Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
When history is hard
By WAVENEY ANN MOORE, Times Staff Writer
Published October 7, 2007
Almost 10 years ago, as the Florida Holocaust Museum prepared to open its spacious new quarters in downtown St. Petersburg, I spoke with survivors of the Nazi barbarity for a special newspaper section about the facility.
My encounters with these men and women who had been ripped from their families and homes, starved, tortured and riven by disease was so upsetting that I struggled to maintain a professional demeanor.
I was in anguish as I thought about this state-sponsored 20th century murder of 6-million Jews and millions of others, singled out simply because they were Jews or Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma Gypsies or gay, mentally or physically disabled or a member of any group the Nazis deemed inferior or unwanted. I began to pay closer attention to accounts of other modern-day acts of hate and came to understand the resolute vow of those who say, "Never again. Not on my watch."
Now, almost a decade after learning my first real lessons of the Holocaust, I find myself pondering other aspects of the Nazi persecution and mass murder during the harrowing years of World War II. These thoughts arose with the recent discovery of new photographs tied to the Auschwitz concentration camp, the largest built by the Hitler regime, where gas chambers and crematoria carried out their gruesome tasks with horrific precision.
The new photographs show no evidence of the concentration camp's mission as a repository of prisoners for forced labor and killing center. Instead, many of the images are of Nazi officers and other members of the military cavorting at a retreat near Auschwitz. The astonishing photographs show men and women, clean and well-dressed, eating, drinking, singing, laughing and lounging on deck chairs. They aren't suffering from any apparent guilt or remorse for what they were doing at Auschwitz.
It was with a confused mixture of emotions - interest, unbelief and horror - that I proceeded to call a few victims of Auschwitz to discuss these photographs.
I also called Noreen Brand, former director of curatorial affairs at the Florida Holocaust Museum, who recently left the St. Petersburg facility for a new post at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center that will open in November 2008 in Skokie. It's where a large number of Holocaust survivors settled. It's also where neo-Nazis threatened to march in 1977.
The World War II photographs reminded her of artist Judy Chicago's work, which has been on exhibit at the Florida Holocaust Museum. Brand particularly mentioned The Banality of Evil/Then and Now. That piece shows a Nazi officer and his family enjoying their dog and toys juxtaposed against a crematorium smoke stack.
After our conversation, I researched Chicago's work and found another piece titled The Banality of Evil/Struthof. In it, Nazi soldiers and civilians are relaxing at an outdoor cafe, while in the background soldiers with whips are forcing naked Jewish prisoners into the gas chamber.
The Nazi photographs and Chicago's work, which present a tableau of social serenity against incomprehensible brutality, forced my thoughts reluctantly to the plight of my own ancestors.
They were African slaves who toiled on sugar plantations in Barbados and Guyana. They had survived the crammed, putrid, inhumane sea voyage known as the Middle Passage. These shameful moments in history each has its unique horrors, but in some ways, the cruel juxtaposition of the carefree SS Nazi officers and the pain of their victims made me think of the plantation houses of slave owners who enjoyed the fruits of slave labor while displaced Africans suffered in menial shacks. Just last month, such a shack was unveiled on the grounds of George Washington's Mount Vernon.
All these years after the end of slavery, if I feel any pain, it is largely intellectual and mostly buried, rarely thought of and never dragged out as an excuse not to try harder and do better in this my adopted country. Yet, to be truthful, I consciously avoid programs and discussions about slavery and the civil rights struggle, afraid to look back and afraid of the anger I might feel.
I admire those who have channeled their outrage into concrete, nonviolent efforts to eradicate prejudice, cruelty and hatred. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Elie Wiesel come to mind.
There are others, quiet activists like Philip L. Gans. The Clearwater man lost 21 relatives, including his parents, sister, brother and grandmother, during Hitler's mad pursuit of the "Final Solution."
Until six years ago, Gans, 79, who was born in Amsterdam, rarely spoke about the horror he experienced. After 15 years of seeing a psychiatrist, he is finally free of nightmares.
Now Gans talks to schoolchildren, college students and other groups about the Holocaust. This week he'll be in Indianapolis. It's a painful subject to talk about, Gans said, adding that until a few years ago he saw little purpose in discussing it.
"People just didn't talk about it," he said.
"Today, we want to tell this generation what went on, so we can prevent another Holocaust."