A few weeks ago, Lyndell lead a history session to help educate the company about WWII, the Holocaust, and dispelling some of the myths about the people involved.
What struck me the most from our discussion was when I heard that Hitler learned to read from anti-Semitic pamphlets. I can’t help but wonder: What if the first things that Hitler had read hadn’t been couched in ignorance and hate? What if he had read about new technology, or music, or even something as mundane as farming?
I’m sure it took more than a few pamphlets to lead him down the dark road to the Holocaust, but I find it significant and tragically ironic that the materials he used to educate himself were based in falsehoods and generalizations. Those pamphlets were not the cause of the Holocaust and the terror visited on those involved, but they were the first step towards genocide.
When we talk about the evils of the Holocaust, we often focus on hatred and racism as its strongest factors. For me, however, I see another theme that runs through the history of WWII: ignorance.
I was particularly struck by this while reading I Have Lived a Thousand Years. Part of the motivation for eliminating the Jews was the German obsession with eugenics, the idea of breeding out undesirable traits. For Germans during this time, blonde hair and blue eyes signified a superior human being.
For us, the concept is laughable. Why should blue eyes indicate a higher level of intelligence? And yet, the most powerful men behind the Holocaust believed in it so much, they were willing to systematically murder over 11 million “undesirables.”
Genocide does not begin with burning bodies, but with burning books. Those at the head of these murders often try to hide that the victims are people just like us, despite different coloring, religion, or anything else that pseudo-science may try to classify.
I truly believe that knowledge is our greatest shield against such depravity, and that ignorance is evil’s strongest weapon. This is why I believe so strongly in Lyndell’s vision for our production of I Have Lived a Thousand Years.
By breathing life into the very human lives the passed through those dark gates, we can take one step towards combating that ignorance and prove that any tolerance of hate is dangerous.
The next world leaders are sitting in classrooms right now. What are we teaching them? Are we teaching them to hate, as Hitler learned? Or are we teaching them the bravery to face the truth, and the courage to do something about it?