Last Friday, I visited the Holocaust Centre near Laxton with Reindeer Writers, my local ACW writing group. As I walked from the car park to the centre, I entered beautiful rose gardens, in the middle of which was a hexagonal monument with the names of the extermination camps from World War II engraved on each side.
The gardens were very peaceful with the trickling sound of a water feature and the gentle scent of a multitude of white roses, each with a plaque commemorating the name of an individual or family who perished in the holocaust.
Our visit began with a couple of short videos outlining the cold-blooded organisation and brutal terror of the Nazi extermination and concentration camps, and how the Laxton Holocaust Centre was founded. We were then free to wander around the museum.
The centre aims to show how wrong genocide is, whether it be in Nazi Europe in WWII, Rwanda in 1994, or Darfur in this century. At the beginning of the exhibition, I was interested to see a gallery of famous Jews. I had never before realised that Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Artur Rubinstein, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein were Jewish. It is frightening how prejudice can completely blind people to a person’s worth. Einstein’s written works in physics were burned by the Nazis simply because he was Jewish and, therefore, considered a threat to the Nazi regime. This is utter madness. Yet it happened… and made perfect sense to educated, reasoning people at the time.
The Nazis’ attitude towards children was interesting. I saw a photo of a maternity hospital with an SS banner proudly displayed over the cots. It was part of the Lebensborn (Spring of Life) Programme. In this programme, young women with appropriate racial characteristics were selected to conceive children by SS officers in Hitler’s relentless request for a master race. (Hmm, designer babies. Does that ring any bells today?) Not only that, but Aryan-looking children were kidnapped from occupied countries including Poland and Norway. These little ones were then indoctrinated and raised as young Nazis. Aryan-looking children were desired, so they were favoured by the Nazi regime.
But what about Jewish children? Or children from non-Aryan backgrounds? Their lives were of no consequence to the Nazis. If small starving children forced to live in the ghettoes were caught stealing food, they were shot.
As I pondered on my visit, I could not help but be saddened by the fact that seventy years on, we still have not learnt to value the lives of those who are perceived as being a little bit different to us. Tragically, a form of ‘selection’ still goes on. If someone is smaller and more dependent than us, we feel it gives us the right to choose whether or not that person has worth and should be allowed to live. Currently 180,000 abortions are carried out every year in England and Wales. If it was wrong to exterminate human people in the Holocaust (and it was), surely it is also wrong to abort human people in the womb?