In 1941, Hitler ratcheted up his persecution of Europe’s Jewish population by ordering “The final solution of the Jewish question.” That “solution” was the mass murder of millions of Jews. Many of the Jewish men, women and children that died over the following years were shot by German murder squads made up of soldiers and enthusiastic civilians. Mobile gassing vans were used to murder dozens of Jews at a time. Then larger gas chambers, disguised as shower facilities, were installed in prison camps. Jews, already corralled in sealed ghettos and internment camps, were shipped to these killing centers for extermination.
The war lasted six long years. The toll on human lives was astronomical - more than 60 million people died.
Too often, when confronted with devastation of this magnitude, we tend to view the dead as a statistic - a solid block of entangled nonentities. This approach allows us to maintain a comfortable feeling of emotional detachment so we feel less horrified, frightened and threatened. But to truly understand WWII, we must step into the painting and view the events through the eyes of those who participated. The individual brush strokes that make up the macabre picture are dipped in the blood of men, women and children no different from us.
In the end, the sound of war isn’t heard in the rattle of machine gun fire or the bellowing of bombs. It is in the voices of those who lived and died and the stories they have to share.