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Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

Otto: Responses to Holocaust column show bigotry still lives

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Quite a few of you commented on a column last week that recounted Gene Klein’s experiences as a young man struggling to survive the death camp at Auschwitz. Most of you used words such as “courage” and “resilience.”

But there were others.

Not many, but enough to help you realize that you don’t have to look into too many dark spaces around here to discover that hatred and bigotry still manage to exist.

What is troubling is that so many of those who suffered through the horrors of World War II or the Gulag of the old Soviet Union are passing on. Despite the efforts to create Holocaust museums and memorials to tell the stories of what happened, newer generations are more likely to only hear snippets of the reality of the deaths of millions of innocents.

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I remember the first time I visited the death camp at Dachau outside Munich when my father was stationed near there. I looked at the crematoriums and mass graves that had been cleaned up to become a memorial park. Despite the flowers and monuments, you still couldn’t stand there surrounded by all of that without getting a chill that humans could do such things.

Longtime reader and respected Tampa veterinarian Walter Woolf describes a visit to the Theresienstadt concentration camp outside Prague with his late wife, Millie.

“The neat rows on either side of a walkway consisted of the unmarked graves of the camp victims found when the camp was liberated. ... There were no markers other than those of the number of bodies interred in what were about 50 trenches, each 100 feet long extending from the walkway.

“The barracks were numerous, each measuring approximately 30 feet wide and 50 feet in depth. Floor-to-ceiling bunks were on each side ... there were reported to be 600 people per barrack, with one washbasin and one toilet.”

Most of us have never seen the camps and are only vaguely aware of what happened.

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Then there are those such as one writer to Mother Trib who included in his vitriol, “Jews have become the new Nazis: They invaded Palestine and are ethnic cleansing Palestine so Jews can take over the West Bank. ... Has Otto ever criticized Jews? Of course not because he knows the Jewish-controlled media and government control us. ... Otto knows that he can’t criticize Jews and keep his job.”

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You know, that’s not quite true. My tennis doubles partner is Jewish and he’s lousy at the game. Somebody hits a lob over his head and he isn’t about to run after it, hollering “yours” to me after it’s too late.

I don’t really attribute that to his being a Jew as much as he is just too lazy to run after the ball. I know Protestants and at least one Catholic who are just like him.

And the truth is I’m not sure my boss is Jewish. It’s hard to tell. He looks a little bit Methodist, although with his Texas drawl he might be Baptist.

I do know he sits with the same people every Friday for lunch at Kojaks barbecue and usually goes with the chicken.

Maybe he’s a Chickologist.

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