They told some of us to go to the right, and others from the group were sent to the left. And in the rush to simply get out, and the confusion about what was happening, most of the group compiled with what was being said. The end result was mothers with young children or babies were grouped with the elderly and everyone else, if they appeared to be physically fit, was grouped on the other side of the room.
The man who was standing at the center of the room clapped his hands once and said “see, it is easy when it is confusing. Using confusion, panic and uncertainty will always help you control large groups.” He then asked us to go back to our seats so he could finish telling his story.
Beloved quickly pulled out his phone and typed in a few notes before they dimmed the lights again for the rest of the presentation. And I realized that we had been provided with not just a quick demonstration of what this man had been describing, but also a little view into what we would do in the same set of circumstances. And somehow what you think you would do is not always what you end up doing.
After the presentation we were invited to view pictures that somehow had survived scrapes of books, full books and so on. Most people left shortly after they had entered the room, but Beloved and I stayed, taking time to look at each piece. It wasn’t our first time viewing and hearing stories of those who spent time in the Nazi concentration camps, but it was the first time someone was able to place us into those first moments when the train stopped at the platform and you moved from a dark cattle car into some strange, brightly lit area.
Some people come to these places as a thing to do, or a means of saying they have visited them. For me, it is important that we keep these stories alive least humanity repeats itself. We have a long way to go to get beyond dehumanizing those who we see as “other”. Until we can reach this point, how can we really call ourselves civilized on intelligent?