Thursday, January 27, 2005

Claude J. Letulle

Seven years ago, I had the privilege of going to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. My wife and I were taken by a friend of who warned that we might not feel like doing anything but reflecting afterwards. She was right.

There are the very obvious reasons for the museum's existence but it is also a unique piece of architecture with incredible emotional impact. It somehow manages to evoke the oppressiveness and disorientation of the concentration camps, but to me, it occasionally felt uplifting. I can't really explain it, but it was, in many ways, an almost spiritual experience. Today is the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz, and seems an appropriate time to link to the museum's website.

It is also an appropriate time to remember our common humanity. While there are fewer totalitarian states today that at any other time in our history, we are still very far from a peaceful democratic planet. Today is a good day to think of those dissenters who languish in jail in N. Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, most of the Arab countries, Burma/Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia, China, Cuba etc. The list is still long. Particularly, we should remember those in the Darfur region of Sudan. This is yet another genocide. It should also give pause to all of us in the U.S., regardless of our political persuasion that Amnesty International needs to highlight U.S. human rights abuses during the war on terror on it's website. There is of course no comparison between the U.S. and any of the above countries, but we cannot barter our freedoms for security. Benjamin Franklin's quote may be a little over used these days, but it was never truer:

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

When you enter the Holocaust Museum, they give you a booklet with three pages. The booklet contains the history of a Nazi victim. On each floor you can check what happened to them during the war, and if they were still alive at any given stage. I was delighted that the man in the my booklet, and the woman in our friend Virginia's booklet, both survived. Sadly, the women whose history my wife was following, perished. The man in my booklet was French resistance fighter, Claude J. Letulle. I googled Msr. Letulle, and it seems he moved to Louisiana, and in 1987 he wrote a book called Nightmare Memoir: Four Years As a Prisoner of the Nazis. It could be a coincidence - there could have been more than one Claude Letulle in the camps - but it is probably unlikely that both would have survived. I know what my next read is going to be. This posting is dedicated to Msr. Letulle; I sincerely hope he is still alive. His survivial and the survival of others like him, while the Nazi's Thousand Year Reich exists only in history books, is the ultimate victory.

Fourteen years ago, while working in Munich I visited Dachau. There, in English, French, Russian, German and Hebrew, are the words:

"Never Again"

Unfortunately, this is not yet true as proved in Stalin's USSR, Milosivic's Serbia, Rwanda, East Timor, the Kurds in Iraq and today in Darfur. We can take some hope in the fact the many of regimes that committed these attrocities are all history and some of the chief perpetrators are under lock and key. However, the dreadful fact is that other genocides are still likely.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


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