I have found myself in situations that have caused me to pause in fear, only to then switch that fear to a refusal to tolerate, or allow, this situation to serve its intended purpose.
Recently, as I scouted out a camp site, someplace in Utah, I came across a group of people who had built a huge camp fire. I was happy to see such a gathering in a remote location. From a distance, they looked like soldiers. As a veteran, I took comfort in knowing that I would be in the company of other veterans. I parked my vehicle a few yards away, and walked closer to the crowd. To my horror and disbelief, I could now see that the uniforms were Nazi, with a red swastika on the sleeves. Although I was afraid of what this gathering was potentially about, I refused to flee. I set up my camp, and went about the normal business of things as if they weren’t even there. I felt them staring, but I made the decision to represent the country I have served, in uniform, for 20 years. I believe my decision to stay changed the purpose of the gathering: they left the area.
As we remember the suffering endured during the holocaust, we should also remember to take a stand against hate and discrimination, because no action is far scarier than our own fears.
--- Bonnie Chanet
The following comes from the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (www.deomi.org) and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (www.ushmm.org).
Among the first victims of persecution in Nazi Germany were political opponents—primarily Communists, Social Democrats, and trade unionists. Jehovah's Witnesses, who refused to serve in the German army or take an oath of obedience to Adolf Hitler, were also targeted. The Nazis harassed German male homosexuals, and incarcerated them in prisons; many were later remanded to concentration camps following the completion of their sentences.
Nazi racial ideology primarily vilified Jews, but also propagated hatred for Roma (Gypsies) and blacks. The Nazis viewed Jews as racial enemies and subjected them to arbitrary arrest, internment, and murder. Roma were also singled out on racial grounds for persecution. The Nazis viewed Poles and other Slavs as inferior, and slated them for subjugation, forced labor, and sometimes death. Jewish prisoners received the most brutal treatment in Nazi concentration camps.
From 1938, Jews in the camps were identified by a yellow star sewn onto their prison uniforms, a perversion of the Jewish Star of David. After 1939, and with some variation from camp to camp, the categories of prisoners were easily identified by a marking system combining a colored, inverted triangle with lettering, like the ones identified in the poster above. The badges sewn onto prisoner uniforms enabled SS guards to identify the alleged grounds for incarceration.
Criminals were marked with green, inverted triangles; political prisoners with red; “asocials” (including Roma, nonconformists, vagrants, and other groups) with black or—in the case of Roma in some camps—brown triangles. Homosexuals were identified with pink triangles and Jehovah's Witnesses with purple ones. Non-German prisoners were identified by the first letter of the German name for their home country, which was sewn onto their badge. The two triangles, forming the Jewish star badge, would both be yellow unless the Jewish prisoner was included in one of the other prisoner categories. A Jewish political prisoner, for example, would be identified with a yellow triangle beneath a red triangle.
Oskar Schindler was an ethnic German who joined the Nazi party in 1939. He moved to Poland after the German invasion, and became wealthy through his army contacts and cheap labor from the Jewish ghetto. After witnessing the atrocities committed against Jews in the ghetto, he started housing his workers and other Jews, in barracks at his factory. He created a fake munitions factory, and placed the Jews on “Schindler’s List” to protect them from the Nazis.
In 2015, Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds was recognized, posthumously, by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations. Seventy years earlier, Edmonds selflessly protected Jewish prisoners of war, under his command, when he stood up to the German commander in charge of the camp. When the commander demanded that the Jewish prisoners step forward to be separated and prepared for transport out of the camp, Edmonds replied, “We are all Jews.” After being threatened with a gun to his head, the U.S. soldier answered, “If you shoot, you’ll have to shoot us all.”
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. (Niemoller)