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  • Writer's pictureNora Koch

I was ignorant

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Instead of having a variety of history classes from 1964 through 1968, because we moved from the farm in 1965, it happened that in four of the five separate schools I attended we studied South America. I did not have European History, World History or US history. When we landed in Spring Valley the Six Days war had just taken place in Israel. I ate up the current events we studied and was subsequently intrigued by history of WWII in Europe, I was fascinated, both because it was something different than South America, but also because it related to me as a German, albeit, American. I felt responsible somehow for the holocaust, which led to the creation of Israel. It haunted me and I read numerous books, among them novels: Mila 18, and Exodus by Leon Uris to understand what had happened.

Later in life, through a Palestinian man, I gained perspective about Israel from a different point of view.

Over the years I have made it my business to educate myself about the history I missed. I realize I am speaking primarily about European history, but that is my background. Much of the knowledge I gained was from Art History classes, and by reading the Story of Christianity by Justo L. González a Cuban-American Methodist historian and theologian. Though not intentional, my haphazard approach circumvented much of the history of war.

Last year I read the abridged version of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, and multi-award winning Bloodlands by Yale historian, Timothy Snyder to understand the scope of atrocities before and after WWII in Europe. I’ve read War and Peace by Tolstoy, and Les Misérables by Hugo. This past spring, I listened to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I don’t understand why being called an Uncle Tom is considered a disgrace; he was a noble man. I learned about Emit Till from my friend and co-worker, with whom I believed I could discuss anything. I finally took a systematic on-line class of American History, free through Hillsdale college. Though it was a survey class, it filled many holes in my knowledge and helped me understand our country better. It helps me understand why we are where we are right now. I want to understand the world I live in. I intend to keep learning until I die.

One thing I have learned in all this is that we are all capable of the vilest of atrocities. We are all responsible for what we do as individuals. Ignorance is not an excuse.

Gulag Archipelago

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either - but right through every human heart - and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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