Joseph was 12 years old. He was looking forward to his 13th birthday where he would celebrate his bar mitzvah and finally be part of adult Jewish society in his town. He was a top student in school and was thinking that perhaps when he finished his studies he would join his father in the family business, pill a shoe repair store. He had already been working there a couple of years, medicine helping his father repair shoes and sweeping. He wanted to learn the trade and follow in his father’s footsteps.
The only problem was, site Joseph was a Jew who lived in Poland in 1939. September rolled around and the Nazi armies invaded Poland and ended Joseph’s life as he knew it. They rounded up him and his family and eventually put them into a ghetto in Warsaw. Joseph’s studies had come to an end, his life as he knew it had forever changed. Here he lived in a cramped apartment with three other families, people were dying on the street, the Nazis beat up his father and carted him off never to be seen again. Joseph’s mother and brother were shot in the streets of the ghetto. He was 12 and all alone.
A few weeks after being put into the ghetto, Joseph was rounded up with other children of the ghetto and loaded into a cattle car. The train drove for over a day in a half and finally stopped. When Joseph got out of the train armed men told him to get naked. He complied. Then they told him it was shower time, so him along with thousands of other children were marched to the showers at the Auschwitz Death Camp. They were never seen again.
When rallies are held in Canada, a democratic free society and the people involved in the rallies use imagery that compare current governments to the Nazis, I think of Joseph, the one singular child out of 1.5 million children brutally murdered by the Nazis. I think of how lucky we are to live in a free society, where no matter how repugnant your actions are you have the freedom to partake in them. I think about how this battle over tuition for higher education has degraded into a circus where any freak could come out and get their fifteen minutes of fame.
Weeks ago, I figured it was only a matter of time before the Nazi salutes begin. Only a matter of time before the rejects of society show up to join in the fun. I am happy that the Nazi salutes are being universally condemned by almost everyone. I’m happy that there are some normal people out there who realize that a 50 cent a day tuition hike is not equivalent to Nazism and that even if they are forced to pay the tuition hike, they are still better off than Joseph.
Perhaps instead of condemning these people, who are clearly ignorant of world history, we should be attempting to educate them. Perhaps we should use this incident as an opportunity to teach these people what Nazism really was. To let them understand that just because it feels harmless to raise their arm, it causes much harm to many people.
And to think, these are people allegedly in university.
It’s time for the Charest Government to legislate an end to this fiasco, force everyone back to school, give them an option, go back or fail. If you choose to fail, you will not have the opportunity to go back ever again.
As for me, I will continue to mourn Joseph and the 1.499999 Million other children who were killed by the Nazis, but I will also start mourning the loss of rational thought in our society, the loss of perspective and the loss of sensitivity.