Friday, January 25, 2013

T21 and the Holocaust

I used to do a lot in the realm of Holocaust education. Right before I entered my masters program I applied for and was accepted into the Warren Fellowship at the Holocaust Museum here in Houston. This was the beginning of an absolutely amazing and breathtaking journey. A journey that grew me both personally and professionally and uniquely shaped me as an educator and as a human being. I was honored with the opportunity to meet and adore survivors here in the Houston area. I engaged with and worked side by side with brilliant educators new and old. On their behalf I was sent to New York and to Israel to study and learn more. I became the teacher that students wanted to have for their Holocaust lesson. I drank in and learned as much as I could, good and evil. I spoke with passion and let myself be stirred with feelings and emotions for these people. As my family grew I was unable to do as much directly with the museum, but I continued to learn and to pass that along to others. I am so appreciative to the educators I worked with, the staff at HMH, the program at Yad Vashem, and the survivors who were willing to put themselves out there to pass on the knowledge they possess. It has meant the world to me.

I thank God that we were done teaching the Holocaust before we learned about Johnny's diagnosis. It was hard enough teaching the Holocaust as I grew a child in my belly knowing that there were pregnant women and children who were discarded as useless and of no worth. Learning about Johnny's diagnosis took on an entirely different level though. Within the Nazi party there was disdain for several different groups of "undesirables", including, but not limited to, people who were Jewish, Roma-Senti, Homosexual, Jehovah's Witness, Communists, and people who had special needs. In fact, people like Johnny were some of the earliest targets of the Nazi programs to create their ideal state. The Nazi regime developed the T-4 program, where persons with special needs who were in state programs and facilities were systematically chosen out and killed. According to the United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial website, at least 200,000 people with disabilities were killed during these times. Additionally, the measures used to carry out T-4 were utilized on a larger scale in developing the killing centers known today as death camps. Their families didn't know... More can be read about on their website.

I knew all of this for years proceeding Johnny's diagnosis. I had taught this over 20 times and had spoken with others about it dozens more. I had read articles, books, and seen videos about these atrocities. I had personal feelings of remorse and sadness for the actions that took place in the Holocaust. I had felt rage at those who acted in an unspeakable manner and at those who were so indifferent that they looked the other way as hell was created on earth. I had cried with survivors who I now consider my friends as they spoke of families and friends lost and undergoing trials that we will hopefully never know. But all those emotions have only been compounded and deepened with knowing about Johnny. For all the times my heart gets caught in my chest thinking about how wonderful he is and how much I love him, it doesn't compare to how tight my chest feels, how my throat closes in, and how the pain settles in my heart when I think about how others like him were treated at this time, to think about what his fate would have been. Because I cannot handle it, I have had to shut it off. Writing the simple post that I have has been trying enough as it is, I cannot go further into reading or studying beyond that. I have had to abandon learning about something that has been very important to me over the past 6 years. But I have to. It's too personal now, it cuts too deep and while we should take on these stories of such atrocities in a personal manner, to ensure that we refuse to let it happen again, it's too raw to take on in an educational manner. I still remember those lessons I have learned, but I have to just trust that they are deeply ingrained inside of me because I can't take in any more. Before they were deeply ingrained in my head with a human connection to my heart, now the lessons of the Holocaust are written all over my heart because of my son and the resemblance he bears to victims. Before, my heart wept for those lost. Now, my heart cries out in anguish for their murder and for their mothers and fathers and families. It's a sadness that I hope we will never know.

I hope that one day I will be able to resume some of my learning. I hope even more that these lessons resonate with others and that history will remain just that. I hope that Johnny's tenderness and sweet smile will teach others not to fear or hate people like him. I hope that Johnny and all of our kids never knows that hate.

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