There is more to my early experience of the Holocaust. The fact that popular magazines from the early 1950s still featured the pictures of starved and murdered inmates of Nazi concentration camps suggests, at least to me, that there was an awareness back then of what terrible things were done to European Jews in World War II. But the awareness waned. Of that I am sure, because of the tremendous reaction in the late 1970s after the miniseries "Holocaust" was televised to a national audience. Again I saw the starved inmates, the appalling instruments of torture and murder, and the heartache. For some 20 years, most Americans had forgotten this savage period of a brutal government's attempt at genocide in the heart of modern Europe.
Since then, we have done a pretty good job of remembering. There have been books and poignant films such as "Schindler's List." In Washington, there is the Holocaust Museum. Now, there is this commemoration of Auschwitz. But there is also in Europe a rising tide of anti-Semitism. There is the United Nations, where anti-Semitic diatribes and literature flourish. And in the Middle East, anti-Semitism is a matter of government policy in many regimes.
So it is important to remember the evil of the Nazis. It took decades to rouse ourselves to think about the Holocaust. It is about time we rouse ourselves to think about the Gulag, too. And perhaps it is about time to confront the ruthless disregard for the dignity of man that goes on at the United Nations today.
What this means to me is that our schools should teach history as the serious subject that it is. The Holocaust really took place, as did the Gulag. Our Constitution restrains such behavior. That it did not restrain slavery until the middle of the 19th century should remind us of how fragile a regard for human dignity can be.
A clear understanding of history -- political history, at least -- informs us there is a time to act if freedom is to be preserved. President George W. Bush is not considered a bookish man, but he must know his history. The time to act on behalf of freedom is now. He is answering history's call.
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