Seventy years ago today, the prisoners of Auschwitz were liberated. Irene Weiss is one of those survivors. She was 13 years old when she was captured, her long blond braids shaved off and her family killed in the gas chambers. Weiss sat down with me to share her inspirational story.
I quiet myself down, take deep breaths and listen to my heart beat. Sometimes the world can seem so chaotic, that only breathing can bring me back to the center of who I am.
Soon no more Holocaust survivors will be alive, and our duty of remembering and understanding increases. This means, among other things, that we must face the uncomfortable truths about human nature that Auschwitz symbolizes.
There is no question that it hurts to think. There also is no question that it is dangerous not to think.
The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which will be marked January 27 on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, comes at a time when some are asking: Is it happening all over again in Europe?
Despite the enormity of the Holocaust, and the many books, movies, museums and memorials aimed at ensuring remembrance, Americans in more recent years have shown surprising ignorance of what happened under the Nazis.
As a travel writer open and game to exploring the offbeat and oddball within a few hours or one day's drive of New York City (Virginia to Maine), I've stumbled on some pretty bizarre, eccentric and/or downright weird things. Here's just a sampling from this year's explorations.
In The Killing Compartments, Abram De Swaan, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Amsterdam, provides an insightful analysis of the phenomenon of mass annihilation that is not directly a part of "regular warfare."
If we think about the fact that every single parent wants the world to be a better place for their children, then for a moment, perhaps we can put our differences aside and our heads together. We need not wait for crises to join hands. There's lots to be done, and every small step counts.
She's done it all: married (and divorced) a prince; been painted by Andy Warhol; made the front page of Newsweek; survived cancer; faced bankruptcy and become a doting grandmother.
I hope for a world where reaching a hand across cultures is a part of daily life, as natural as a slice of bread and jam.
Just listening isn't enough. We must give what we can, stay active and aware, help out the person next to us and the one overseas, and pressure leaders with our votes and voices.
It is unconscionable that an innocent people continue to be killed and be betrayed by their own president, albeit that the diplomats in Kinshasa refer to him as "le petit rwandais," who is supposed to serve and protect the Congolese people.
The Darfur region in the west of Sudan was once a focus of extraordinary American civil society activism; there was also once regular international news and human rights reporting from Darfur. None of this is true now.
What troubles me most about a movie such as The Interview is that, rather than spur debate about the U.S.'s role in the world, it actually shuts down and forecloses such discussion.
When I was tattooed at Auschwitz, I was stunned. But it was a day when I had lost my whole family. I had lost everything I knew up to that point. I thought at the time, If there is hell on Earth, this is probably it.