I've been mulling this blog post over since it happened about a week or so ago. Two days ago, Marcia said, "I wouldn't put that on your blog." Hah! This isn't Marcia's blog!
(Marcia doesn't like offending people. DISCLAIMER: This blog post is offensive.)
A week or two ago a team leader gave a long account of how he killed a spider by putting it in an oven.
"Ug," I said, "Like you were in a concentration camp."
Marcia, who is Jewish, gave me one of those "Christ, you are a moron," looks and said incredulously, "They didn't burn them alive. The ovens were for cremation."
I had to give her the bad news. "Um .... I heard they didn't waste bullets by the end of the war, and they burned people alive in the ovens. They found fingernail marks on the roofs of the ovens."
Thankfully, Susan was also at the table to back me up. "I've heard that about the fingernail marks too."
Marcia said, "Well, maybe I'm wrong. I've never heard of that."
I said, "I'm sorry."
"Well, don't be sorry! I don't know everything."
"No, I'm just sorry ... you know ... about the war." Don't mention the war.
Of course, I still believed what I had been told in school, and there was an even more compelling argument: the joke about what's the difference between cookies and Jews.
Cookies don't scream when you put them in the oven.
Offensive. Even offensive by my extremely lax standards of offensiveness. So offensive I did not proffer that as an argument against what Marcia was telling us at the time. Especially with a team leader there.
A few days later, I caught Marcia by the elevator.
"I have to tell you this joke, It's relevant. But it's awful. Really awful. No, I can't tell it." Didn't tell that joke under TeddyJ's roof.
Then I did further research, which was difficult because questioning any part of they Holocaust means you have to dance among the land mines of Holocaust denial blogs. I restarted my computer every time I found I'd touched one by mistake.
I did find something about people being burned in the ovens in a school Instructor's Guide, and then I thought maybe I'd heard about it during the unforgettable half-hour my class watched Night and Fog. That would explain why Susan was so convinced too.
Night and Fog is a grim half-hour documentary on Nazi atrocities which I saw in junior high. (See the link? See Night and Fog WITHOUT COMMERCIAL INTERRUPTION for $1.99! I'm sure it's on Hulu too.)
Night and Fog segues from the visuals of fingernail scratches on the gas chamber ceilings to discussion of the ovens, and I think that might have confused my thirteen year old self. I would have been dazed after seeing dozens of dead skeletal naked men (many not circumcised, as I notice now). (I'll bet you anything the Ferguson-Florissant School District no longer shows Night and Fog.)
So, my research did show me people tried to break out of the gas chambers with their fingers, and that one camp had a gas chamber with a floor that tilted and slid the bodies right into the crematorium, but I'm focusing instead on the happy news that the reports of oven deaths had been greatly exaggerated. I told Susan first, and then I told Marcia she was right. (Of course I told her the cookie joke. She covered her smile with her hand.)
And you know what? Discovering millions of people were murdered but evidently NOT really that many made into soap (more happy news) makes it more horrifying to me. Because the atrocity stories are what distance us from the Nazis. "Sure, we fed the Japanese rice with maggots, but we didn't throw them into ovens." "Sure, we killed those people in Abu Girab, but they froze to death, they didn't burn alive."
So tonight I go to sleep feeling a little more like a Nazi. Or at least dirty, like one of the German citizens who boycotted soap.
Happy Fourth of July!