What's Wrong With This Picture?


We are nearing the end of our ancestral pilgrimage now. Here I am in front of the Volksopera in Vienna between the feet of the Wicked Witch of Oz, proclaimed dead and powerless amidst bells and revelry.

But the Witch is not dead. Evil is still afoot.

We saw many commemorations to the dead on our short journey through Central Europe. At each stop on our way—Prague, Terezin, Uhersky-Brod, Slovakia, Budapest, Vienna—we learned how lives much like our own were disrupted, how unfathomable atrocities occurred. Decades later, museums and commemorations arose. Iron shoes nailed on the shores of the Danube, walls filled with carefully calligraphed names, gold-squares set at the doors of houses—all beautiful attempts to ring the bell of awareness, to awaken us to cognizance, to give a semblance of honor to those who could not be saved.

Is this human cycle inevitable, I wonder? Deport, Kill, Remember, Repeat.

Will we be doing the same in twenty years time for the Muslim families who are currently crossing continents looking for sanctuary?

My sister and I have seen a lot. But as I walk the streets of Central Europe looking at historical markers, I have found myself asking: What are we not seeing here? What is not in this picture?

For instance, we have traveled on many trains and have frequented many stations but have seen no refugees, though there are hundreds of thousands of immigrants traversing the continent right now. No immigrants in any of these places, at least not visible to my eyes.

This sends a shiver up my spine. I have read how self-styled vigilante groups have formed in Hungary and Slovakia to patrol borders and trains to defend against the "menacing incursion of asylum seekers" from war-torn nations in the Middle East and Africa.

But how long can people hold back the intolerable? Last year 400,000 asylum seekers passed through Hungary on their way to Germany and other more hospitable countries. One of the officials from the border guard units there was quoted as saying: "Europe is Christian, they are Muslims." The asylum seekers now pouring through the continent, he sad: "It's a financed and organized wave by Zionist Jews to destroy Europe."

It's not hard to read between the lines. To see what's wrong with this picture. The news is bracing to anyone who knows a little history. Can we think ahead and interrupt the pattern before it repeats one more time?

All quotes from the New York Times, 6.10.2016.

Tirzah Firestone