Planet Earth

The disintegration of memory

Cosmic VarianceBy Daniel HolzApr 4, 2010 12:35 AM

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Given that it's Easter Sunday, I thought it would be particularly appropriate to mention survivors of the Holocaust. Sean has been arguing (here and here) that science does not give us morality. And, as the Pope and the Catholic Church have resoundingly demonstrated, God doesn't seem to provide us with morality either. None of this means that we shouldn't strive to make the world a better place. Nor that we can't say that the Holocaust was evil. Maciek Nabrdalik has been photographing survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. Nabrdalik is quoted in a New York Times blog: “I believe that by looking into their eyes, a sharper perspective will appear and perhaps help us understand the nature of the enormity of this atrocity a little bit better,” Mr. Nabrdalik said. “Understand it on a human scale, that is.” The photographs show only shining faces, surrounded by an encroaching blackness. Perhaps the blackness represents the horrors they have experienced. Perhaps the blackness represents the fact that the number of survivors is dwindling, and soon there'll be no one left to remind us of one of the worst examples of man's inhumanity to man. All that will be left is darkness.

Shema by Primo Levi (Holocaust survivor)

You who live secure In your warm houses Who return at evening to find Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider whether this is a man, Who labours in the mud Who knows no peace Who fights for a crust of bread Who dies at a yes or a no. Consider whether this is a woman, Without hair or name With no more strength to remember Eyes empty and womb cold As a frog in winter.

Consider that this has been: I commend these words to you. Engrave them on your hearts When you are in your house, when you walk on your way, When you go to bed, when you rise. Repeat them to your children. Or may your house crumble, Disease render you powerless, Your offspring avert their faces from you.

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