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It's time to stop picking at the holocaust scab.

By       Message John Haigh     Permalink
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I grew up in a region where there were few or no jews. If there was a jewish person in my home town, I didn't know about it and I never heard any mention of any jews in the region.

Our feelings towards jews was that they had unfairly suffered a terrible tragedy of epic proportions; and if we ever met one, our first impulse would be to befriend and support him/her. At the age of 13 or so I read "The Diary of Anne Frank" and was filled with compassion for her and her plight.

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It never occurred to me to question the accuracy 6 million as being the number who died. I had a few minor thoughts about why the number hadn't been refined over time. Were they saying the range 5.51 to 6.5 million? I kept a vague, but untroubled, watch for an extra decimal place to appear from 1962 until 1992 when a German guy I was talking to said that he had been taught it was 2 million in school in Germany. Sure!!! But then he said that was also the figure in The Holocaust Museum in Israel for many years. Huh?

In the 1970s I moved to larger cities and met people who told me they were jewish. The first few times they talked about the holocaust I was eager to get the inside story. I was glad that they, more accurately their parents, had escaped. But I never learned anything new beyond the name of some obscure relative who was lost.

I was surprised that if ever a new person joined our circle the whole story would come out again.

One time I naievely asked, "Why don't you just get over it? The Gypsies went through the same thing and they don't keep bringing it up."

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The answer was very interesting.

"It was different for the Gypsies. They were just trash that the Nazis wanted to get rid of; but they hated us."

Me, "Trash?"

The jewish lady, "Yeah, rubbish. They weren't any good for anything, they had diseases, they committed crimes. The Nazis just wanted them out of the way. But we were cultured and the Nazis hated us just because we were Jews."

I decided to let the subject drop right there. But the conversation has stayed with me till this day. She was academically bright, and I thought this must have been some equivalent of asking a Mormon how Joseph Smith got the whole book down on two gold tablets. But I was surprised at her Nazi attitude towards the Gypsies.

Another clanger of mine at a dinner party where two thirds of the guests were jewish. " Have you ever thought about how the jews could have played it differently so that you didn't get persecuted over and over again, in country after country, down through the centuries?"

Immediate angry replies, "We never did anything wrong."

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Me, "I didn't say you did. But the results were appalling. Didn't you guys ever think some strategy change could give you less disastrous outcomes?"

"The persecutors were always evil. We were always innocent and good."

These were highly intelligent people who regularly held witty and insightful conversations on a broad range of subjects. I dropped it right there and drifted away from that group.

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John is an educator who asks "Is that true?" and "Why?" far too often.

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It's time to stop picking at the holocaust scab.