When I get discouraged by the economy and the political doublespeak that makes us all wonder if there is any hope at all for the future, a holocaust survivor speaks. The survivors of man’s inhumanity to man cannot help but make you reflective and wonder two things. Would I have endured through the tragedies? Would I be speaking today about democracy and freedom if I was a survivor?
A free society is what the world wants, but what exactly does that mean? Is it freedom from excessive taxes that erode income and thus a standard of living? Is it freedom to say whatever we want to say without regard for what others believe, want to hear, or the content? Is it freedom of religion even when it invades cultural mores?
Look to the holocaust survivors. They have a message for the world that seems to fade as time goes by and yet remains important because we will always be human. At the UK Youth Parliament in late July 2011, Iby Knell, a holocaust survivor, spoke about a free society where you can express your opinion without fear and without arrest and without persecution. When I look at the picture of her at the conference, I wonder what she went through and how she survived. What kind of determination and strong character does it take to go through life after such an ordeal and speak about it to anyone who will listen? How do you ever learn to smile again?
Then I find my eyes are looking at the hundreds of young conference members sitting behind her, and I realize that it is in their power to prevent a holocaust in the future. The fact they are even at the conference tells you that they care deeply about the world they live in and are willing to take a stand, get involved and learn how to influence society, politics, the environment, health, education and so much more.
Ms. Knell represents a past she doesn’t want repeated or anyone else to endure. Those she spoke to can make sure it never does. Despite the fact the young adults attended the conference, I find myself wondering if they truly understand the power they have to form a world that is very different from the one we live in now. Heaven knows there is much that needs changing.