Escape To Death

Four Timeless Pictures From Auschwitz

Hani Smirat

Courage is the price that life sets for granting peace. This is the wonderful saying of the American Amelia Earhart. This woman inspired every person who dreams and aspires to change.

Courage: is to draw a map that does not exist in people’s minds, to put stories in their true place, to see what the state of war has hidden from you. Courage is to believe what you did not believe before, to search for the limits of facts regularly, to speak what you fear, and to search  the human values ​​​​that have been absent during war.

When I went to Birmingham in Britain years ago to study mechanisms for dealing with conflict, and I entered the RTC Institute, which sings of Gandhi’s struggle, I was astonished by the horror of what I saw. How could a country like Britain, which wreaked havoc in India, killed generations, and colonized and exported all the necessities of life for more than 3 centuries to embody the image of it’s arch enemy, and sings of his thoughts, and how could this man challenge himself by studying law in Britain, which occupied his land, but after a while I realized how Gandhi was able to benefit from his education in resisting the occupier. He knew in advance that understanding the enemy is half victory, so he was victorious.

Then I realized that we are creatures that are hostile to what they do not know, and that our emotions are always victorious, and that we are under the illusion of knowledge, so this narrow knowledge did not intercede for us, when we deliberately decided to refuse to understand the other, ignorant that understanding the other, and understanding their history and narrative, is half the victory, so we ignored the other…so why we win.

This is what I was thinking as I was heading to the Nazi concentration camps in Poland, keeping in mind to understand what the years of war and occupation hid from me, and what my school curricula, family stories, and available history books hid from me. This is what the criminality of the occupation hid from me, so how could I understand? An occupation that takes me away from my family every day. How can I read about the Holocaust and the massacres of the Jews, when I live every day a massacre and a story of death, because what the occupation created against tolerance and peace far outweighs what it created for them.

But I continued my travel carrying Gandhi’s saying: “No,” said out of deep conviction, is better than “yes,” said simply to please or avoid trouble. And I was aware that after my return, I would face trouble.

I read about the Armenian massacres, known as the “Armenian Holocaust” and the “Armenian Massacre,” in which more than one and a half million people were killed. I met some victims of the Rwanda massacre, in which nearly a million people were killed. Against the backdrop of identity, the pictures, stories, and films were extremely… The ugliness, and the stories are almost unbelievable due to the amount of suffering, injustice and persecution of humanity.

I do not doubt that the Jewish Holocaust is one of the heinous crimes in the world, and it expresses racism, injustice, persecution, and the end of the human race, but as a visitor, many of the images that I saw in the Nazi concentration camp remain fresh in my mind, as a Palestinian living under occupation, and as an activist and believer in peace.

Four images did not leave me, throughout the academic visit, when I began to move between the concentration camps and the places where Jews lived in Krakow and Waczwicz. I was on a date with my personal stories. The first stories were about the processes of displacing Jews, burning their homes, and driving and torturing children, women, and elderly women. These are among the ugliest images in human history. I recalled our grandfathers and fathers who were displaced from their lands in 1948. I recalled dozens of displaced villages in Jaffa, Haifa, and Nazareth. In Hebron, Tulkarm and elsewhere, I had no doubts about the extent of the suffering of the victims and the extent of the ugliness of terrorism in its killing, humiliation and destruction, and the Nazis’ tendency to exterminate the entire human element. I felt truly torn between what I live and what I see.

I saw the gas chambers in which tens of thousands of Jews were brutally executed. They were gathered in closed rooms without clothes, under the pretext of bathing. In moments, the Nazi water turned into a gas that washed souls and dissolved innocent bodies, to be burned and ground. I recalled the Israeli occupation’s use of internationally prohibited gases. I recalled the charred corpses of children. Which did not need ovens to burn them. It recalled the piles of martyrs whose bodies were stuck to the walls of houses, the metals of vehicles, and bread ovens. It recalled the image of a child’s severed hand holding a toy. I wished at the time that I had two hearts or two minds so that I could separate the space of death in Auschwitz from the space of death in the occupied Palestinian territories. I needed to touch the walls of the camps in which the souls of the victims were stuck, to speak to them and tell them a story similar to yours. I imagined that there were innocent souls telling me to speak loudly so I can hear you.

I wanted to commune with the souls of those who were killed to tell them that your grandchildren and children are leading us to death, just as Nazism led you to death. May these souls do what politicians or the living cannot do. May the dead be able to save the living who are about to die.

The Jews were humiliated in the Nazi concentration camps and were placed in brutal, inhuman detention conditions, dark rooms, deprivation of the most basic human needs such as eating, sleeping, urinating, conditions of detention, and conditions of escaping from death to death. I imagined how the victims looked from behind the walls to see the sun, how they looked at the end of the railway. The railway that ends in Auschwitz and ends with death, but it ended with the end of Nazism.

Immediately, I recalled the third story. I recalled the constant insults at the checkpoints, during the interrogation, and in the raids. I recalled the blows of detention in the eighties and nineties, the conditions of detention, and the harsh administrative rulings. I recalled the prisoners’ letters to their families. I remembered the graveyards of the numbers. I remembered the children in the prisons. I remembered many of the pains that I experienced. It’s not finished yet.

The fourth eternal image is a huge book, in the middle of the prison, containing the names of the victims, the circumstances of their death, and the history of their lives, tens of thousands of pages that embody the killing of 6 million Jews, and this is terrifying human terrorism. I was not interested in confirming the number of victims, as that does not concern me. What concerns me is that there are victims, regardless of their number, whatever their names, and whatever the reason for their killing, what I was convinced of was that they were killed without their will, by force and injustice. I was not looking forward to some of the stories that said that a Jewish mafia helped Hitler in this crime, or that the Jews exaggerated the crime. The number of victims of the Holocaust was not a concern, no matter how right or wrong it was. The victim was a victim, even if they were  of the same race as the criminal.

But on the other side, there is continuous death that does not stop. There are 5 million Palestinian refugees, 70% of whom are dead, because they do not have a decent life and are exposed to insults, racism, and death. They are waiting to return, but they die in exile. Yes, I recalled the old women who still bear their burden. The keys to homes, and those who live in lifeless camps, surrounded by misery on all sides. An old woman in one of the Jordanian camps said to me: For more than sixty years we have been suffering from the cruelty of exile and need… For sixty years we have longed to return, so when will we return? when ? So I said to myself, “damn you” for a question to which I cannot find an answer.

Whoever denies the Holocaust does not see, and whoever justifies the actions of the Israeli occupation does not see either, and the Jews must believe more in peace because they knew and lived moments of racism and death. The concentration camps must be regarded as  a symbol of peace, not a motive for killing and occupation. The Israelis should be more sensitive to our suffering, because we have been suffering for more than sixty years of what they suffered previously, and although our minds have been shaped by means that qualify them to express conflict and wars more than tolerance and peace, everyone is required to reshape their minds and learn from the experiences of other peoples.

I hope that before it is too late, the Israelis will look deeply into the horror of their occupation, and that the Palestinians will learn more about the experiences and calamities of nations, and that they will strengthen their form of human communication with the world, and embody their daily pain and suffering in a way that is heard and influenced by others. I hope that recognition, dialogue and peace will be the true language. Among the living, far from denying our pain and stripping us of our humanity.

About Admin

Youth's poetry ignites my quest, Against oppression, I protest. In Palestine's struggle, voices rise, For freedom, peace, justice, my cries.
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4 Responses to Escape To Death

  1. Ola says:

    This article is one of the best I have ever read about people and peace. I’m deeply touched by it. Simply beautiful…

    • Admin says:

      Dear Ola,
      Thank you so much for your kind comment, and I’m pleased to learn that it was the best articles you read about people and peace. Mr Smirat is a Conflict Resolution Director in Palestine and he is very experienced in this field and hope you’ll keep visiting our website to explore more details about our mission in seeking justice, peace and freedom for Palestinians. 🙏🇵🇸❤️

  2. Anon9232 says:

    Very well written and deeply insightful.


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