A Healthy Dose of History

For eight years, in a prestigious, private, grade school, I had history and especially the history of the Jewish people etched into my memory, and burned into me, like it was my own.

I learned these lessons of the evils and oppression that pervaded the White Man’s past, so well that I thought they were common knowledge. I was left with the sense that the whole of Mankind felt the same kind of regret and responsibility for our crimes against Jews and the rest of Humanity, including the Black People we had enslaved, and the Native Americans that we had massacred to make room for our cotton crops to be picked by the Black People that we had stolen from another land and enslaved to do our bidding and make us rich.

The catch is, that: IT WAS!!

I can provide skeptics with a hauntingly tearful voice from the grave.

The cassette tape recording recounts the life story of a woman who lived through the raids (called pogroms) that came before the Holocaust. It recounts the memories of her parents and siblings murdered in gas chambers of concentration camps and then dumped in unmarked mass graves, with those that had already made that march to “the showers” or dead from starvation and disease that spreads in cramped quarters. She survived, only because her husband sent for her, in time, from overseas.

I thought that the pogroms that took my grandmother’s family from her could never happen again.

And now we have the ICE raids………….even in “sanctuary states”.

And we have not only Holocaust “deniers” but those who (seemingly) were never taught about that part of world history, or maybe they slept through that class or played hooky that day. Maybe they smoked so much dope, in school that they were in a fog, and simply couldn’t assimilate the information.


Or maybe society is to blame.

Are we a society that bans books when the facts within them make us uncomfortable? Some schools have banned Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, because they portrayed life’s gritty horror of bigotry, as it was, in the era in which those books are set.

The trouble is, that nothing has really changed. If they would deny the bigotry and slavery of the past, then they should really be walking through their daily lives wearing blindfolds, TODAY.

Bigotry lives on. Hate crime is on the rise. Slavery hasn’t disintegrated. It hasn’t even changed form, much.

Some people realize that protecting our pride by hiding our shameful past from our children, and banning books is a luxury that requires being ALIVE. Some of those people, choose, to stand up and do something, that leaves a mark on the world around them, that will be remembered by many. Sir Winton is one such man:


If you click on that video, you’ll see a man who took the time to save hundreds of lives, so that they would have a chance to know something akin to luxury and privilege. They are still alive to testify to the fact that they escaped sharing the terrible fate of many of their friends and family members, only because this man eschewed the life of luxury that he COULD have had, if he had left them to die in the gas chambers, with their friends and families.

Men like Sir Winton and my own grandfather, were too busy BEING AWESOME, to have time to waste, trying to hide or deny any history that might have disgraced their fellow Man.

My grandfather set up and headed a M.A.S.H unit in one of the cleared out concentration camps, at the end of WWII. The right thinking Germans were so glad that he was there, that they GAVE him lots of Steuben to take home with him, but if you don’t know about the Holocaust, then you probably don’t know the cost of Steuben, either. I’ll do you the favor of letting you learn about Steuben for yourself.

Sometimes it pays to do the right thing. Sometimes you get nothing but the certainty that you’ve done the right thing. Right now, the right thing to do, is to simply remember, and to remember to not forget. And since we won’t live forever, we need to teach our children to remember, too.

Germany has considered the alternatives. We should too.

Germany has made reparations to the Jews, FOR 60 YEARS, (For crimes that didn’t happen?!) after the Holocaust. (https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/world/europe/for-60th-year-germany-honors-duty-to-pay-holocaust-victims.html)

Maybe we should make reparations to our Indigenous Peoples and our People of Color, too. Maybe then we’d remember.

4/19- End note: Since the writing of this article, I’ve been corrected by my mother, who’s father headed the M.A.S.H unit. Here is her correction:

The crystal wine glasses your grandfather sent home during World War II were made in Belgium at the Val St. Lambert factory. Your grandfather “bought” the Val St. Lambert wine glasses from the Belgium factory when he used that factory to set up the Army’s Medical Laboratory. The invoice showing he “bought” and did not “confiscate “ the wine glasses, is in the photo album up at Tahoe. He would not have wanted his children and grandchildren to think he took the crystal wine glasses without paying for them.



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Sue Hirsch

Sue Hirsch

Activist, Author, Secular Humanist, National of California, Wife, Mom, Daughter