This commentary is from Gerry Silverstein, a South Burlington resident who has studied human health and disease for more than five decades. He taught at UVM from 1985 to 2007.
The late David Wyman, who earned a doctorate in history from Harvard and taught at UMass-Amherst for 25 years, wrote a book in 1966 titled “The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941-1945.” .
Details of significant events in human history are often lost over time. This is unfortunate, as details of past events often provide context for current events.
In late 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration obtained ironclad evidence that a program known as the Final Solution, implemented by the Nazis to exterminate all Jews in Europe, was in operation. Classes.
Little or nothing has been done by FDR’s administration for over a year to attempt to alleviate one of the greatest, if not the greatest, episodes of barbarism in which the human species has ever been. engaged.
Dr. Wyman conveys the ultimate reality of what happened when he states in the preface: “The Nazis were the murderers, but we were too passive accomplices.
The brutality employed by the Nazis is difficult to revisit.
In Chapter 1, Dr. Wyman details the German Army’s special mobile units known as the Einsatzgruppen that rounded up Jews and killed them in mass shootings during the Nazi invasion of Russia.
A German construction engineer provided eyewitness testimony: “I saw a family of about six people, all of them already undressed and waiting for the order to descend into the grave.”
A father tried to console his son of about 10 or 12 years old, while his wife stood next to an older woman who was singing softly to a baby in her arms.
“Then came the order, ‘Next ten!’ and the family started moving around the mound of dirt to climb into the grave.And then the sound of gunfire.
The German engineer saw that some of the victims were still moving so he shouted to the SS: “Look, they’re not all dead!” to which the SS replied: “Ach! Tonight the grave will be filled with trash and so it will all be over.
The Einsatzgruppen are said to have killed more than a million Jews.
The Nazis used more than bullets to kill humans on a massive scale. Most people are familiar with the gas chambers which used Zyklon B crystals which generated cyanide gas. Cyanide acts as a metabolic poison and it only takes about 15 minutes in an enclosed space to kill up to 1,000 humans.
As long as cattle cars rolled through concentration camps with their cargo of human beings destined for extinction, the Nazis operated gas chambers and crematoria with barbaric regularity.
What is less well known is that the Nazis also used gassing vans for mass extermination, packing the victims into closed trucks, then filling the space with carbon monoxide exhaust fumes.
In total, about 6 million Jews (and many other non-Jews) were killed.
Tragically, hatred of Jews (anti-Semitism) remains a reality today in the United States and around the world.
The human species is the product of tens of millions of years of mammalian evolution and 6 million years of hominid evolution.
The functioning of the human body requires the coordinated action of trillions of biochemical reactions every day, enabling multiple organ systems to act together for a common good. The complexity of events is coordinated by the human brain, an organ whose abilities are better aligned in the realm of science fiction than science fact.
Yet the human species has flaws, very serious, very serious flaws, as evidenced by the Nazis’ attempt to accomplish the Final Solution.
How can the human species evolve into a species where genocide, gender-based violence, slavery, racism and other types of barbarism are relegated to the distant past in a human history textbook?
Moving forward requires focusing on what all human beings have in common, what we all share, because what we have in common is far greater than our differences.
This is not to say that the differences between individuals have no value or are unimportant, because they certainly have value and are important. But the foundation of who we are is what we have in common, and that’s what should unite us.
The Holocaust posed a challenge to humanity: will members of the species recognize the unique value of each life and reject the barbarism that has been an all-too-common aspect of its evolution? The consequences of failure are too painful to contemplate.