Thursday, May 12, 2005

Sin's Holocaust

Berlin's Holocaust Memorial

Berlin’s tribute to 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis 60 years ago takes the shape of a Holocaust Memorial designed by American architect Peter Eisenman. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who presided at an official opening ceremony a few days ago said, "Today we open a memorial that recalls Nazi Germany's worst, most terrible crime, the attempt to exterminate an entire people." More.

Undulating grey slabs designed to give viewers a sense of
instability and a loss of orientation.

Constructed out of 2,711 dark gray rectangular slabs resembling an undulating sea of tombstones, the controversial memorial is not without detractors. 60 years after Auschwitz, Germany is welcoming Jews back to the country that gave the world the hideous expression, the Final Solution. More.

200,000 Jews mostly from the former Soviet Union have arrived, mostly non-German speaking, giving rise to social problems. There’s talk of quotas now. Said Claudia Roth, co-chairwoman of the Greens, "We are going to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and then we tell the Jews that want to come here: You are unwanted. That is shameful." More.

Steven Spielberg's 1993 Oscar-winning hit

All these made me pull out my Schindler’s List DVD for a midnight viewing. The movie is a thing of appalling beauty; its in-your-face brutality draws you in even as it makes you avert your eyes. The liquidation of the Krakow ghetto was especially painful to watch and I choked more than once. Of course the story is not just about death, but about one womanising German profiteer who chose not to turn his eyes away, and who by so doing found redemption through saving more than 1000 Polish Jews.

I have read Thomas Keneally’s best selling book, but the writer’s dreary narrative lacks the force of the movie with all its visual detail. What’s frightening is not merely humanity’s capacity for evil as evidenced by Hitler’s genocidal policies, but the fact that we have not learnt anything from it. Think Darfur. Iraq. Or WTC for that matter.

Today CNN reports that a father in Illinois has been charged with the killing of his 8-year old daughter and her 9-year old best friend. Both girls had been stabbed 31 times. In the book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton said that original sin is the only thing in Christian theology that can really be proved because anyone can see it in the street. We’ve bought into a false dream of utopia, blinded by all our wealth, technology, education, and progress. Can salvation be near when sin is not called by its name?


Sivin Kit said...

I actually visited one of the concentrations camps turned into a memorial last year in Germany .. it really shook me up!

David BC Tan said...

It would probably shake me up too...