Fort McCoy News May 13, 2016

Holocaust speaker: 'Voices' most-powerful weapon

STORY & PHOTO BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Educator Darryle Clott emphasized the need to remember the lessons of the Holocaust of World War II in her message as guest speaker for Fort McCoy's observance of the National Days of Remembrance and the Holocaust Day of Remembrance April 28 in building 905.

"We remember because we recognize the importance of freedom, promoting human dignity, and confronting hatred wherever and whenever it occurs," said Clott, whose presentation followed the 2016 theme for the observance, "Learning from the Holocaust: Acts of Courage." She said if today's generation does not learn about the unimaginable depths to which "civilized" humans sank during the Holocaust and educate future generations, "we are certain to repeat our mistakes."

Clott teaches Holocaust history in the undergraduate, honors, graduate, professional, and adult-education programs at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis., and has led Holocaust educator workshops for a decade. She also is the founder of the Midwest Holocaust Education Consortium and is a teacher fellow for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

Darryle Clott, an educator with Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis., gives her presentation during the Fort McCoy observance of the Holocaust Days of Remembrance April 28 in building 905.
Darryle Clott, an educator with Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis.,
gives her presentation during the Fort McCoy observance of the
Holocaust Days of Remembrance April 28 in building 905.

"When people learn that I am a Holocaust educator, the first question that they ask me is, 'Are you Jewish?'" Clott said. "When I say no, the next question is, 'Well why on Earth do you want to teach about the Holocaust?' My answer is that I use the lessons of the Holocaust to make people aware of the importance of accepting other people's differences.

"I teach it not as just history, but as a bridge to the present to make people examine their hearts and souls to decide how they are going to treat other people and if they are going to accept other people's differences," Clott said.

As part of the observance, Clott played two videos showing the history of the Holocaust with first-hand testimonials from Holocaust survivors. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's website, www.ushmm.org, the Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of more than 6 million Jews by Germany's Nazi regime and its collaborators in World War II.

"Holocaust" is a word of Greek origin meaning "sacrifice by fire." The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933 and were defeated in 1945, believed that Germans were "racially superior," and that Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat.

During the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups, including Gypsies; the disabled; homosexuals; and some of the Slavic peoples, such as Poles, Russians, and many others.

"The Holocaust could not have happened without bystanders," Clott said. "Millions, including a million and a half children, were brutally murdered because soldiers followed orders, citizens closed their eyes, and the masses refrained from protest."

Clott also has been instrumental in bringing numerous Holocaust survivors to the greater La Crosse area to share their stories over the last 14 years. During her presentation, she highlighted some lessons she learned from one of them.

"When my hero, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, came to Viterbo in September 2006, he proposed an 11th Commandment which I have taken for myself — 'Thou shalt not stand idly by,'" Clott said. "Wiesel believed that in remembrance lies the seeds of transformation and renewal. His conviction that our future should not be like his past drove him to lead the effort to create the (U.S.) Holocaust Memorial Museum and to inspire worldwide movements to ensure the lessons of the Holocaust will forever shape human experience.

Quote: Each of us has the obligation ot confront prejudice, discrimination, violence, and apathy.

"Wiesel believes that hate isn't the opposite of love, indifference is." Clott said. "Each of us has the obligation to confront prejudice, discrimination, violence, and apathy. No one person can stop genocide. But any one person can sign a petition, attend a rally, or write a letter to the newspaper."

Clott shared John Regnier's story, too. Regnier, who now is 94 years old, was a Soldier with an Army medical battalion that arrived at Ohrdruf concentration camp in Germany shortly after it was liberated. Regnier had been scheduled as the guest speaker for the 2016 observance at Fort McCoy, but could not attend due to health issues.

Clott described how on the day Regnier's unit arrived at the camp, three Army generals also visited the camp to witness the atrocities — Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gen. Omar N. Bradley, and Gen. George S. Patton.

"The camp was a sub-camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp and it was the first Nazi camp liberated by U.S. troops," Clott said. "The 4th Armored Division and the 89th Infantry of the 3rd U.S. Army liberated Ohrdruf April 4, 1945, eight days before John's unit and the three generals arrived.

"John was only a few feet from General Eisenhower," Clott said. "He heard the general give an order to the Soldiers that if any of them had cameras … they should take photos of the atrocities … so the world would never forget what happened to make sure it could not be denied.

"John's buddy ... had a camera," Clott said. "And together they took two rolls of film verifying the horror that they witnessed. Eventually they went into the nearest town and found a camera shop with the lights on. They entered and found a U.S. Army photographer who was developing five rolls of film he had taken at the camp that day. They ended up sharing photos, and John and his friend came home with both sets documenting the atrocities that had occurred in the camp."

Regnier, like many Holocaust survivors and liberators, has shared his story and photos with many audiences. He recently co-wrote a book, "Denying the Deniers: A Soldier's Intersection with the Holocaust."

"He wrote the book to record his experiences to ensure that the world would never forget," Clott said. "John, to this day, has remembered Eisenhower's order."

The experiences of people like Regnier and Wiesel are important for everyone to remember, Clott said, and that's why the National Days of Remembrance and hearing survivors' stories are special.

"To see and hear a Holocaust survivor is to touch history," she said.

"No two stories are alike, yet the struggle to survive the personal loss and the strength of the individual despite overwhelming odds always touches the listener. … We can learn far more from them than from any textbook that we could ever read. I have been blessed to study with some of the most brilliant Holocaust scholars in the world and they fill our heads with important facts, but survivors fill our hearts."

Clott encourages everyone to continue to educate themselves about the history of the Holocaust and to remember the sacrifice of so many people who were killed unjustly for being who they were.

"I used to say that we needed to teach tolerance, until one day my dear friend Rabbi Saul (Simcha) Prombaum … said to my students, 'I hope that one day we can move from tolerance to acceptance,'" Clott said.

"I really like that because let's face it — when we tolerate somebody, we are merely enduring them or putting up with them. Whereas when we accept them, we are letting them know that we acknowledge them as they are."

For more information about the history of the Holocaust, visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's website, www.ushmm.org.
For more information about observances at Fort McCoy, contact the Equal Opportunity adviser at 608-388-6153.