Former NBA player Ray Allen has written an article in the Player’s Tribune entitled Why I Went to Auschwitz.
It truly is a powerful, poignant and thought-provoking piece.
The people of these Jewish communities were pushed to the absolute limit of their human instincts. They just wanted to survive. And from that, the tales of brotherhood and camaraderie are so awe-inspiring. It was a reminder of what the human spirit is capable of — both for good and evil.
I thought I knew what the Holocaust was, and what it meant. I went to Poland with a few close friends to learn more. But I wasn’t prepared for how deeply the visit would affect me. I had seen so many documentaries and films on Auschwitz, but nothing really prepares you for being there. The first thing I felt when I walked through those iron gates was … heavy. The air around me felt heavy. I stood on the train tracks where the prisoners of the camp would arrive, and I felt like I could hear the trains coming to a halt. I had to take a breath to center myself. It was so immediate. So overwhelming.
We walked through the barracks and gas chambers and what I remember most is what I heard: nothing. I’ve never experienced silence like that. Apart from footsteps, the complete lack of sound was almost jarring. It’s eerie and sobering. You’re standing in these rooms where so much death has taken place and your mind is trying to come to terms with all that’s happened in this space.
One question keeps repeating over and over and over in your mind: How can human beings do this to one another?
How does somebody process that? You can’t.
This is not history. This is humanity. This is now. This is a living lesson for us as a people.
I asked myself a really tough question: Would I have done the same?
Really, would I have done the same?
Then after reading words like this, I was jolted by what Ray described next
When I returned home to America, I got some very disheartening messages directed toward me on social media regarding my trip. Some people didn’t like the fact that I was going to Poland to raise awareness for the issues that happened there and not using that time or energy to support people in the black community.
I was told my ancestors would be ashamed of me.
I can imagine the types who reacted this way: the Black Lives Matters crowd, especially those who tie their own struggle with that of the palestinian Arabs. And throw in some Louis Farrakhan supporters for good measure.
And just like that, as you are inspired by Ray Allen’s words, you are reminded a lot has not changed since the Holocaust.
Which is not lost on Ray:
The people who believe that I am not spending my time the way the right way … well, they’re missing the entire point. We shouldn’t label people as this thing or that thing. Because by doing so, you create these preconceived notions, which is how we get into these horrible situations in the first place.
We have to do a better job breaking through ignorance and the close-mindedness and the divisions that are plaguing our society in 2017.