How did the Holocaust affect the survivors, the liberators, and the course of modern history? Tragedies in countries like Cambodia, Yugoslavia and Rwanda perhaps prove that the will to genocide is stronger than the sobering lessons of history. The exponential growth of communications media, particularly the Internet, at least insure that the world will never again be blind to mass murder and genocide. The world's response to future incidents of mass murder and genocide remains difficult to predict.
As for the liberators, Rabbi Judah Nadich felt,
"Many people can adjust quickly to a tragedy that does not involve them or the people they love or the people they know. I think it is fair to say that as far as the non-Jews of the American army were concerned, no doubt many of them were greatly moved, many of them called the Germans all kinds of profane names when they first saw the concentration camps, many of them had expressions of bitterness, but these were immediate eruptions to horrible situations. It didn't take long, perhaps the very same evening, before the very same soldiers could go into a tavern, order some beer and forget about it. I don't think it was the same with Jewish soldiers." (17)
Liberators interviewed for the Witness to the Holocaust Project had sharp and vivid memories of the camps they liberated. They were profoundly impressed by the appalling conditions and deep suffering of the inmates. Lauren Nash, a liberator of Buchenwald, said,
"It's terrible it's awful it's unbelievable what one human being will do to another when they have the advantage to do so." (18)
Rabbi Nadich experienced a serious depression after his experiences with the liberation of Dachau and the DP camps, as an advisor to Eisenhower.
"I did not see how I could be a Rabbi again and live a calm and peaceful life, and I was troubled with my theology. I did not know whether I believed in God, or that there could be a God." (19)
Liberators returned home from the war--sobered by what they saw-to take jobs, marry, raise children and lead normal lives. It is difficult to say whether any Holocaust survivors truly recovered completely. The sadness and anger were deep and lasting. Ari Fralik, a liberator with the Soviet Army, described a visit to a Jewish temple in Warsaw, at the time of the city's invasion, in the company of Rabbi Kahane.
"The temple was empty and burning. One corner was free and the Ark was there. But the Ark was empty. I entered with the Rabbi He was standing in silence. Then in about half an hour maybe two or three dozen Jews came in. Suddenly, from hiding. [It was as though] they smelled that the Russians are here and the Germans are out. They joined us, and the laments and crying were indescribable. The Rabbi stepped up. There was the Ark. He stepped up three steps higher and turned with his back to these gathered Jews and to me, and he put on a tallith he had with him and said to the Ark, 'God, all these years of my life, I've asked You to forgive the sins of my community. Today, I stand in front of You and tell You I don't know if we will forgive You Your sins,'" (20)
Survivor Yehuda Bacon said of his fellow survivors:
"None of us get back completely. I think that all of us dream."(21)