A Hill of Pacifiers

  • Posted on March 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I’m an English teacher to almost 180 10th grade students.  We’re starting a new unit on “Night,” a book written by Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor.  Over the years, I’ve taught this book, and while it’s awful and terrible and horrific what happened to him and 6 million others, I’ve kept the sadness at arms-length.

Until now.

While my students were completing a pre-reading activity, I read an article that was printed at the back of one of the teacher-copy books I have.  In it, a woman was describing how she and her sister were forced to search the clothing for valuables of those who were sent to the gas chambers and sort everything into piles, including a heartbreaking hill of pacifiers.

I cannot bend my mind around this.  I have been struggling with the loss of my son for ten months now.  Through no fault of my own or his own, Benjamin didn’t survive more than 20 minutes.  His life was very brief, but meaningful to me just the same.  But, to purposefully snatch away the lives of innocent children, men, and women?  I just can’t understand the hatred behind it all.

I know my life has been completely altered by the experience of losing a child.  So, I suppose reading about children dying senselessly sends me into a tailspin.  I also saw video footage of a little child running toward his/her mother, but being held back by the SS.  The little one was determined to get to his/her mother, but kept getting held back and eventually fell over.  How could those SS officers be so cruel?  My heart ached when I saw that footage.

As my daughter continues to grow, I grow more and more protective of her.  What did that mother do, seeing her child be pushed away and kept from her?  I suppose it’s easy to say what I would have done in that situation because it’s easier to say something rather than doing it/experiencing it.  How difficult it must have been for that mother, watching with helpless fury as her child was kept from her.

I went home from school that day and hugged Grace a little tighter.  All I can hope is that the mother and child I saw on the video didn’t suffer, but in reality, I’m sure they did.  And that’s what I just can’t stand.  All the horror and brutality at the hands of people.  People who acted like animals.

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