University of Houston, double major Spanish and history
Hope for Humanity
University of Houston Jewish Studies Program
16 April 2021
We stood there. About 15 people were in the tour group, spaced out about 6 feet apart from each other because of the social distancing norms and consideration for our fellow Houstonians. The tour guide continues on with his speech without missing a beat. He tells the story of the unimaginable transportation of the victims of the Holocaust from their native countries to, if they were lucky, labor camps, or the well known extermination camps that were at the center of the Nazi “Final Solution.” But was it so unimaginable? We stood in a structure at the Houston Holocaust Museum that resembled the cattle carts used by the Nazis. At first site, it was nothing but a wooden square with maybe 2 small windows and a bucket in the corner. The sliding doors opened from the right and left. The ground was solid and flat. The tour guide describes the unprecedented misery the transportees dealt with from the harsh winter conditions, food rationing, sharing one restroom bucket for the whole cart, and the susceptibleness to disease the conditions created. He looked around the cart, then smiled sadly at his audience.
“They would transport 75 to 150 people in each cart at a time.”
Silence. All the gears in our brains were working to picture this inhumane practice of packing humans like sardines in such a small space. One small kid couldn’t wrap his head around it.
“But that’s not possible,” he remarked innocently. “You just said this should only be able to fit 45 people at most. How could they even fit 150 people inside this…thing?”
The tour guide shook his head, knowing the kid was voicing the thoughts all of us who’ve learned about the holocaust have asked at one time or another. Those question words that hover over our tongue. Why? How? Psychiatrists, military experts, political scientists, and sociologists have sought to find that one explanation for the Holocaust. Historians have scoured over the primary sources over and over again since the mid-20th century. And yet, still, the tour guide could only give the most potent fact of all as the answer.
“It happened, trust me kid.”
He watches as several emotions play out on the kid’s face like a slideshow for all of us to see. The brutality of the Holocaust sunk into the kid’s heart in that moment. I watched it with my own eyes, and I could only feel a sharp prick in my chest. The truth of this time is painful, but keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive starts by accepting what humans are capable of, teaching the future generations, and working to inspire compassion and understanding as a human kind as the world becomes ever more connected.
During the pandemic, I stopped watching the news every single day. I avoided the kitchen where my parents had CNN on at almost every hour to get an update on the COVID situation. I completely understand their reasoning for this, but all I could ingest from the news was negativity; another powerful male figure accused of rape; a white police officer shoots an unarmed black civilian; the rate of hate crimes against Asians increasing after former president Trump called the virus the “Chinese Virus”; or another mass shooting in another public place. This only added to my already increasing depression and anxiety. What happened to the reporting about the non-profits that fight American systemic racism or the women who’ve created female leadership programs during the pandemic for underprivileged girls? Yes, the
brutality needs to be reported so that we are aware of what goes on in our society, but within these stories of brutality comes those that fight through it all with grace and courage.
How does the story of the Holocaust become relevant to modern day issues like this? Just like we educate our children about the extreme prejudice of the Nazis toward innocent groups of people like the Jews and Roma that led to the greatest genocide of the modern age, we need to not only educate them about the atrocities but about the survival stories; the foreigners who risked their lives to hide Jews or communists, those who helped forge papers for those persecuted, and many more amazing feats that are evidence that human brutality is just one side of the story. We need to inspire hope because that is the strongest weapon against hate. Hope for humanity is not world peace. It’s the forever learning from our ancestors and history, and with the innovative technology and instant communication we have today, we have the opportunity to keep the eternal flame of the Holocaust burning in our souls and our children’s souls.
Racism, sexism, homophobia, and hate are just some of the poisons that are still prevalent in the world today. Humans kill each other in the name of hate, power, greed, miscommunication, and even some simple misunderstandings. Human sacrifice was once a normal practice. Slavery was once a prospering trade across the Atlantic. Child marriages were more common. Sexual harassment was considered a man’s right. Now, our societies have evolved to declare these sufferings illegal and inhuman. There is evidence that, as a human race, we have become more morally aware and ethically driven. Younger generations are known to be more liberal and open-minded. With this new generation fighting for climate change and racial equality, they can only benefit from knowing both the dark and inspiring moments of the Holocaust.
My name is Miranda Ruzinsky. I was born in 1997 to a Jewish father and a converted mother. I am part of the millennial generation that is up to the challenging task of tackling the hate rooted in our world. The Holocaust was brutal. The Holocaust was unimaginable for some, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The Holocaust is a truth that can inspire us all to do better as human beings who share 99.9% of the same genetic information. I am that spark of hope. You are that spark of hope. We all are the spark that keep the eternal flame burning.