Some things will always be evocative
At certain angles, the silhouette of a jet plane will always evoke for me the memory of 9/11. In the context of Auschwitz, it is the railway tracks which ran into the centre of the camp. In the last day or two, it has been the picture of Chancellor Merkel taken against those same tracks which has gone round the world.
As you would expect, I found my visit to Auschwitz a couple of years ago disturbing, It’s the enormity of it – and the fact that it is so hard to grasp – which disturbs. You look at the cases of glasses and shoes – you remember reading ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’. But in the end I found myself simply sitting on the railway track and trying to grasp it.
One way of thinking about it is to say that this is about things done by other people in other times and other contexts. But that isn’t adequate. The painful reality is that this is the inexorable conclusion of our tendency to wish to identify ‘out groups’ and to blame others for things which cause us pain.
Some of what was experienced in Northern Ireland during the Troubles was in that area – apparently random shootings of people which came about just because of the identity which they were perceived as holding. There seem to be points at which human beings are capable of departing from any moral sense of their actions,
So it’s a day for careful and reflective thinking ..