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My Day at Aushwitz and Birkenau: Fun in the Killing Fields of Europe

  • Broadcast in Psychology
Stories We Live By

Stories We Live By


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I have just returned from a tour of the major cities of Poland, Hungary, Austria and The Czech Republic which included Warsaw, Budapest, Vienna and Prague. My visit to the Polish city of Cracow included a tour of the infamous concentration camps of Aushwitz and Birkenau. In each of these great cities I ate large quantities of good food, drank copious glasses of good wine while visitng magnificent castles and memorials to the tens of millions slaughtered by the Nazi's the Communists and citizens of these countries whose children go to school, get married, have babies of their own and eat and laugh in the same way as the millions of visitors who come to their homelands. The trip therefore had a surreal quality that now has me asking myself how I, and my fellow travelers could have had such a good time in places that are vast graveyards and killing fields. How do I tell a story of my adventures that can shed some light on how these horrors could have happened without uttering the nearly universal words "It's Unbelievable" and "How could this have happened" while then enjoying a fun filled evening of good food and fellowship. How can we explain Mozart, Beethoven Tchaikovsky and Dvorak along side of Hitler and Stalin. In my story this evening I will offer some suggestions of explanation that will certainly be inadequate and which will certainly not have a happy ending. I will employ some of the themes used in past broadcasts including self and group idealization, dehumanization and demonization, and victimization.