History teaches us that silence and secrecy are often the most effective tools of power.
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”-― Elie Wiesel
Theresienstadt was a concentration camp established by the SS during World War II in the garrison city of Terezín (German: Theresienstadt) located in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. Late in the war, after D-Day and the invasion of Normandy, the Nazis permitted representatives from the Danish Red Cross and the International Red Cross to visit Theresienstadt to dispel rumors about the extermination camps.
Weeks of preparation preceded the visit. The area was cleaned up, and the Nazis deported many Jews to Auschwitz to minimize the appearance of overcrowding. So too were the workers assigned by the Nazis to erect fake shops and cafés implying the Jews lived in relative comfort.
The Red Cross representatives were conducted on a tour following a predetermined path designated by a red line on a map. The representatives apparently did not attempt to divert from the tour route on which they were led by the Germans, who posed questions to the Jewish residents along the way. If the representatives asked residents questions directly, they were ignored and the Red Cross left with a positive impression of this Potemkin village–a place of false facades where Hans Krasa’s children’s opera Brundibár was performed by the children of Theresienstadt between 1943 and 1944. A fairytale with the message that good triumphs over evil, the performances provided a fantasy world for the children of Theresienstadt even though it was cynically promoted by the Nazis for propaganda purposes.
Theresienstadt. Ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem jüdischen Siedlungsgebiet (English: Terezin: A Documentary Film from the Jewish Settlement Area) was directed by Jewish prisoner Kurt Gerron who had appeared with Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel.
The film was intended to show how well the Jews were living under the purportedly benevolent protection of the Third Reich.
A performance of Brundibár was filmed for Nazi propaganda and all of the participants in the Theresienstadt production were herded into cattle trucks and sent to Auschwitz as soon as filming was finished. Most were gassed immediately upon arrival, including the children, the composer Hans Krása, the director Kurt Gerron, and the musicians.
“At times to be silent is to lie. You will win because you have enough brute force. But you will not convince. For to convince you need to persuade. And in order to persuade you would need what you lack: Reason and Right”
― Miguel de Unamuno
“I have always found it odd that people who think passive aggressively ignoring a person is making a point to them. The only point it makes to anyone is your inability to articulate your point of view because deep down you know you can’t win. It’s better to assert yourself and tell the person you are moving on without them and why, rather than leave a lasting impression of cowardness on your part in a person’s mind by avoiding them.”
― Shannon L. Alder
Staying silent is like a slow growing cancer to the soul and a trait of a true coward. There is nothing intelligent about not standing up for yourself. You may not win every battle. However, everyone will at least know what you stood for—YOU.”
― Shannon L. Alder