Reflections by President Saatkamp

Holocaust Resource Center

Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr.
March 2013

We walk back in time, to go forward.
Our gait fractured by the unspeakable, the unthinkable. Lived experienced memories for two, close but second memories for others, new discoveries about a father for one, and all of us filled with images without voices, terror without sounds, emptiness without responses.

Coming together, calling our numbers to assure we are all together, looking and finding and seeing the same and the different.  Wondering what we would have done, been, and thought during such times. Our people, our community under siege, an enemy seeking the final solution.  Data, statistics, numbers so easily entered, tattooed and calculated.  Numbers without memories, without faces, without futures. Where are the persons, the children, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, grandparents, ancestors, future generations?  All individuals.

Grave sites, grave sights, barracks, barbed wire, watch towers, empty buildings, cold, snow, fallen leaves, "Fallen Leaves" with clanging horror, too much for some to walk over.

What did we expect?  Not this.  Sounds without sound, thoughts without thought, sights without sight. All surrounded by the comfort of everyday life: good food, comfortable hotels, expert travel arrangements, expert guides, great care and attention to detail.  Dachau with modern residences around it (how can one live there?), buildings going up, restaurants, bars, clubs, symphony, opera all continue as if deaf to the fallen, to our backward walk in time.

Then the realization: we are out of step.  All around us are going forward.  Like Janus we have another face, one with a future, one with choice.

We can choose to be different even if history is not on our side. We are in life camps, at home, office, college, everywhere. Our children and students are promises we make to a future we will not see.  Perhaps there is little hope, leaves fall every year, holocausts and genocides are not dead and buried they rise from the graves within all humans every year, every chance. But it is worth trying.
We walk back, in time to go forward.   I hope.

Dr. Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr.