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Holocaust survivor’s message remains relevant today

The headline of a story on the front page of Tuesday’s Mining Journal read “Never again.” Mining Journal Staff Writer Trinity Carey’s article covered a speech by Holocaust survivor Martin Lowenberg, who on Monday spoke at Northern Michigan University about his horrific World War II experiences.

On the Night of Broken Glass on Nov. 9, 1938, Nazis burned synagogues and vandalized Jewish structures, leaving the streets covered in shattered glass. In the ensuing days, Jewish men ages 18 to 50 were separated from their families, wives and children, and taken to concentration camps.

Fortunately, Lowenberg managed to survive multiple concentration camps.

His memories still linger, as one would expect. However, he believes it’s important to share his story.

Lowenberg said in his talk that the world still can be full of hate, so it’s important to remember the suffering many people have faced throughout history.

The Holocaust is one of the most terrible things to have happened in the world, but Adolf Hitler didn’t invent anti-Semitism. The Nazi hate against Jewish people didn’t start with concentration camps, executions and people being forced from their homes.

For a multitude of reasons, anti-Semitic ideas have festered back to ancient and medieval times.

And it’s not just anti-Semitism that has fueled genocides.

Although the genocide of 6 million Jews was profoundly tragic, it has happened since that time. In Cambodia in the 1970s, upwards of 2 million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. And a mass slaughter of as many as 1 million people took place in Rwanda in 1994.

In fact, genocides continue today throughout the world, including South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

What causes such hatred? Differences in ideology can explain some conflicts, while religion can inflame other conflicts.

Sometimes, it’s the need to find a scapegoat to elevate a leader’s political status and, in turn, get like-minded people to blindly follow them.

Political scapegoating has been described as a common tactic politicians use to distract the general population. Perhaps the followers of these leaders want to assign blame for perceived failures in their own lives and society, and finding a scapegoat might be the best way to accomplish this.

The groups being scapegoated also might be thought of as easy to victimize because of a perceived lack of an ability to retaliate.

The Holocaust was an extreme example, but who’s to say something of that magnitude can’t happen again?

Perhaps the strongest way to prevent hate is to hear stories from people such as Lowenberg who lived through a terrible time but still have the fortitude to educate people about what has — and still might — happen.

We can only hope those atrocities “never again” will occur.