This week I read a book (and later watched the corresponding movie) called “The Pianist.” This Holocaust memoir by Wladyslaw Szpilman recounts the tragic sequence of events that led to the murder of his family, the ruin of his home, and the destruction of nations.
Szpilman was part of a middle-class Jewish family living in Warsaw. They were kind-hearted, honest people—the sort who could be your neighbors. When the Nazis first invaded Poland, the Szpilmans never foresaw their fate. Like many others, they believed an easy war would bring a swift end to any violence.
Yet as the war dragged on, the Nazi noose only tightened. The indignity when all Jews were required to wear armbands marked with the Star of David! The shame of being ordered out of restaurants, shops, and public parks! And the shocking establishment of the ghetto, whose walls confined all Jews to a space where they could not “infect’ their fellow citizens.
We all shudder to think of this spiral into powerlessness, which resulted in the deaths of millions. We remember these events and think, “How horrible! How outrageous! But … the Holocaust was the product of an insane dictator, and we live in 21st century America. We are safe in our democracy here!”
Yet it is not so outlandish to imagine. Indeed, we all have been moving toward a somewhat similar predicament. Last March, we believed our lives would be normal by May, yet see how our war has dragged on, with government decrees building all the while! We are required to wear masks covering our faces, ordered to stay out of shops because of capacity limits, and confined in our homes during lockdowns. We have lived like this for nearly 10 months, and do we see a light at the end of the tunnel? I certainly do not.
Therefore, as we enter 2021, I beg my countrymen: Remember your history, and fight back for your freedom.
Mary Virginia Vietor