Education, Documentaries, the Holocaust


In my posting about education I commended documentaries. citing as a splendid example one on the end of World War II., Istvan Simon, whose family escaped the Holocaust by fleeing from Hungary to Brazil, writes: I suspect that, since a lot of us WAISers are university professors of one kind or another, many of us would have something to add to your interesting overview of lecturing, education, history and all the rest. In terms of lectures I think Socrates may have understood it best.  Asking questions of students and letting them come up with the answer seems like a good way of teaching.

I saw a Korean movie a few weeks back. At one point in the movie a boy is gleefully torturing a frog, and a fish by tying a stone to their back and then watching them struggle with the extra weight. His teacher, an old  Buddhist monk, watched him do this but said nothing.  That night though, he got a  largish stone, and tied it to the boy's
back. He told him go back and release the frog and the fish, for they must be enduring the same as you are enduring now, and hope that they are still alive, otherwise you will feel the guilt of having caused their deaths unnecessarily.  Indeed the boy struggles back to the creek, hardly able to walk with the large stone weighing him down. He finds the frog and releases it. But the fish is dead.  Perhaps  if Corporal Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Eichmann, Mengele, Krupp, and all the other Nazi degenerates  was taught the same way, as the Buddhist monk taught this boy,  none of the horrors of Nazi Germany would have ever  happened .

I watched many documentaries on the terrible events  of World War II. But almost all seem to miss the numbing horror of what that really was like. No wonder that people just can't comprehend the Holocaust, feel it on their own skin and guts.  Many compound the enormity of this unprecedented historical horror  by denying that  it even occurred, the ultimate  and  most inhumane  of insults to the memory of the millions of innocents, babies, children,  women and men, old and young, who  were systematically, cruelly and mercilessly murdered  by the  Nazis, without  help or pity from the rest of the world (with notable and courageous  individual and collective exceptions, that should be honored for ever, like Raoul Wallenberg,  Schindler, Christian X and the Danes, and many, many more nameless heroes that acted with courage and humanity in the face of these unprecedented inhumane and unimaginably brutal events.) The perfidy of the Holocaust deniers cannot be overemphasized. Their inhumanity is as bad as that of the Nazis themselves, and  deserve nothing but the deepest contempt.

The best documentary that I ever saw on World War II ,  which did not show a single crematorium, and yet was the most successful  in  bringing home what the Holocaust was like,  is called  "Messenger from Poland", shown on PBS.  It showed the recollections of a Polish Resistance member,  who later became a Princeton University professor after the War, and who was smuggled into the camps by the Jewish Resistance in Poland, to witness what  was occurring, and then sent to the West as a liaison between the  Polish Resistance and the Allies.  He faithfully reported what he saw with his own eyes and passed on messages from the Polish Resistance to the Allies to everyone  he met, including Anthony Eden, President Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter (who incredibly and arrogantly told this most noble Polish man to his face  that he did not believe what he was saying about the Camps ).  At one point in the documentary he excused himself, unable to continue, later restarting his powerful tale after regaining composure.  It is a terrible indictment of the Allies for doing nothing to help the unfortunate millions that were being murdered and massacred at the Nazi camps.

Istvan Simon wrote: The best documentary that I ever saw on World War II ,  which did not show a single crematorium, and yet was the most successful  in  bringing home what the Holocaust was like,  is called  "Messenger from Poland", shown on PBS.  It showed the recollections of a Polish Resistance member,  who later became a Princeton University professor after the War.  Ed Jajko comments: The "Messenger from Poland" was the late Jan Kozielewski, who adopted his nom de guerre, Karski.  His remarkable story is well told in the New York Times obituary of July 14, 2000, which may be found at http://www.holocaustforgotten.com/karski.html. I offer the minor correction that it was Georgetown University, not Princeton.

Your comments are invited. Read the home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) by simply double-clicking on:   http://wais.stanford.edu. Mail to Ronald Hilton, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Please inform us of any change of e-mail address.

Ronald Hilton 2004

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last updated: November 19, 2004