Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reflecting on History.

Coming from the U.S. it is easy to forget about history.  Not to say America doesn't have a lot of history, it does.  America has lots of history, it is just most of our history happened along time ago and Americans tend to forget it.  If you live in the north, you are surrounded by the history of the Revolutionary War, in the south it's the Civil War or Civil Rights Movement and the west, filled with the expansion of America and the exploration for gold.  Since moving to Europe, I have discovered that I am constantly reminded by the history that took place here.  As I walk around my neighborhood, it is not uncommon for me to see a house that was built in the 1600's and still occupied by people.  Rembrandt is buried near my home, Van Gogh lived here and the Anne Frank house is just down the street from my house too.  It is the Anne Frank house that makes me think of history the most.  Everyone knows who Anne Frank is, but as a reminder, she is a Jewish girl who's family went into hiding during the Second World War to escape the Nazis.  They were able to hide for a few years before being discovered on August 4th, 1944.  It made me think, "surely Nazis have been in my house looking for Jewish people in hiding right?"

Recently I went to Cologne, Germany.  While I was there, we visited the National Socialism Document Center.  What is that?  A place that kept documents?  No, this was the headquarters of the Cologne Gestapo.  The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany and German-occupied Europe.
Behind these doors people were tortured for information and most people didn't leave here alive.
It is in this prison where 400 people were murdered between 1943-1944.  Now unlike our history which happened along time ago, this history happened just 70 years ago.  Seventy years ago isn't that long.  Some of us have grandparents that fought in this war, my grandfather did.  It is hard to image that someone thought this type of action was acceptable.  It's amazing that all this type of stuff happened just a stones throw from where I live now.  I cannot image what it was like to live during a time of constant fear.  The point is to never forget about history no matter what kind of history it is.  The next time you pass a historic marker on the side of the road or the next time you pass a state/national historic site, take time to stop and reflect on the history that help form your country.

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