I would term Auschwitz as the location that proved as the switch for a ‘great resetting’ which happened in West ever since the second world war.
Auschwitz was like a horror movie with audios off. During our three hour tour of the location, there was almost complete silence amongst the tourers. The guests seemed stunned by the visuals unfolding. It was cathartic.
The whole trip was so overwhelming that for almost two weeks, we were filled with its memories, with all the traces of images from Berlin submerged in it. My wife who had no interest in history, bought a couple of books on Auschwitz survivors and finished it before I could get time to do. It appears transformative to her as well. I Amazoned two books on the last days of the Reich and was eager to know the German side of the story as the Red army marched towards Berlin.
On June 2016, we traveled to Auschwitz from Berlin. I had a conference to attend in Berlin. My wife and my 4-year-old son were with me. When I made plans of the itinerary for Berlin, I was particular that I have to visit Auschwitz as well. In my hisorical impression, Germany was ‘twinned’ with Auschwitz. No travel to Germany is complete without a tour to Auschwtiz.
Although I had heard of Auschwitz, I didn’t know its location. I thought it was somewhere in Germany. But when I checked it, it was in Poland, near the city of Karkow, almost 600 km from Berlin. On the last day of the conference, we took a detour for a one day visit to Auschwitz. We made an afternoon flight to Krakow, boarded overnight in Krakow, and traveled to Auschwitz next morning. Auschwitz was 66 km from Krakow. In the evening as we boarded the flight to Krakow, I posted on facebook that I am traveling to a place that had made West ‘modern’ as we see it now.
Auschwitz was like a horror movie with audios off. An elegant Ukrainian lady who spoke in impeccable English curated the tour in breathtaking detail. She took us to a time that was unimaginable from the present. .
A km away at the Birkenau camp, we saw an Israeli delegation placing wreaths on the railroad leading to the camp. The poignancy of the moment was palpable. Most of our co-travelers were retired Europeans, mainly from the Western European countries. My son was the youngest of our delegation. He just walked around unknowingly the significance of his visit.
Below is a photo tour of our visit, and my reflection of Auschwitz’s real place in Western history. I would title it the ‘ the Great Western Resetting.’
THE GREAT RESETTING
If anyone has any doubt about the most defining event that created modernity as we see today, I do not have any. It is the world war II. And what documents its brutality is Auschwitz.
Genocides are not new in history. The Assriyans did it to Jews. Islamist did it to Assariyans. Central Asian hordes did it to Hindus in the Hindu Kush. Ottoman Muslims did it to Armenians in Turkey. Brahminical revivalists did it to Buddhists in South India. Sinhala Buddhists did it to Tamilians in Srilanka. But what made the Nazi Holocaust world-changing was that it was done in the full presence of modern eyes. Documented with the German finesse. Brazen.
Germany and the western world changed for sure after the genocide of the Nazi kind. The United States and much of the Western allies shunned racism only after the catastrophe of the World War II. Madison Grant, the American eugenist and an influential proponent of the Anglosaxon master race theory lost his appeal only after the depth and breadth of Nazi holocaust became evident.
People attribute that modern ideas of liberal democracy emerged after the European Enlightenment. But as a Universal idea, such a claim is far from the truth. I would say it made its roots only after the WW II. Until then the liberal democracy was meant only for the western whites. For Madison Grant, the western whites were the blue blood of the Anglo-Saxon pedigree. A significant proportion of Americans and the British believed in this. Until the Nazis took it to the next level.
Nazis accomplished in 20 years what the British and American colonists did in 300 years. It was the British and American colonial story running in fast forward.
Churchill turned out to be a liberal democrat only when the Nazis outdid him with his racist beliefs. Nazi’s wanted an India for its imperial expansion. It considered its backyard Ukraine, Russia and other Slavic races as ‘subhuman’ and considered it morally correct to mow them for providing a living space for the German ‘superhumans.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunger_Plan
Not different from the thoughts of British or American colonists. Not different from the Arabs slave traders who made a fortune in the African coasts.
Thus, although we had ideas of liberal democracy from the 17th century, it was realized as a Universal idea only after the Nazi Holocaust. Auschwitz is its great reminder. It changed the world. For good. But what a price it took. 1.5 million deaths at Auschwitz. 20 million Russian deaths in combat. A whole generation lost in misery.
I would term Auschwitz as the location that proved as the switch for a ‘great resetting’ which happened in West ever since the second world war. I learned from the Auschwitz museum that significant fund for its upkeep comes from Germany itself. Also, I learned that the museum conducts classes for school teachers throughout Europe on the lessons on the Holocaust and its lessons for the future. I have no doubt this is a monument that defines the modern sensibilities of the West. It is the event that ‘reset’ the West. Yes, Auschwitz made the west ‘modern’.