Be Worthy of the Histories You Learn

by Deborah Schiefer

There is an account I follow on Instagram – a Holocaust survivor and her granddaughter. Both of these women are light and love in dark spaces. The grandmother’s, a story of fight and resiliency. The granddaughter’s, one of love and inspiration.

A few weeks ago, someone responded to my comment on one of the reels they shared. It was just string of swastikas. To say I was appalled is an understatement. Who does this?

For those who say people who talk like this don’t exist…

Today, I noticed a number of comments from those who want to deny the reality that was the Holocaust and I. Am. MAD. Seething. WHO DOES THIS?

And then, I realized, I’ve watched it play out over the last few months. I’ve watched it play out for my whole life, really.

See, for trauma survivors, it doesn’t matter how much proof they have. It doesn’t matter how much proof they’re willing to share. It never has and it never will. There will be some for whom the reality that trauma exists so deeply threatens their own presuppositions of the world, that they’d rather attack the credibility of a survivor and try to silence us all than to acknowledge the truth in front of their eyes.

With world history corroborating the reality of the Holocaust, survivors and their families still receive comments like these, calling their lives “fictional.” Flat out stating these deniers won’t believe the truth. Calling true life accounts of concentration camps and Nazi-ruled Europe “ridiculous.”

…I have some examples for you…
(For the record, this survivor is in her 90s, not 80)

How? How can we still have people who refuse to accept the reality that millions of Jewish people experienced – The reality that still impacts their families, nearing 100 years later?

…Because they are said far more often…

…And far more vile than ever should happen.

The truth is, for some people, all the proof in the world will never be enough. Perhaps it’s self-protection against the reality that it could happen again, to them. Perhaps the reality that horror exists in human form strikes too closely to the soul of this human and rather than evaluate who they are as a person, they choose to lash out at the one who has already survived so much. Perhaps, the account of so much evil is too clear of a mirror into the soul of these people so to preserve the picture they see of themselves, they turn the survivor into a villain instead.

You are not the victim when a survivor tells you no

Whatever the reason, the reality exists – the proof will never be enough.

And so, survivors of all kinds learn to guard their histories. They learn to share only what is necessary and feels safe, no more and no less. Because why would you bare your entire spirit, stripping yourself of all dignity to appease a person who will not be satisfied?

A world where Holocaust deniers exist despite decades of documented proof is a terrifying world for all survivors. It’s a world where so many will choose to ignore letters from doctors, medical charts, and written communications that are nearly a decade old so they can paint a sexual assault survivor as a liar; a world that first asks, “but what was she wearing,” before asking if she’s okay; a world where people are most concerned with whether or not you locked your doors and windows; where abusers are platformed and applauded because accountability takes more effort than silencing a victim – It’s a world that cannot be a safe place for survivors to share every inch of their soul.

This is our world.

But where darkness exists, those who carry light will shine so much brighter. That’s why we’re here. Our world does have Holocaust deniers and ruthless keyboard warriors fighting the wrong side of the battle. Our world does need people speaking truth into loud, angry spaces.

Today, that truth is this – our proof will never be enough for some. Those some might yell loud, but we know truth and truth doesn’t buckle. We owe no one our histories but we’ll share them with those who need them. We’ll share most with those who honor them.

So when we tell you no, ask yourself first if you’ll respect that consent.

If your answer is no, you’re the reason we guard what we share.

Examine yourself.

Do better.

Find your fight- D.S.

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