Soon there Will be None
“The end excuses any evil.”--- Sophocles
When the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 I was still a gleam in my Dad’s eye. World War II was in its early stages when I was born in March of 1942. During the later stages of the war and shortly afterwards, words and phrases like Battle of the Bulge, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Nazis, Fascists, etc. were just that, words. Holocaust didn’t even register in my mind then.
Years later I learned my Godfather, Marcel (Jackie) Lauzier, had been wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and an aunt, Sister Rose, my Mom‘s sister, spent the War behind enemy lines at the Convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Lyon, France.
My uncle, the late Father Henry Canuel told me she and the other Nuns in her convent were part of the underground railroad moving Jews out of Lyon to avoid the efforts of the Nazis to round them up to kill them. It is only recently that I uncovered dozens of letters written by Sister Rose to relatives here prior to the war and shortly after the war. I am not yet finished reading them. It is a difficult task because the ink is fading and the paper has yellowed over the years. Most of the letters I have in my possession are to my Aunt Aldea and my Mom, Antoinette.
My second real exposure with the Holocaust was with Judge Milton Silva of the Fall River District Court. He was with the 120th Evacuation Hospital, the first medical unit to enter the just liberated Buchenwald Concentration camp. Each year Judge Quinn, of the Juvenile Court, sponsored a Holocaust Remembrance in the courtroom of the F.R. District Court which was attended by students of the various schools in the district. Judge Silva participated in this annual event.
Milton Silva is a rather interesting individual. When he returned from WWII he joined the family undertaking business. He went to law school and later was elected to the Massachusetts legislature and yet later appointed a Judge of Fall River District Court. He also served as Chairman of the F.R. Police Commission under two administrations. At the time the 120th entered Buchenwald Judge Silva was a Corporal. When I learned of the observance I invited him to be a guest on my show. He accepted. My thoughts on the Holocaust were changed forever.
During my years in the textile machinery business I had met many WWII veterans including German and Japanese vets. The first personal encounter I had with the Holocaust was in meeting a man named Hugo Kahnman in Queens, New York.
Hugo had been in the Dutch Air Force when Hitler’s troops invaded the Netherlands. Since he was Jewish he was taken to a concentration camp (I don’t recall which one). He had "the" tattoo on his forearm. He was reluctant to talk about his experience; something I learned was true of most survivors.
I had a psychologist friend who explained many survivors felt some form of guilt because they survived and others were systematically killed.
Judge Silva had known me since my youth. My dad was an undertaker too and we had met casually many times in the past. I knew him as a fun loving, congenial man. Yet when we discussed Buchenwald he became deadly serious. He still felt strong emotions more than thirty-five years later. The experience had become embedded in his soul.
He told our audience of the feeling and smell of death in the air from many miles away. The description of what happened at Buchenwald was spoken by local residents there only in hushed tones.
I read many books on the Holocaust, including some which described Adolph Eichman’s doings, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and many others on the war in Europe and the Pacific.
Yet it was not until this interview with Judge Silva that I felt the full force of the Holocaust. He talked of the walking dead who greeted the Americans at the gate. The still warm crematoria, piles of bodies, the shallow graves, all these memories were vivid and still weighed heavily on him.
We now know the Nazis were desperately trying to kill the remaining prisoners in their concentration camps to destroy all the eye witnesses to their evil deeds.
It was disappointing to hear callers who doubted the validity of the Holocaust. Even with a witness from Buchenwald in the studio.
I began to read all I could about the Holocaust and had different guests from time to time. One such guest answered any thoughts I may have had to the degree of evil which existed during the war. I had learned about the rape of Nanking and the Batan death march and other atrocities performed by the Japanese and their cruelty to prisoners. Horror is the only appropriate word to describe learning what had been done.
I believed Mr. Kahnman. Ditto for Judge Silva and many other guests. I read much of what Eli Wiesel wrote. He dedicated his life to preserving the history and uncovering the murderers who escaped justice right after World War II.
However, one guest brought the evil into very clear focus. The emotions of the victims and desperation of the times became very real thanks to one other guest.
A book publicist contacted our WSAR program producer Charlie Verde promoting a book by an Australian on the Holocaust.
I thought, “What could a writer in Australia know about anything but the Pacific War?”
Thomas Keneally was one of Australia’s top authors. Formerly a school teacher he began writing professionally about 1960 and was prolific in turning our novel after novel. Now he had written of a flamboyant German industrialist who grew into a living legend to the Jews of Krakow, Poland. Only, this was not a novel.
Oskar Schindler was a womanizer, a heavy drinker and a bon vivant, but to them he was a savior.
Keneally’s book is the story of Oskar Schindler who risked his life to protect beleaguered Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland, a man who continually defied the SS, and who was transformed by the war into a man with a mission, a compassionate angel of mercy. The story Keneally told was spell binding.
It sold fairly well, but few knew about it until Steven Spielberg made a movie based on Kineally’s book, Schindler’s Ark.
Oskar Schindler uses Jews to start a factory in Poland during the war. He witnesses the horrors endured by the Jews, and starts to save them.
To this day, Schindler’s List gives insight to the horror of the Nazis like no other motion picture on the subject.
After I left WSAR I did numerous programs on the subject of the Holocaust but nothing came close to what an Australian author recounted.
One of the tragedies of our times is the Holocaust is running out of eye witnesses. In another generation they will all be gone.
While talk radio has done a reasonable job in keeping the memory alive, it is a disappointment to know it is not in its nature to preserve history, so what Keneally and later Spielberg did with Schindler’s List will help keep that history alive.
I did a show on our war with Japan about ten years ago. A student from one of Boston’s great colleges called. She stands out because a format of serious issues does not lend itself to keeping the attention of youthful listeners. This program occurred before the movie Pearl Harbor made a big splash a couple of years ago.
The young lady spoke with surprise that we had fought Japan. She wanted to know when? Then finished her call with the question, “Who won?”
I should have asked her what she knew about the Holocaust.
Radio legend Paul Harvey has a segment he refers to as, "The rest of the story.”
Well here's the rest of the story.
I spoke earlier in this chapter about Judge Milton Silva. I also mentioned Eli Wiesel, quite possibly the most effective voice on the issue of the Holocaust and the founder of Eli Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. Wiesel sums up the Holocaust and our personal responsibilities toward one another this way:
"...to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all..." stands as a succinct summary of his views on life and serves as the driving force of his work. Wiesel is the author of 36 works dealing with Judaism, the Holocaust, and the moral responsibility of all people to fight hatred, racism and genocide.
When Milton Silva and the 120th entered Buchenwald, Eli Wiesel was one of its prisoners.
A few years ago Dr. Eli Wiesel was at U Mass Dartmouth as a commencement speaker. Judge Silva attended that talk and had been invited to the brunch and reception before the ceremony. During the brunch the Judge approached Dr. Wiesel and said, “Dr. Wiesel, you and I have something in common.” Dr. Wiesel responded by asking, “What’s that?” “I was with the 120th evacuation hospital”.
Judge Silva said, “I didn't have to say anything else because he knew, and he pulled me to him, and he put his arms around me, and he said 'Thank you'."
Here, Paul Harvey would say, "And now you know the rest of the story."