didn’t start out calling them that. Back in the 1930s in a Nazi propaganda film, immigrants in general were referred to as “parasites…bringing with them crime, corruption and chaos.”

Auschwitz train car, They traveled for up to three days, no food or water, upwards of 70 persons per car…

Also, Auschwitz itself did not start out as a death camp. In the spring of 1940, the Nazi conquerors of Poland needed some place to house their Polish POWs. It chose an abandoned army barracks in the town of Osiewicz, near the Polish/Czech border. Only after iterations as a work camp for Polish political prisoners, then captured Russian soldiers and finally, when penning Europe’s Jews in ghettos proved increasingly costly to maintain, did the Nazis hit upon the idea of “repurposing” Auschwitz for mass extermination. It took a full two years before Auschwitz went from POW camp to death camp. And even then, there was a period when the camp population still waged a daily “battle of starvation, disease and appalling physical abuse,” according to a BBC documentary on the camp.

Auschwitz, …they arrived here. Their final destination

As slippery slopes go, that was still a precipitous spiral downward to a level of factory-efficient murder. It was the relentless Nazi propaganda reducing European Jews to the the level of “vermin” and “bacterium” that stoked the fear and loathing of otherwise level-headed Germans into a frenzied mob believing they were protecting the German volk from what they had been told was an “infestation.” By the time the madness unfolded, the Nazis were simply undertaking a Europe-wide fumigation program. Indeed Zyklon-B, or prussic acid, was originally manufactured as a fumigation treatment for the clothing Jews were arriving at Auschwitz wearing.

Auschwitz death chamber; “this is not a sanatorium, the only exit is by way of the Chimney.” –Primo Levi Survival in Auschwitz

The rest of the Auschwitz story reads more or less like the travails of any new business enterprise outgrowing its capacity and scrambling for new technologies and methods for increasing productivity, while reducing costs. But at Auschwitz the product was the death of innocent men, women and children, and the cost reductions consisted of, as noted, increasing starvation, disease and abuse. To make such a business model work, it was first necessary to dehumanize the “product” to the level of animal, or just thing. “Stücke,” in other words.

Among the 1.3 million murdered here

For an analogy to be effective or meaningful, it need only suggest a “correspondence or partial similarity.” For an analogy to become a reality, it only requires common roots and the right kind of fester. And then all that’s left is time to let it rise of its own inherent nature. Report. Roundup. Deport. A new normal is born. I used to believe that civilizations rose and fell. That’s the way historians write it, I suppose. I’m seeing now that civilizations can also just slip away, lose their grip and then disappear.

Nazism did not rise overnight, and though it lacked a previous blueprint, the Nazis ultimately managed to draft one out of thin air. Today, the blueprint already exists in civilization’s history, some say on the nightstand of the current leader of the Free World.

In Mein Kampf Hitler wrote: “Who cares whether they laugh at us or insult us, treating us as fools or criminals? The point is that they talk about us and constantly think about us.”

How much longer will an Auschwitz take to rise this time around? Where does it already fester?

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