Anne Frank once wrote, “Isn’t it wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to make the world a better place to live.” We don’t have to travel the earth to have that understanding. We just have to be willing to see each other as human beings. I see you, you see me, and the masks of who we think we ought to be fade. We then set out on the journey of life, participating in this brief but precious adventure together with compassion and mercy for one another. Unfortunately, for six long years, beginning in 1939, persons of Jewish descent were not given the common courtesy of being seen as human; instead, they were enslaved like animals because of their race, each desperately seeking a ‘spark of humanity’ from the very individuals keeping them imprisoned. Such is the story of one survivor, Sally Marco.
Throughout World War II, Ms. Marco showed great compassion for others despite obstacles she faced. Some of her best ‘sparks of humanity’ include: giving a German officer a silver dollar as a talisman to save his life if ever in danger; wedging her foot in a train door so everyone could have fresh air to breathe when traveling to Auschwitz; cutting her sister’s hair so her sister’s head wouldn’t have to be shaved and sparing her the shame of being without hair; and climbing through a window, stepping over 20 corpses to give a sick man bread and a hug.
But, one of the most defining moments of Ms. Marco’s survival was when she attempted to find a spark in a bitter train guard by asking, “Would you kill your mother, the one who carried you under her heart?” The only response she received was tears.
The actions of Sally Marco, like the actions of so many Holocaust survivors, point to a common purpose we all should have in life: one in which a person does not retreat from a depraved situation and wait for the circumstances of that situation to reveal the answers. Ms. Marco never stopped seeing people as humans. She did she stop trying to make the world a better place. More importantly, Sally Marco sought to answer the questions that life was constantly asking her—or, rather, that single question life often asks each and every one of us, over and over again: What are you going to do?
So, with that, I must ask: if we wake up tomorrow to a depraved situation similar to the Holocaust, what are you going to do? Are you going to celebrate it as a societal good, like the Nazis did in 1939, or will you find a ‘spark of humanity’ within yourself to see people as people and refuse to participate in the imprisonment and killing of innocent people? Please let the stories of Holocaust survivors serve as a reference when answering because the future of humanity may just hinge on our collective answers.