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December 23, 2011

“ordinary people can do monstrous things” — the story of Sidney Finkel, a Holocaust survivor

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 11:10 am

Sidney (Sevek) Finkel was born in Poland in December 1931. When he was 7 years old, Germany invaded Poland and his family was forced to live in a ghetto where 20,000 Jews were crowded into only 182 buildings.  You can read Sevek’s full story in an article in a Chicago newspaper here.  Finkel is now 80 years old and for more than 15 years, he has been educating 8th graders in America on the Holocaust.

The title of my blog post today comes from a line in the Chicago newspaper article in which Sevek tells the story of his sister Ronia and her new-born baby.  An ordinary German soldier threw the baby out of a second-story window and then shot Ronia.

How does Sidney Finkel explain this monstrous behavior of the German people?  This quote is from the newspaper article:

“People want to believe the Germans were monsters,” he said. “They think they had horns growing out their heads.

“But they were ordinary people. I would not be surprised if, after tossing my niece out that window and murdering my sister, he went home and read bedtime stories to his own children as he tucked them in.

“That’s the lesson to be learned. That ordinary people can do monstrous things.”

Virtually every Holocaust survivor has a similar story to tell.  Babies were thrown up into the air and shot like clay pigeons.  Babies were grabbed out of their mother’s arms and their heads were smashed against a tree or a wall. Babies were torn in half like a phone book, as witnessed by Rutka Laskier. Live babies were thrown into a burning pit, as witnessed by Elie Weisel on his first night in Auschwitz-Birkenau.  I previously blogged here about Sidney Glucksman who saw babies stuffed into bags and soldiers swinging the bags against concrete walls, killing the babies.

I once attended a Holocaust art show in which there was a painting that showed babies being thrown out of a window. This story is so universal that I would be suspicious of any Holocaust Survivor who did not include, in his or her story, some mention of babies being killed in some monstrous way by ordinary German soldiers.   (more…)