Growing up Jewish, you know about the Holocaust.
You pray for the Six Million at synagogue. Your parents or your youth group leader (or my in my case, both) take you the museums their piles of eyeglasses and locks of hair and barbed wire installations.
Maybe you even have a relative who was there, who tells you stories about stealing bread in the Ghetto. Maybe you know someone who escaped but whose eyes turn misty at the family left behind.
Eventually, you reach a kind of Holocaust saturation point. Your mind is full of the facts and the maps and Hitler’s clinical, systemic evil. Your heart can’t take another sad story about a sadistic SS guard or a mother forced to give up her child or whole towns shot and buried in shallow graves.
So you develop a certain gallows humor about it, trying not to think about what will happen when the last of the survivors is gone and the whole rotten horrible thing is all in the past, just another museum to see on your trip to DC or Philadelphia or Buenos Aires or Jerusalem. While you’d kick those a**holes who deny it ever happened in the balls if you had the chance, you sometimes secretly wish that as a Jewish person, you didn’t have to know so much about it.
And just when you think you can’t carry anymore about the Shoah, that you’ve wrapped your mind around the Hideous Thing that happened to our great grandparents and our grandparent as far as it can go, you find out it is was even worse than you could possible imagine:
Researchers at the U.S. Holocaust Museum have finally counted up all the ghettos, the rape brothels, the death camps, the work camps, the slave houses and all the rest of the sites where Jews and other non-Aryans were tortured, starved, maimed and killed: Forty two thousand five hundred sites of sadism and inhumanity.
The numbers are giving me a terrible headache. Lead researchers Geoffrey Megargee and Martin Dean figured they would catalog 7,000 when they began documenting sites in Germany and Poland and beyond the Pale.
42,500. That’s twice as many high schools in the United States. In an area the size of Montana. Which means there was really no way all those German and Polish neighbors couldn’t have known what was happening.
The Six Million, and the total murder number of 10 million men, women and children killed in the Holocaust will have to amended: Drs. Megargee and Dean now estimate it was more like 15 million to 20 million.What was previously figured at two thirds of the entire global Jewish population at the time adds up to even more dead unknown relatives.
It also means more museum exhibits to ponder, to grieve over, to show my own children.
Depressing for a Monday, sure. But on the bright side: Those a**hole deniers don’t have a chance.