soon we heard them no more

09 Sep

We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance how-do-you-kill-11-million-peopleourselves from it, because we felt, what could anyone do to stop it?

Each Sunday morning, we would hear the train whistle blowing in the distance, then the wheels coming over the tracks. We became disturbed when we heard cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars!

Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sounds of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews en route to a death camp. Their screams tormented us.

We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church, we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.

Years have passed and no one talks about it now, but I still hear that train whistle in my sleep.

~ Andy Andrews, How Do You Kill 11 Million People?

Every other year I teach a government class to high school students.

Every other year I read Andy Andrews’ book How Do You Kill 11 Million People? to them, usually after viewing a clip from Schindler’s List – typically the one where Schindler is hosing down the boxcars crammed full of human beings. Between the two of them, they answer the question “Why does government matter?”

I hate watching Schindler’s List (just like I hate reading How Do You Kill 11 Million People?). But everyone must. Every high school student must. (Just like every high school student and adult should watch Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers).

And every high school student, not to mention every adult, should read Andrews’ book. I would characterize How Do You Kill 11 Million People? as a story book for adults. It’s short. It has pencil illustrations. It has questions and key points in large print. It’s an easy read that will slay you. At least it does me every time I read it. The eyewitness story about the passing railway cars is for me the most chillingly convicting of all.

Easy to blame German churchgoers who simply sang more loudly to escape the screams of desperate humanity.

But we all have our own methods, don’t we?

After all, what can any of us do…

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Posted by on September 9, 2013 in Books


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