quotations about the Holocaust
There can be no poetry after Auschwitz.
THEODOR W. ADORNO, Gesammelte Schriften: Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft
How incredibly avaricious the whole operation was, the way they made the Jews pay for their tickets in the railway cars to the death camps. Yeah, and the rates for a third-class ticket, one way. And half price for children.... It was a kind of exploration of evil. Just how bad can we get?
MARTIN AMIS, "Martin Amis Contemplates Evil", Smithsonian Magazine, Sep. 2012
The concentration camps, by making death itself anonymous (making it impossible to find out whether a prisoner is dead or alive), robbed death of its meaning as the end of a fulfilled life. In a sense they took away the individual’s own death, proving that henceforth nothing belonged to him and he belonged to no one. His death merely set a seal on the fact that he had never existed.
HANNAH ARENDT, The Origins of Totalitarianism
We are laying the foundation for some new, monstrous civilization.
TADEUSZ BOROWSKI, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
If all Hitler had done was kill people in vast numbers more efficiently than anyone else ever did, the debate over his lasting importance might end there. But Hitler's impact went beyond his willingness to kill without mercy. He did something civilization had not seen before. Genghis Khan operated in the context of the nomadic steppe, where pillaging villages was the norm. Hitler came out of the most civilized society on Earth, the land of Beethoven and Goethe and Schiller. He set out to kill people not for what they did but for who they were. Even Mao and Stalin were killing their "class enemies". Hitler killed a million Jewish babies just for existing.
NANCY GIBBS, Time Magazine, January 3, 2000
When I turned to the topic of Holocaust denial, I knew that I was dealing with extremist antisemites who have increasingly managed, under the guise of scholarship, to camouflage their hateful ideology. However, I did not then fully grasp the degree to which I would be dealing with a phenomenon far more unbelievable than was my previous topic. On some level it is as unbelievable as the Holocaust itself and, though no one is being killed as a result of the deniers' lies, it constitutes abuse of the survivors. It is intimately connected to a neofascist political agenda. Denial of the Holocaust is not the only thing I find beyond belief. What has also shocked me is the success deniers have in convincing good-hearted people that Holocaust denial is an "other side" of history--ugly, reprehensible, and extremist--but an other side nonetheless. As time passes and fewer people can personally challenge these assertions, their campaign will only grow in intensity.
DEBORAH E. LIPSTADT, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory
Then for the first time we became aware that our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man. In a moment, with almost prophetic intuition, the reality was revealed to us: we had reached the bottom. It is not possible to sink lower than this; no human condition is more miserable than this, nor could it conceivably be so. Nothing belongs to us any more; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we will have to find ourselves the strength to do so, to manage somehow so that behind the name something of us, of us as we were, still remains.
PRIMO LEVI, Survival in Auschwitz
In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again.
ANNE FRANK, diary, July 15, 1944
The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference.
IAN KERSHAW, attributed, Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich: Bavaria 1933-45
On my left forearm I bear the Auschwitz number; it reads more briefly than the Pentateuch or the Talmud and yet provides more thorough information.
JEAN AMERY, At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
ELIE WIESEL, Night
It was at Auschwitz/Birkenau, though, that my personal connection to the Holocaust was both shattered and framed. As I was walking toward the entrance of the former camp, I was talking with an elderly American couple who had been inmates there, and had returned for the first time since the war. Inside the main camp, I was struck by how normal it all was. My world had not stopped as I passed under the infamous arch. To paraphrase Wiesel, the sky was blue, the birds were singing, it was clean and orderly.
FRANKLIN BIALYSTOK, "Emerging from the Shadow", Teaching about the Holocaust
I remember: it happened yesterday or eternities ago. A young Jewish boy discovered the kingdom of night. I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish. It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed.
ELIE WIESEL, Nobel Prize acceptance speech, December 10, 1986
Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason alone do we have to suffer now.
ANNE FRANK, The Diary of Anne Frank
Close your eyes and listen. Listen to the silent screams of terrified mothers, the prayers of anguished old men and women. Listen to the tears of children. Jewish children, a beautiful little girl among them, with golden hair, whose vulnerable tenderness has never left me. Look and listen as they walk towards dark flames so gigantic that the planet itself seemed in danger.
ELIE WIESEL, address given at Auschwitz on the 50th anniversary of the Holocaust, January 1995
The bureaucratic culture which prompts us to view society as an object of administration, as a collection of so many 'problems' to be solved, as 'nature' to be 'controlled', 'mastered' and 'improved' or 'remade', as a legitimate target for 'social engineering', and in general a garden to be designed and kept in the planned shape by force (the gardening posture divides vegetation into 'cultured plants' to be taken care of, and weeds to be exterminated), was the very atmosphere in which the idea of the Holocaust could be conceived, slowly yet consistently developed, and brought to its conclusion.
ZYGMUNT BAUMAN, Modernity and the Holocaust
If the Catholic Church hadn't so consistently and virulently condemned the Jews for killing Jesus, there would have been no Holocaust. There would have been no reason for anyone to think about picking on Jews.
PAT CONDELL, "Is Satan a Catholic?", March 27, 2010
The things I saw beggar description... The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were . . . overpowering. . . . I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to "propaganda."
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, attributed, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
For me the Holocaust was not only a Jewish tragedy, but also a human tragedy. After the war, when I saw that the Jews were talking only about the tragedy of six million Jews, I sent letters to the Jewish organizations asking them to talk also about the millions of others who were persecuted with us together--many of them only because they helped Jews.
SIMON WIESENTHAL, The Wiesenthal File
What is abnormal is that I am normal. That I survived the Holocaust and went on to love beautiful girls, to talk, to write, to have toast and tea and live my life -- that is what is abnormal.
ELIE WIESEL, interview, O: The Oprah Magazine, November 2000