We must learn from the horrors of the past and never forget what produced and enabled them. We must say “never again” and show in our actions and unwavering defense of human freedom that we mean it.
A stirring reminder from the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum:
Holocaust survivor Paul Kester (Kleinstrass) to future generations: “Be tolerant. Don’t hate. Protect the freedoms that you enjoy. I wish you well.”
I don’t know how clearly more recent generations are getting this message, but I remember well a junior high school field trip to the L.A. Holocaust Museum, the heart-wrenching privilege of getting to meet Holocaust survivors and hear their stories, and ample periodic coverage of the Holocaust from there through high school. It was one thing that L.A. public schools did a decent job of during my time there, and these experiences impressed upon me the vital importance of exercising courage in the face of evil, while leaving me with a sorrowful yearning that we, the U.S. and the rest of the world, had not managed to do more to stop this horrific brutality sooner.
An amazing 70 years ago today, the Czech town of Plzeň was liberated by the United States Army.
Thousands of residents, visitors, and veterans gathered to celebrate this anniversary with the Plzeň Liberation Festival (Slavnosti svobodi Plzeň), as they have since 1990 when recognition of the day was no longer outlawed. My thoughts have been with the surviving veterans and our true friends the Czechs, as they celebrated this extraordinary day of hope and freedom. Na zdraví!
Perhaps one of the most moving events of the week took place on Tuesday when around 300 Czech teenagers from local schools gathered in a city cultural centre to hear veterans from Plzeň’s liberation. Altogether there were around a dozen veterans, now mostly in their nineties, both from the US and Belgium. Their broad message was simple: ‘We helped to liberate this county 70 years ago. Now it is up to you to make sure you safeguard the liberty you now enjoy.’ At the end of the session many of the veterans and audience had tears in their eyes.
Don’t miss this photo essay from 2010, which I mentioned a few years ago — especially the story of Zdenka Sladkova, who has tended a memorial at a U.S. pilot’s crash site since 1945.
Freedom is a tremendous and precious inheritance. To develop our potential, thrive in it, and pass it along to each successive generation is our highest calling. I write here to give my thanks, and to seek ways we can cultivate the resilience, independence, courage, and indomitable spirit necessary to sustain a culture that cherishes liberty.