by Bob Meo
My wife and I recently completed a lovely European cruise up the Danube River from Hungary, through Austria and ending in Germany. The charm and
peacefulness of the towns and cities along the river were breathtaking with castles and churches adding to the beauty along the way.
On the sixth day we arrived at the quaint market town of Mauthausen, a picture-perfect Austrian location. On top of a hill overlooking this peaceful sight was one of the most brutal Nazi concentration camps in existence at the time, a symbol today of history at its savage worst. We saw the rock quarry where prisoners
labored; their crowded barracks – at least 4 people to a bunk; the infamous “Stairs of Death”, the 186 steps that prisoners were forced to climb with huge slabs of
granite from the quarries (weighing at least 110 pounds) on their backs; the gas chamber; the books of logged names of those who were killed – all a very
sobering reminder of man’s inhumanity to man.
What surprised me was that this camp, responsible for the murder of more than 150,000 people, was not hidden deep in the woods but it sat atop a beautiful
hill overlooking a picturesque town less than half a mile away. I asked our guide how all this horror could happen so close to the town and no one did anything
to stop it. Her response was clear: No one had the nerve to question those in power for fear of repercussions which could lead to their downfalls,
namely torture and death.
They knew that trains came in, people were marched up the hill never to be seen again, while ashes from the crematories fell on the streets, but no one said a
word or did a thing.
This graphic and tragic reality of WWII made me think about what is happening in America today. How is it that we have not learned lessons from the
mistakes of the past? Why do we remain silent and allow people who act like demigods to pursue their personal agendas? We must encourage good and
honest people to take positions of authority, people who put our nation before themselves or their party.
President John F. Kennedy said in his famous inauguration address, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” It
was a call to action for us to contribute to the betterment of our country and society. Everyone has a role in shaping the future of our nation, and
everyone should work together towards a better future for all.
America, we must wake up, take stock of all the good in this country, and ask ourselves how we can make a difference. It’s time to act before our country is
reduced to ashes.