A few days ago I had the opportunity to talk to a gentleman who was part of the American liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald in April of 1945. He was a military policeman and was used to harboring prisoners of war, feeding them, giving them opportunity to bathe, transporting them here and there. But he said he was totally unprepared for what the American soldiers found at Buchenwald.
“I just kept thinking, how?” he said. “How could this happen?”
He couldn’t believe his eyes. He said there wasn’t even room for anger, such was the shock and horror. He just shook and kept asking, “How?”
If you’ve ever seen the Band of Brothers episode where the Landsberg concentration camp was liberated you have some idea what these soldiers met. (You can watch a clip here but as a warning, there’s some harsh language). This gentleman said he’d watched the episode and it was pretty accurate, only the real thing was “much worse.”
He had photos he showed me, snapshots of stockpiled dead bodies, the cremation ovens, mounds of bones. Some of his photos are part of the collection at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
After repeatedly telling me he was not a religious man and never was, he said, “Some say you can’t learn anything in war, but they’re wrong. I learned one thing.” I braced myself, thinking he was going to expound on the horrors of war or the wickedness of man, but he surprised me when he said, “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.”
Think about that. Wise words from a man who had witnessed first hand the exact opposite. That one rule–that golden rule–holds the power to change lives, even change the course of human history.
Hey, I’m sold. If I didn’t take it seriously before I sure do now.
Question: How have you witnessed the power of that simple rule? Or what pain have you seen caused by the breaking of it?
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