The holocaust, an event that has been debated upon for many years, lead to the death of millions of innocent people. It was an incident that was planed quite well, secretly. Evil people, you might call them, who do not deserve to be remembered. How is it that a countless number of people were involved in the holocaust and barely any people attempted to put a stop to it? Can an entire society be anti-Semitic? Can an entire society coincidentally be that ignorant? But really, it is these people that we must remember so that a massive destructive event like the Holocaust does not occur ever again in history.
Susan Griffin’s essay Our Secret looks at the minds of various people, focusing the most on Heinrich Himmler. It is hard to deny that he is an awful man for what he did, but it is so easy for people to simply judge without knowing the facts behind his madness. Many may not realize this, but who we are today goes back to how we were raised as a child and who we had to look up to. Just as Himmler’s tough life reminded Griffin of her self-experiences, I myself began to think of my own observations in my own house.
Writing this essay, I would like to take the chance to point out what could lead a person to being the adult they are today, and who my own brother could possibly grow up to be someday in the future. According to Susan, Germans had this general idea of how to raise kids. Dr. Scheber believed that “The pain and humiliation children endure are meant to benefit them. The parent is only trying to save the child’s soul” (Griffin 318). It was important to raise children to become proper and acceptable to the society. Things like the way they spoke and their posture when walking, standing, sitting, and even sleeping, counted.
Just like the other German fathers, Gehard controlled every portion of Himmler’s life, which in Gehar’s eyes, was only for his benefit. Susan describes how he even controlled what was written in his diary. “Like the words of a schoolboy commanded to write what the teacher requires of him, they are wooden and stiff. The stamp of his father’s character is so heavy on this language that I catch not even a breath of a self here” (315). This quote signifies how severely Himmler was restrained, to the point where he could not express how he felt.
A diary’s common use is to let out ones emotions and feelings that they cannot let out to just anyone in the world. Himmler was not allowed to write what he wanted to write, instead of emotions he was required to write facts about what happened through his day. Himmler never questioned orders. He grew up not thinking for himself. This way of life stayed with Himmler through his childhood and even as he became an adult. Not only was Himmler being controlled, at one point he actually wanted to be controlled. Control became so much apart of him, that he was ok with living under it as he grew.
He wanted to be a soldier just like his brother, take commands and work for his country. He was looking forward so much and very proud to someday meet the Fuhrer, serve him, and be “an instrument of the Fuhrer’s will” (329). There is always that someone we look up to and know we will never be as great and popular as they are. Himmler’s brother, Gehard, was one Himmler looked up to as his icon. He wanted to be just like him: a strong and ‘masculine’ soldier. Himmler knew he in no way could ever be as remarkable as his brother due to the fact that his body is still weak from the influenza he once had earlier in his life.
It is people in our lives like Gehard who make us determined to become someone better than whom we are and can actually form a sense of jealousy of that person we look up to. All his life, Himmler wanted to make his father proud and play an important role in his country, even if it meant obeying the commands of others. Looking up to his brother, Himmler’s thoughts shifted towards the idea of gender. He valued the importance of being masculine and that a woman is weak. Himmler was horrified when he found out that his own hero, Fredrick, was a homosexual, he did not want to believe that.
The people that he had to look up to formed his opinions for him. Himmler was so brainwashed by the idea of masculinity, that he found homosexuality disgusting and not ‘normal. ’ Griffin states, “There are many ways we have of standing outside ourselves in ignorance. Those who have learned as children to become stingers to themselves do not find this a difficult task. Habit has made it natural not to feel” (338). Himmler has lived with people who are so ignorant for so long that he was raised to be ignorant as well.
He does not feel it because it is apart of his personality that the individuals around him built up for him. Himmler’s fear from his father lead him to keeping so many secrets inside him: secrets that he could not keep in his diary. In fact, his entire life is a secret. There was no way one could see exactly how Himmler felt through his diary because it was all kept a secret from his father, who controlled his diary as well. The habit of keeping secrets stayed with him and he actually became good at it. Amazingly, he was able to keep the torture of millions of Jews as a secret.
Everyone had the idea that the Nazis were only isolating the Jews from society and kept them safe somewhere far only for the German citizens safety. Propaganda, such as films, showed public that there was not any violence taking place inside the concentration camps. With all this being said, one might start to believe that Himmler’s monstrosity was not his fault to begin with. If we lived in Germany at that time period, we could have possibly ended up being violent and let out all of our anger just as Himmler did. No one will ever understand why a person does what he does unless they lived through the same experiences.
Each person has their own background and their own circumstances. We all start the same, as an infant inside our mother’s stomach. It is what we go through after we leave the world inside our mothers and enter the outside world when we build up our personalities. Everything your brain sucks in as a child will stay with you as you grow up. It is true that we cannot blame Himmler for his brutal actions and at the same time we cannot call him a good man. Susan chose to question this matter, not to point fingers, but to educate people about it so nothing like the holocaust ever happens again.
In a typical Arab household like mine, joy comes bursting out from the parents when the first son arrives. It becomes an even happier moment if they overcame waiting, in my case, for four years because my sister and I happened to come before him. Of course I am pretty sure they thanked god for us, but I can still picture the straight looks on their faces every time the doctor told them “it’s a girl. ” My parents always had in their mind that my brother was going to grow up and be the man that will make them proud. He is the one that will carry down my father’s name to the next generation.
However, it was only until 2007, when my father’s daydreams blurred up and became less clear than they once were. My brother was becoming a teenager. I was the first in my house to ever find out what types of things my brother was up to behind my parents’ backs. My heart dropped severely the first time I ever happened to look over his shoulder while on the computer. I was not sure what to say really. Hours passed, not knowing how I should react. I came to a conclusion that he was probably curious, just as any boy at his age would be.
I understood well enough that it was not his fault. Many kids his age chase after pornographic images on the Internet and they teach one another things like this at school. It is something you cannot really hide your children from because it is everywhere. Nevertheless, I knew my father would reject understanding the situation and I was aware of the consequences if he found out. Similar to Himmler’s father, who was imagined to be “standing behind Heinrich and tapping his foot” (315). So I had a little talk with my brother hoping this would end peacefully.
As I explained to him how what he was doing is not acceptable to my dad, our culture and our religion, he looked at the ground in shame and promised me that it would never happen again. Sadly, it did happen again, and again, and again, oh yes, and again. It had become rather more of an addiction than just curiosity and he began getting into trouble at school. I then knew the type of friends he was affiliating himself with. Just like Himmler, who had people like his ‘masculine’ brother and his strict and demanding father to influence him, my brother had his own people to look up to.
I eventually told my mom after I caught him a couple more times on the wrong sites and she told my father. Ever since my father found out, our house has never been the same. My father does not treat him like the special son anymore. It seems more like my brother to him became nothing but an unwanted stranger living in the house. To my father, treating my brother brutally was going to ‘civilize’ him and turn him into a presentable human being. Similar view to what Dr. Scheber, whom Himmler’s father believes in. I am glad that my brother has not gotten into any type of trouble for the past few months.
Life inside our house has gotten much better and generally, everyone is happier. But I cannot get over the hard times we had, because even though it is all over now, I still remember the problems we had on a daily basis because I can still see the pain my brother went through and still goes through. Over the past few year of being mistreated, I could not help but notice that my brother has changed mentally. His school now actually considers him a special needs child. He is slow in reading, writing and, over all his focus level has gone dramatically backwards.
He has trouble communicated with people because he is always scared. The problem is that it only gets worse because people now see him as ‘different’ than themselves and they choose to stay away from him. He changed the way he dressed, the type of music he listened to and so much other things to ‘fit in,’ but he still seems depressed. Seeing the types of things my brother goes through now, it is hard to imagine where I might find him ten years from now. He once told me “I don’t have friends, and I don’t think I ever will. I have tried convincing him that what he thinks is not necessarily true and that he needs to go out there and make friends, but he has completely convinced himself that he is different. It became a fact that is apart of his everyday life. One moment in our lives changed everything. Griffin says, “I have come to believe that every life bears in some way on every other. The motion of cause and effect is like the motion of a wave in water, continuous, within and not without the matrix of being, so that all consequences, whether we know them or not, are intimately embedded in out experience” (332).
Every single thing one does in his life will come upon him, as well as the people he associates with, in the future. Whether it is positive or negative, we will somehow be affected by it. Unlike Himmler, my brother is not an adult yet. He is only fifteen years old and what he is going through is only the beginning. Through Griffin’s essay I was able to predict where I might find my brother in college, as a graduate, as a husband, as a father, and who knows after that.