August 18, 2019: Could It Happen Again? by Joe Howell

By Joe Howell

Last month, Embry and I visited several Baltic countries while on a choir tour. Before the tour began, we went to Vilnius, Lithuania, and enjoyed its narrow streets, laid-back atmosphere, and delicious ice cream. We also learned about some difficult times in their not-very-distant past.

For much of its history, Lithuania was relatively tolerant of Jews. In 1941, an estimated 200,000 Jews lived there—about a quarter of the entire population. But by 1945, only about 10% survived. Most were either rounded up, shot, and buried in mass graves, or died in the misery of the concentration camps.

The facts of the Holocaust are well-known, but standing in the place where it all happened, it becomes more real. You can only contemplate the evil that we humans are capable of and wonder if anything like this will ever happen again. It has come close in Rwanda, Cambodia, and Myanmar. While in Europe, I read reports from back home about conditions for Central American children in detention centers on the southern border. Still, nothing like the Holocaust could happen in the U.S., could it?

After much contemplation, I must say that I believe the horror of the Holocaust could indeed happen again. “Good people” can do heinous things. Humans are basically herd animals. We do as we are told. That is why leaders are so important.

However, we also have the capacity for good. There were brave people during the Holocaust who aided Jews. Many paid with their lives. And, humans are resilient. After the Holocaust and the postwar Soviet occupation, one would expect the Baltic states to appear downtrodden. Instead, they are thriving.

While we were in Lithuania, we watched TV coverage of a huge cultural festival in neighboring Latvia, with thousands performing traditional songs and dances. It seems that the cornerstones of family, religion, and culture will long outlast politics. That countries go through periods of hell and then bounce back gives me hope that our fragile planet can survive the human conflict and profound social change we are experiencing right now.

Adapted from posts at Joe's blog.

Last Published: August 15, 2019 11:37 AM
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