It’s been 75 years since Russian armies swarmed the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz where over one million Jews suffered untold torture before being herded into gas ovens and killed. Men, women and children all died at the whims of the evil German Third Reich under Adolf Hitler’s command.
Days ago, many Jews, now much older, who survived, returned to pray, to mourn, to remember and to share the story with their families. But most importantly, they told the tale of the evil they experienced, doing so in order to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.
In many ways, the history of the Jews, even before Hitler’s rise to power with his desire to wipe out the Jewish race, has great similarities to the pain, suffering and humiliations that Blacks would experience after being kidnapped from Africa and brought to America for the chattel slavery industry. But while the Jewish communities emphasizes retelling their stories for future generations, and passing on lessons learned, African Americans remain more inclined to forget what happened to their forefathers and foremothers when slavery in the U.S. was at its height.
Truth be told, even with Black History Month, many Blacks avoid any conversations about the past, save for viewing a few documentaries or attending a few local observances. In recent months, some Blacks have ventured into unknown territory with the 400th anniversary of Jamestown when several dozen Blacks found themselves thousands of miles from home with no way to return.
Perhaps that’s a start. But is it enough? If nothing else, we have long realized that unless we are aware of our history, we are prone to repeat it — the good, the bad and the ugly.
What do your children know about their grandparents or great-grandparents? Can you trace your family’s history to the plantations of the South, if indeed that’s part of your family’s legacy? Have you ever considered the breadth of the African continent and the contributions Blacks have made to the world for thousands of years — a lengthy story that often is only retold on a few pages, if any, in many history books?
We may be unable to share the names and stories of those who came before us and suffered as slaves — free labor that built this nation and helped America establish itself as one of the world’s most powerful and profitable countries.
But we were there. And we must never forget.