As citizens across our nation continue to reel from the images of the recent tragic events in Charlottesville, Va., I am reminded of the value of first-hand accounts that document history in real-time. Any arguments that events generally accepted as historical fact did not occur are rather easily disputed when you are able to produce personal diaries, letters, or other notations written by people who witnessed them. Although personal accounts can be unreliable, a collection of similar eyewitness statements that present the same general assemblage of facts can construct a fairly robust understanding of what actually took place.
If you have read Elie Wiesel’s Night, if you have visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., then you have been shaken to the core by first-hand accounts of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. The facts are so heinous that they are difficult to grasp. But you know that you must grapple with those facts because they are part of our history, and they are vitally important. We cannot ignore them, and we cannot forget them.
With even a minimal understanding of that history, it feels impossible to stand by and watch young Americans speak the hateful words and imitate the gestures common among Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. How have we failed to educate our youth about the consequences of the ideology they profess to embrace?
The Last Resort is a first-hand account of young men in rural America in the mid-twentieth century making the most of the time they snatch away from other responsibilities. Their hideaway in the woods was indeed a world away from the scene unfolding across Europe.
For a number of reasons, that idyll along Salt River had to come to an end. The first appendix in the book offers a first-hand account of what it was like for the author to transition from relatively care-free college student to soldier in Patton’s Third Army. And that American soldier, with his keenly developed observational skills, documented his personal encounter with the aftermath of the Final Solution.
We know that we cannot remain silent. We have seen what happens when we do. I am grateful that I can share one more piece of evidence to support why.