In spite of the Darwinian theory “Survival of the Fittest,” I have always believed in having faith and hope in humanity. I believe that the true essence of human nature is not to compete, fight and kill, but instead, to cooperate, love and protect.
When I visited Prague, Czech Republic, my belief and views were shaken to the core. I visited Terezín which was a concentration camp and ghetto 30 miles north of Prague during World War II. I had to ask myself how is it that in our modern era such atrocities against humanity were allowed to happen?
My internal dialogue kicked in and I found myself having a full-on conversation in my own mind. I could hear the two voices argue back and forth. The more forgiving and spiritual one said, “Everything happens for a reason and this too, although horrible, had a gift, a lesson, and a purpose.”
But the other voice didn’t quite see it that way, “What lesson, what gift can you derive from such darkness when humans turned into animals? No, worse than animals because an animal turns on their fellow-creatures for food, for self-preservation when they are being threatened or attacked. But this was not the case for the innocent Jews in Europe. I wondered, “What could these people have done that was so bad to cause the Nazis to turn into beasts? What possible purpose can you derive that would justify innocent, harmless people to be robbed of their homes, their families and their humanity? How do you justify the murder of innocent men, women, and children?
So there I was, pondering with thoughts, questions and the lingering voice deep in my soul that echoed ever so strongly with each step I took. Every room I visited was worse than the previous. The stories were so disheartening that I could still feel the pain of those who once occupied the wooden bunks. Although you now see empty rooms, they did not feel empty to me at all —their suffering was still there, impregnated on the walls.
I couldn’t hold the tears, I was trying to understand human nature at the moment, perplexed I wondered,
“What compels people to think they have the right to enslave and exterminate others? Skin color? Belief system? Sexual preference? We have allowed slavery and the genocide of so many ethnic groups— why? Whatever it is that makes us different on the outside, cannot possibly justify having a person overpower another and decide who gets to live and who gets to die. Since when did we turn into Gods to think we are almighty? Since when did we turn into demons to have such little regard for human life? Why do we forget that the same blood runs through our veins? We love, hurt and bleed the same.
Each time we forget that we are one single race it leads us to allow crimes against our own kind. That is exactly what has happened in Rwanda and Bosnia and many other places. Visiting now what looks like a normal Czech village, in 1940 was a place of darkness, a ghetto, a place where human life did not matter, reduced to a number carved in their skin like cattle.
Terezínwas originally built in the 18th century as a holiday resort reserved for Czech nobility. In 1940 Nazi Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. Hitler gave the job of killing the Jews to his ruthless henchman Reinhard Heydrich.
Heydrich assigned the Gestapo to turn the village of Terezín into a Jewish ghetto and concentration camp because it was the perfect place that could be easily disguised and its small population could be easily relocated. As a concentration camp, it suited Heydrich’s plan because it was completely walled in. It had barracks and it was surrounded by a moat, but most importantly, it already had a nearby small fortress that was already a Gestapo prison where the Germans could send anyone for punishment.
Terezín was not like any other camp. Unlike Treblinka and Auschwitz, Terezín was often referred to as “Paradise Camp” as that is how it was sold to the Jews when they were being stripped out of their homes. They were told they were being sent to a Jewish settlement where they could be safe and protected during the war. The reality was very different. What appeared as a quaint village was a place of death, starvation, abuse and subhuman living conditions of overcrowded places infected with lice and typhoid. The small fortress prison was even worse.
One hundred and fifty thousand Jewish adults and 15,000 Jewish children were imprisoned at Terezín alone. Eighty-eight thousand of them were deported to Treblinka and Auschwitz death camps and 33,000 died in the ghetto due to the appalling conditions arising out of extreme population density, malnutrition, and disease. Overall, 6 million Jews… no, wait! six million PEOPLE, six million HUMANS, were exterminated for simple hatred of one group over its fellow humans. Those were somebody’s father, mother, child, grandparent, husband, wife, and friends. Those were scholars, philosophers, scientists, artists, musicians, and inventors. A true loss for the world.
Could I have been wrong in thinking that we are intrinsically good? Because I was there, looking at what remains of a period in time when the brutal reality about human nature was simply horrifying. Seeing all we’ve done to our own kind, we don’t deserve the ‘sapiens’ designation because the word ‘sapiens’ derives from the word ‘wise’ and too many instances in our history shows there has not been anything wise in our shameful behavior.
Why did Terezín have such an impact on me? Because it was the one place used to spread the most monstrous of lies. It was the place the Germans used to fool the world. In 1943 the ghetto was converted into a propaganda camp, orchestrated, manipulated and brilliantly executed by the Germans to appease the inquiries of the International Red Cross in response to the rumors of death camps. The Germans used Terezín to disguise their brutality with a grotesque show of betrayals.
Seeing that they could no longer ignore the increased pressure from the International Red Cross to visit Auschwitz, somehow the Nazis convinced the Red Cross to visit Terezín instead —it was the perfect plot. The Germans bought their time, they repopulated the ghetto with healthier Jews, buildings were repainted on the outside, fake coffee shops and small stores were opened (ironically the Germans used items that had belonged to the Jews to display in the fake shops) the Jews were given clean clothes and the streets were cleaned up.
The Nazis deported many Jews, especially the old and the sick to Auschwitz to minimize the appearance of overcrowding in Terezín so that the commissions of Swiss delegates would see no trace of their brutality. The Red Cross representatives were taken on a tour by German officers of a predetermined path and they were constantly watched to ensure there was no attempt to divert from the tour route. The commission was as only allowed to go inside specific rooms and areas that were beautified for the greatest show of all — the show of lies. If the representatives from the Red Cross asked Jews questions directly, they were warned to ignore, in accordance with the Germans’ instructions prior to the tour.
Sadly the commission bought the lie and it was so successful that the Germans capitalized on it by following it with a propaganda video showing just how Jewish life continued and how good Hitler was to have gifted a city to the Jews. That is exactly what the world saw —a successful hoax, that the Jews of Europe were living a relatively normal life enjoying their culture, concerts, and sports and not being mistreated as the rumors had it — a monumental charade. I was able to find bits of the Nazi propaganda video in case you would like to watch: The Gift Of The Town – Terezin/Theresienstadt
On the plane ride home, all I could think about was Terezín and the 130,000 Jews murdered at the hands of evil. No doubt those who survived most have had a will to live that was superhuman. In the words of a survivor, Elie Wiesel, “Nobody had endured this much. We were the masters of the world, we were the masters of nature, we had transcended everything: death, fatigue and our natural needs. We were stronger than cold and hunger, stronger than guns and our own desire to die.”
When I finally arrived home I saw my daughters and in that embrace, I felt whole again. It was in that instant that I understood the lesson and the gift. We, humans, have been given the power to exterminate life, but also to create life and in that, is the gift of the choice we can make. Perhaps the purpose was to remind us of our darkness so that we can learn to find, appreciate and cultivate the light within us. The gift is perhaps that we are still here to tell the world and future generations to be mindful of our duality and to hopefully have the better parts of our humanity outweigh the bad.
Suddenly I was imbued with love and gratitude to see my beautiful daughters and the good within their soul. I thanked God that the lives of some of our ancestors were spared so that we could all be here today. What happened in Terezín and other concentrations camps should serve as a constant reminder that we have a moral responsibility to our humanity to forgive our dark moments, but to never forget so we can work together as one human race to preserve the goodness in our species.
Yes, I do believe that we are intrinsically good and that our true nature is to cooperate and protect. It was that same nature that caused two opposing superpowers, the Russians and the Americans to put their differences aside and come together as allies to stop an enemy and protect something that was bigger than themselves — our freedom.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights from your visit. It reminded me of my visit to Poland with Cory on the Living Legacy tour.
Although we visited the main concentration camps, perhaps the most horrific was a visit to a burial site in a forest area. Eye witnesses living nearby recounted what they saw and heard.
Large pick-up trucks would unload dozens of women and their children. The lead them down a path deep in the forest to an open pit in the ground. They methodically took the infants and children away from their mothers, the slashed and mutilated them, then threw the body or pieces into the pit.
I cannot imagine anything more cruel and inhumane. That thought still haunts me.
WOW … But Never Forget
Thank you for sharing 🙏🏼
Thank you for this beautiful account of your life experiences. When faced with such evil the will to survive at all costs is what keeps us alive. It is so sad, that 80 years on, people are still suffering atrocities and genocides around the world, being exterminated for their faith and culture by insane people. We forgive, and we don’t forget, yet somehow we allow the cycle to repeat and do not learn from it as human beings.
he true essence of human nature is to compete, fight and kill though it is at the crossroads toward love and protect
I too have struggled with the seeming contradiction between the goodness of souls /and the vileness of peoples’ actions. I think it helps to remember that actions that hurt self and others, take place when people believe lies about themselves, and subsequently, about others.
They don’t take place because a person is a “bad seed” or has a bad soul.
Humanity needs to remember who it is, the Universal Christ. Once we recognize the divinity in our own souls we will then see it mirrored in everyone else
You are wonderful thanks for sharing. Ypu are a great mom to your 2 girls. They are so lucky
Not to many kids these days get the opportunity they do. Fantastic God Bless
Some 30 years ago i did a youth camp with both dutch and german teenagers.
One of the things on the program was a visit of a old German coummunjst who was imprisoned in a workcamp during Hitlers time (and after that he got a Berufsverbot (was not allowed to work because he was communist)
He talked about howit was to be
Living in that time and under that terrible circumstances.
After that we went to the place where the camp was. The work they had to do is making the ground fertile, it was hard work . The camp didnt exist anymore. The was a small remberance placket that was destroyed.
After the that we brought him home. And what did he say to his wive? Not htat it was so hard to be there, not that the remembrance placket was destroyed, no… that the ground was so fertile and looked so good.
He choose to see the good, what i wise lesson.
So many people consider that war and that horrors as ancient history or as a isolated incident. But it is not, we should remember and we should recognise the signs to be able to prevent as much horror as possible. And by that, good can come from the bad.
We all must never forget!
Thank you Waleuska Lazo your insight is so appreciated. Not all have ever taken time to think, reflect, or research various aspects of humanity, or the lack of it.
I hope that many will take the time to read your words and be open to the transcendent knowledge that you open the door for. With all love and gratitude, Lara
TRUTH BE TOLD, AFTER THE FALL OF MAN, EVERY HUMAN HAS FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO BE EDUCATED ON THE DUAL NATURE IN MAN. THEN IT BECOMES OBVIOUS TO EVERY MAN TO TAKE A STAND ON THE DIVIDE. WE HAVE MORAL DUTY TO ALL HUMANITY TO TEACH THEM WHAT IS GOOD FOR THEM SO THEY CAN CO-CREATE WITH THE UNIVERSE TO THEIR OPTIMUM, BUT THEIR ACTUAL CO-CREATION DEPENDS ON THEIR CONSCIOUS WILL OF THEIR SPIRIT AND SOUL TO CHOOSE GOOD OVER EVIL WITH ATTENDANT KARMA. NO MAN CAN CHOOSE FOR ANOTHER AND KARMA BINDS US TO ONE ANOTHER FOR GOOD AND EVIL AND TO THE UNIVERSE TO UMPIRE US ONCE CHOICES ARE MADE BY MAN! THE WORLD GIVES TO MAN WHAT THEY CHOOSE TO MAKE OF IT BY THEIR CHOICES, WORDS AND ACTIONS! GOOD WORK ,ALWAYS ON POINT, MADAM!
What a tribute, thank you.
The problem is we do forget, this appalling brutality replicated itself throughout the generations. Stalin murdered up to 30,000,000 of his countrymen but because it was an internal matter the world did not intercede. Hundreds of thousands of non Jews died alongside them in the camps. I sometimes cannot comprehend the human race. But then when the goodness and kindness of others come to light, how spirituality and awareness is spreading with the help of uncompromising life, RTT and other modalities, which enable us to understand ourselves and reactions, it gives me great hope and feeling of great optimism believing at last humanity and the world can change, those with the knowledge just need to keep teaching and those taught will teach until it has spread to every country and every human heart.
That is a beautiful and thoughtful post Waleuska 💗 thank you
I have given up on trying to see things as good and bad. Even seeing the animal holocaust currently occurring, where 2 billion animals are slaughtered and tortured every year. Multiple genocides across the globe. Oppressive regimes existing everywhere, and on the rise. All humans are complicit in this suffering. We live in a giant Petri dish of horribleness, with a little bit of light shining through every so often.
I’d like to clear one thing you mentioned in the end. When the II World War was ended Russian Army and American Army liberated the concentration camps while Nazi Germans were running away and destroying documents and other evidences of concentrations camps existence. I’m not sure how exactly it was in Terezin and Czech Republic, I guess that quite similar like in Poland (where I come from). Soviet Russia didnt bring back freedom to Eastern and Central Europe, because they established their new order, occupied those countries and made them dependent and created totalitarism. They started doing that right after Nazi Germans have left, literally the day after. It cannot be said that Soviet Russians brought freedom, this is an illusion. If you’re more interested in this matter, please find a good, university source of knowledge on history. Without a context history facts are changed easily. Without a knowledge people are manipulated easily. I believe that freedom is an awareness and willingness to make a choice. Stay well, thank you for sharing your experience, I can see that it was touching for you. We must never forget.
It is certainly good for thought I am very sad that you such lessons are given and then be denied by some. It does scare me for the future.
By the Grace of God,May we always remember
There is opposition in all things.Thank you for your inspirational words of encouragement.
We are eternal soul who will one day meet again.
My late husband who just passed away was born at the end of the war in the woods of Rovno, while the Germans were burning to ashes his whole family.
Bc he had no family left they put him in refugee camps ( in Germany) for 12 years.
He was the last one to leave those displaced Camps in 1957.
He made it in life by working 24/7 until Bernie Madoff took our savings.
He had to go back to work 12 hours a day, 6/7 days a week at his age with 3 cancers as a salesman at Zales until the last day when his body gave away.
He is on the Wall of Yad Vashem as the only smiling child.
He smiled even when dying 42 days in the hospital.
He taught me not to hate bc it brings nothing good out of it but a waste of a precious short life but he never forgot the stench
I miss him so much .
Here is his picture on the Wall of Yad Vashem.
Ty for your post.
Thank you for posting this… I saw some of the artwork from Terezin when I was in Prague and even the memory of it breaks my heart.
Yes, thank you, for posting this…
ty for the interesting read. Hitler managed to make many people believe they were entitled and far superior, he had a very dark twisted mind. it reminds us to stay humble for our future sake
This is very deep and inspiring reading. Jews: it’s awful but there were also three million Hungarians who met the same fate. And polish. Hungarians are more than gypsies, I am one of them and I have researched. We have culture beyond belief. I am proud to be part Hungarian. You stated how can humanity take part in such cruelty. Many are kids not even in their teens who are given guns and taught cruelty. What else do they know. Please someone give me insight into solving the problems of this universe. Overwhelming.
thanks for sharing. I’ve been there too, but did not retain all of that information. just the feelings. I have that human nature dialogue go through my head often. glad I saw this post. respect for victims. 🙏 I don’t get how people did this.
What an incredible post. I have always felt deeply about the atrocities of this war and really any war. In my head I can never reconcile the depth of depravity that are required to exterminate a human. Beautiful post, thank you for sharing ❤️
I have carried grief and deep sadness since my early teens. Like a dark cloud following me, or a big black wave just about swallowing me up. I could feel the pain and despair AND the strength when I first saw photos-evidence of the atrocities committed during WWII. Or how Idi Amin killed his own people. I grew up in Germany but always knew that I would leave. I had no idea why? I play a German Folk instrument, called Zither and LOVE playing German Folk songs. To be honest, playing this instrument for more than 40; years comforted me deeply when I felt alone. I moved to Canada 32 years ago and crinchnd whenever I heard a German speak English. I wrote short stories and poems growing up and ended up being an Editor at the largest German language Newspaper in Canada. It is only now that I could balance this juxtaposition. Your words reflect my own thoughts and feelings. Thank you so much for sharing your post as this inner process has brought me peace.
P.S. my German speaking Grandparents, who were farmers, came from Bohemia and were forced out after the war.
Lindsay… this post prompted me to write this responds and it will explain why I was shy to show up. This inner conflict had a grip on me for far too long. I am re-writing the story. P.S. before my daughter ( who is half Canadian)and I went to Germany last month, her class mates called her a Nazi and if she was going to shoot some Jews…it’s almost 2020 and this is still going on! At a spiritual meeting in Germany, an American drummer recorded the audience clapping because his Mother was concerned that they would kill him while performing…the video was made last year! I whole heartedly agree with forgiving and not forgetting but this has to change!
I’ve had that same conversation with myself in the past—and came to a similar conclusion.
Yet now we have new concentration camps and they are in the U.S.! SO sad!!!!!!!
Unfortunately it does seem to be human nature to compete, fight and kill “the other”. We cooperate only with our own tribe. Our closest relatives, chimps, compete and kill. The Stanford Experiment demonstrated just how guards turn into monsters. Male apes mount each other to show dominance. If you haven’t watched the movie Stanford Experiment you have to have to! Learned of it in Psych class. Latest Jane Goodall movie is live footage of early years with the chimps,
When I was in Germany I visited dachau concentration camp. I could feel the heaviness in the air. I can remember my dad was part of the party that liberated the camp and him saying that the moat that went around the place was red. It’s amazing how all this happened. How one man could have that much control over people. It was an experience I will never forget.
Sad, and beautifully written
It was a horrific, unimaginable, inhumane tragedy that anyone could inflict such horrendous acts on a person because of their religion and beliefs. What is even worse is that Hitler was able to convince people to do these atrocities. The world needs to learn from this. We can NEVER forget!!!
It is almost inconceivable to believe that human beings could commit such brutal and horrifying atrocities to other human beings – a holocaust. We can NEVER forget what occurred and our children must be told the truth and know not to listen to any such talk from their peers. There are many memorials in different countries and cities where the brutality of what transpired is documented and where a person can be educated about what really happened.