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In Germany, remembering the Holocaust is warning about the future

by Ace Damon
In Germany, remembering the Holocaust is warning about the future

The proximity of the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp on January 27, makes the Germans reflect on the memory of the Holocaust again, which many also see as a warning for the future amid the resurgence of the ultra-right.

"Thinking about Auschwitz is not just looking at history. It is also looking at our own situation," says Christoph Heubner, of the Auschwitz International Committee. "It's like looking in the mirror."

A visit to the concentration camp, according to Heubner, confronts anyone with the fact that both the victims and the executioners were human beings.

"This implies asking yourself to what extent each of us could have been victims or executioner in a similar situation," he says. "Survivors always repeat: it happened once, then it can happen again."

Heubner also warns that in Germany and other European countries, a certain anti-Semitism that existed in a latent form after World War II, is now expressed more openly.

That is why it is important to keep the memory alive, especially the accounts of the many survivors who tell their own story.

When they are no longer alive, the expert said, other ways of maintaining memory will need to be developed.

The voice of the survivors

"But we are still here," says Petra Michalski, a Holocaust survivor.

Together with her husband Franz Michalski, she is dedicated to talking in German schools about the experience of Jews persecuted during the Nazi regime, in addition to the difficulties they continued to have shortly after liberation, in the early years of the Federal Republic of Germany.

In fact, Petra is the one who speaks most of the time, since Franz has trouble telling his story.

"In the end, I always tell young people that they have to be our witnesses. If there is only one in each room who keeps telling the story, our work will have made sense."

The survivors

After the end of the war, many survivors made the decision to live anywhere in the world, except in Germany.

"However, there was a minority that just decided to return to the villages where they lived and grew up, they did not want to allow history to take their homeland away," said Heubner.

The Michalski, after the war, went to Berlin, where their father found a job.

"His parents decided to send Franz to the Jesuit school, and that was very bad for him. Every time there was something to do with Jewish stereotypes, they said in an ironic tone that it was for him," he explained.

Hard way

The pressure was so great that Franz Michalski even tried to commit suicide with a cocktail of drugs. Therefore, for many years, he did not speak about his experience as a persecuted Jew. He went to live in southern Germany, started working as a grain seller and got married.

He never addressed the subject of Nazism, nor did he inherit as a son of a Jew, not even with close friends. One of them went so far as to say, at the Michalski home in 1979, that he always avoided being under the same roof as a Jew.

"A year later he died of a heart attack, he always said he deserved it, but Franz asks me not to say it. Twelve years later we met his widow in Berlin, when we were doing our work in high schools, and Franz told her his whole story" said Petrai.

Franz had decided to speak of his experience during a conference where another survivor said that for those who had escaped the Holocaust, life had not been very easy after the war.

"Who said that?" Asked Michalski

That day, he was approached by a historian, who asked if he was willing to tell his story. "I have it all written down," he said, and handed over his notes.

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