Opinion | Hamilton: Anti-Semitism: A Dachau memoir
Back in 1963, when this soldier was stationed near Augsburg, West Germany, Army company commanders paid their troops in-person. Every payday, my jeep driver and I would strap on loaded M1911 .45, semi-automatic pistols and drive to 24th Infantry Division Headquarters to draw enough cash to pay 164 soldiers. As each soldier came to the pay table, I got to look each soldier in the eye, inquire about any problems, and hand them their pay. Sadly, I don’t think it is done that way anymore.
At any given time, the Division had a few court-martialed soldiers sentenced to six months confinement and the loss of two-thirds of their monthly pay. Those soldiers were confined in Dachau, the former site of a Nazi death camp, located 32 miles southeast of Augsburg.
One month, I drew the additional duty of going to Dachau to put the one-third pay to which the confined soldiers were still entitled into the safe-keeping hands of the prison Warden. My jeep driver, born after World War II, knew nothing about the Holocaust. So, while I met with the Warden, my driver went to tour what was then a make-shift Holocaust museum.
When we rendezvoused at the Jeep, my driver was so shaken I thought he would vomit. Suddenly, I realized our 18- and 19-year-soldiers were unlikely to know anything about Hitler’s attempt to exterminate the Jewish people. So, for the next 12 months, I volunteered to make the pay trip to Dachau for the Division. Each time, taking along a jeep load of troops to tour the nascent Holocaust Museum.
On April 12, 1945, when General Dwight D. Eisenhower toured a sub-camp of Buchenwald he exclaimed, “This is beyond the American mind to comprehend!” General Eisenhower ordered, “Get it all on record now, get the films, get the witnesses, because, somewhere down the road of history, some bastard will get up and say this never happened.”
Fast forward to 2019. Now, 74 years later, we have freshmen members of Congress spouting and tweeting anti-Semitic rhetoric. Sadly, the new House majority refuses to call the racist-bigots to task.
But, in 2019, it is not only Judaism that is under attack. Near Bologna, Italy, in the cemetery in Pieve di Cento, the Christian crosses on graves have been covered with black cloth in order not to offend those who profess a different religion. Inside the chapel, motorized blackout curtains are used to hide Roman Catholic symbols during ceremonies conducted by other religions. But nothing is done to cover the symbols of other religions when Christian services are being conducted.
Fortunately, in this country, the 1st Amendment is supposed to protect free speech and freedom of religion. But the 1st Amendment does not protect those who would silence the free speech of others or practice a faux religion that calls for others to “submit” or be killed.
Hopefully, those who elected the current crop of anti-Semites spouting off in the halls of Congress will reconsider their choices in 2020. Moreover, the congresspersons who failed to upbraid the bigots might find themselves out of office, as well. On November 3, 2020, we will find out. We report. Others decide.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. Dr. Hamilton is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, Pegasus Imprimis Press (2017). “Central View,” can also be seen at: http://www.central-view.com.
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