A major traveling exhibit is coming to a limited number of locations across America in 2022. The Marshalltown Public Library is the only site in Iowa where it can be seen and experienced. It is titled “Americans and the Holocaust – What Did Americans Know?” What more could we have done?” He will be in town March 26-May 6 and is sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
As a member of the board of trustees of our public library and a retired member of the clergy, living a comfortable retirement in Marshalltown, I would like to emphasize to all citizens, and especially people of faith, the great importance and deep relevance of this exhibition.
I was born on December 7, 1931, just when an extremist politician in Germany, Adolf Hitler, was beginning to receive acclaim from the German people. Then on my tenth birthday, Pearl Harbor Day, 1941, the United States became fully involved in World War II, joining with many other nations to defeat Japan and Germany and their ideologies. oppressive.
Hitler and Nazism sought to co-opt churches and clergy, tricking them into believing the hyper-nationalism and murderous racism of their “Make Germany Great Again” philosophy. The resulting complicity of individuals and institutions in Germany enabled mass arrests, concentration camps and murderous extermination centers. Many, determined to be undesirable, especially the Jews, were put to death by the millions.
Too few church leaders and members resisted Nazism. We know as the Reverend Martin Niemoller who, after the Second World War, became famous for his famous statement: “First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak – because I was not a Communist . Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t say anything, because I wasn’t Jewish. Then they came for me and there was no one to speak for me.
The exhibit we will be hosting in Marshalltown does more than just remind us of the oppression and terrible wickedness of the historical past. It reminds us of the importance of protecting democracy here and now. Free citizens, especially those of faith, are called to be on their toes to preserve freedom, justice, equality and democracy in 2022. Your library continues to be a resource to help you in this effort.