Auschwitz Essays and Photos: Two Years Later

Dear Friend and Reader:

WHEN I RETURNED from Poland with my photos of the Auschwitz concentration camp complex, Fe Bongolan (who now writes in this space) urged me to publish the series sooner rather than later. This was during the congressional race of 2006, and she felt that this information needed to be in public consciousness prior to people having an opportunity to vote. I began the series, which lasted about two weeks, on Oct. 4, 2006, two years ago yesterday. I did notice that it was St. Francis Day. I felt a little safer telling these stories with someone watching over me.

Child and dad walk back toward the main gait of Birkenau on Sept. 27, 02006. Photo by Eric Francis.
Child and dad walk along the railway tracks, heading back toward the main gate of Auschwitz ii - Birkenau death factory on Sept. 27, 2006. These tracks carried more than one million Europeans to their last destination -- gas chambers several hundred feet away. Photo by Eric Francis.

We may ask why it’s necessary to document Holocaust after what seems like so long. This was a 13 year phase of world history during which an advanced industrial nation set up a philosophy of hatred and a system of death camps, and executed between 12 and 20 million people from throughout Europe. There was a religious agenda — some six million of those killed were Jews.

There were other agendas; another six million were simply anyone, though the German Reich had a particular hatred of the Sinti and Romany people — the Gypsies. Official estimates of how many people were killed seem to stop at about 12 million. I feel it was probably a lot worse, and there was a terrible aftermath that came with Stalin after Russia occupied many previously German territories. Many of the Nazis who had taken the lives of camp victims were themselves put in camps and executed after the allies handed over the territory to them.

I recognize that by posting this series, I am making an implied warning that we are heading for a similar situation at this point in American history no matter who is ahead in the polls. It’s not really that simple. I am in the first instance making a comment about what happened so recently and so nearby, and which therefore exists in potential today. I am also making a comment about what humans — the civilized kind, who get educations, pay taxes and wear clean clothes — are capable of: the abject disregard of life and allowing some horrendous inner shadow of humanity to take them.

And yes, I am saying that the American regime has spread its sadism onto every part of the world, currently and most recently Iraq, and that it’s running out of places to terrorize. I propose for this reason that we take note that we may be next. Depending on how you interpret the events of the past eight to 10 years, that next may have begun quite a while back.

I think that Americans are more ignorant than we are stupid. Ignorance means you ignore something, even something obvious, and pretend that something else is so. I think that a combination of malice, lack of participation by citizens in our public lives, and the last ingredient of economic struggle are aligning in a disturbing way. The German Holocaust was in part the product of difficult economic times in that country. It was offered to the people as a solution, menacingly referred to as “the final solution.”

Events such as staged terrorist attacks, the PATRIOT Act, wars begun under false pretenses, holding prisoners without trials, tapping the phones of civilians, the deployment of an Army unit in the United States to suppress civil unrest, the repeated theft of elections, merging corporations with the government and the uprising of a religiously driven conservative movement (that makes another religion the ultimate enemy) should all put chills into the spine of anyone who knows history.

When you read people make a reference to some or other ideology of our paranoid, religious dogma-soaked government as being something akin to the Nazis said or did, I suggest you pay attention and find out what that really means. Look it up, write to the person who wrote it, and educate yourself. Most people who say these kinds of things are historically accurate, and we owe ourselves to take advantage of a perhaps too-brief phase of early warning while we have it. What I am really saying in sharing these photos and these stories again is: pay attention. Consider what is possible, and read between the lines.

The series will be posted in one installment nightly at about 6 o’clock Eastern Time. The first appears tonight, Sunday, Oct. 5, and is below.

Yours & truly,

Eric Francis

5 thoughts on “Auschwitz Essays and Photos: Two Years Later

  1. The human internment series is timely for me. While discussing the current situation with a friend this weekend we found ourselves projecting forward as usual . Our conversation left me with the following memory.

    When I was but a pup in the early 90s I worked with a 60ish jewish engineer. We were discussing the holocaust, and me being in my palinesque naive charmed years (nothing will stop me!), asked him why the jews in those camps did not fight back. There were so many prisoners. He looked at me blankly and said I don’t know.

    I find myself in that predicament now. How do we fight back? And that leaves me with, what are we fighting for? It ain’t gonna be the same. The scope is worldwide. And the local network is getting all broken up over elephants vs donkeys.

    I think we should not let the breakdown phase suck all the energy out of the rebuild. Per my friend, Israel happened because groups networked. They networked and they survived.

    I have found that there is no better way to release fear than to confront the crisis and take action in one’s personal life. And who knows, perhaps the ayers comments will stir the hearts of our sleeping boomers into action. They are running the place now.

  2. Hi Eric:

    I just want to say that I really admire this work. I am sure other people have gone to the camps to record their impressions — but maybe not recently, probably not online, and probably not with such a compassionate, comprehensive and artistically honest intent. Holocaust literature is not something people look for. It has to be found. Opening another channel and another perspective is all to the good, and just lets even more sunlight in.

    I hadn’t visited your site in quite a while and then stopped by a couple weeks ago — these were the first pieces I reread. It was an odd bit of coincidence that a few days later you announced you were going to rerun them.

    I’m not sure what made you think to do that, but I think it’s a good idea.


  3. I think you’re spot on with the ‘we could be next’ scenario. Naomi Klein talks about the out of control free market mechanism as being like a junkie looking for it’s next lot of crack. Most countries have, over the past 40 years or so, got wise to what was going on when financial support was offered. The US has benefits to the junkie now simply because of the innocence, the belief that ‘it could never happen to us’, and that almost unshakeable belief that all americans are on the same side (Latin America used to believe it too).

    Having said that, it’s more of a wake up call than a potential outcome.

    Everything points to a rocky but definite shift to a more collective global system based less on vertical power and more on shared equality of resources. The North Node and Neptune in Aquarius leading the way.

  4. Eric:

    There was discussion going on over at “Coup on the Mind” about how the internet has or hasn’t become a tool for effective organizing. I think we need to make it more so than less.

    It was a very simple thing that I saw, over 15 years ago at the NY City Public Library. It was an exhibit of evidence of the resistance movement against the Fascist/Nazi takeover of Europe.

    Simple things, like books with boxes cut into them for messages on the resistance movement, codes written in another language over other posters. Pieces of paper with messages on them crammed into toothpaste tubes.

    If they weren’t fighting, being under an occupation allowed you to function: you can cope, move about, carry on. But the most devastating hunger was for truth. For real information. Not government spin. People could hardly stay asleep long enough to not ignore the end of freedom in their own society. They needed information like air.

    Which is why we should be taking advantage of sharing information in this day and age. It has had an effect. We must fight to use it to keep the doors pried open and ask questions before its too late.

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