The truth may not set you free, but its the best weapon against the enslaving lie – The Altamont Enterprise

Posted By on March 18, 2022

Only those who were there will ever know, and those who were there can never tell, said Elie Wiesel of the Holocaust.

Patricia C. Bischof is the eldest child of two Holocaust survivors. Her parents never spoke of their past. Ever.

She spent years piecing together her parents history, one fragment at a time, and in doing so found her voice. Her father, from a middle-class Munich family, was imprisoned in Dachau for having a relationship with an Aryan woman. There, he was forced to stone others to death. Her mothers sheltered life in what became Poland was shattered by the Nazis. All of her grandparents were murdered.

Bischof heard the story of her mothers life for the first time as an adult after she arranged for her mother to be interviewed by the Shoah Foundation. Bischof sat in another room and wept as she listened.

Steven Spielberg created the foundation Shoah is the Hebrew word for Holocaust after filming Schindlers List, during which he heard the stories of Holocaust survivors. He understood the value of recording the stories of genocide survivors.

Currently, the foundation has this statement posted on its website: We are deeply disturbed by Russian President Vladimir Putins call to denazify Ukraine a country with a Jewish president who lost family members in the Holocaust and by his unfounded claim that the military incursion was justified by genocide in Ukraine. We must call out and educate against Holocaust distortion and the toxic language so often used to foment violence and undermine democracy.

A lot of times language gets distorted, Bischof told us in last weeks Enterprise podcast as we talked about her memoir and the war in Ukraine. People use parts incorrectly. And they oftentimes dont understand what theyre saying. I mean, they think they understand, but they dont. And they might either cheapen the situation or misconstrue the situation.

Bischof wrote her book, she said, to tell the truth, to document what had happened to her parents and how it affected another generation.

We, in the Western world, can see what is happening now in Ukraine. We can see the bombed cities and the dead bodies. We cant of course experience the truth of it the way someone being shaken by the bombs or loosing people they love can.

Our knowledge is abstract in the same way knowledge of the Holocaust is for most of us. Several years ago, we talked to the late Milton Hart, who was then in his 90s. He had joined the Army right after graduating from Berne-Knox in 1944 and served in the 20th Armored Division.

In 1945, he helped liberate Dachau, and, three-quarters of a century later, he cried when he spoke of it. They were like walking skeletons, he said of the surviving concentration camp prisoners. Hart gave his rations to them. It was horrible, he said.

Some horrors are just too vast to fully grasp from afar.

But what has most profoundly troubled us with the current war in Ukraine, when it comes to truth telling, is the purposeful deception of Russians by Vladimir Putin. He has signed a law that would punish anyone, with up to 15 years in prison, for spreading false information.

False information includes describing Russias attack on Ukraine as a war. Russias own independent media has gone off the air and journalists from foreign media have left.

Next, a digital blockade went up, shutting Russians off from communications with the rest of the world. Facebook was blocked and Netflix and TikTok suspended services.

This has led to many Russians even ones with children living in Ukraine not knowing that Ukraine has been attacked by Russia. Many believe the propaganda that Russia is performing only surgical strikes on military facilities to liberate Ukraine from Nazi control.

Its effective propaganda because Russians suffered from Nazis and that suffering is remembered through generations as it has been for Bischofs family. But its not true.

Misha Katsurin, a Ukrainian restaurateur, has started a website, which means, Papa, believe to urge Ukrainians with families in Russia to speak to them about the war.

There are 11 million Russians who have relatives in Ukraine, Katsurin told The New York Times about starting the website after a phone call, recording his fathers disbelief, went viral. With 11 million people, everything can happen from revolution to at least some resistance.

At the top of Katsurins website is a recording of that conversation with his father, with an English translation printed beneath. The son describes things I see with my own eyes but you dont believe me. He says, Dad, nobody ever oppressed me. He tells his father of the bombing and the killing and the mayhem and says, I just want you to know the truth.

The website urges, Call your loved ones in Russia. They have been lied to for 20 years. Its hard for them. And theyre already scared. Help them, tell the truth.

Katsurin goes on to list the propaganda that needs refuting: There is no genocide of the Russian population in Ukraine, Nazism in Ukraine is the Kremlin myth, In Ukraine, there is now a war with the use of prohibited weapons by Russia, and Russia is the agressor country that unleashed a war in Europe and now is killing the peaceful population of Ukraine.

We, as citizens of the United States, should not feel smug as we listen to a father who cannot accept what is clearly documented as truth. We should not feel as if we know better.

After all, we live in a time when up to a quarter of our own citizens believe although documentation from more than 60 court challenges shows otherwise that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. Belief in that lie has led many states to adopt voter restrictions.

Ignoring the truth has consequences. Some of them undermine democracy not as dramatically as a war but just as perniciously.

We admire Misha Katsurins campaign to spread the truth one phone call and one family member at a time when there is no other way with all but state media shut down. Here in the United States, we must not squander the many opportunities we have for discovering and sharing truth.

Each of us in a democracy has the duty to seek the truth and tell the truth. And, like the Shoah Foundation, we must call out, at any level, when the truth is not being told.

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The truth may not set you free, but its the best weapon against the enslaving lie - The Altamont Enterprise

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