Editorial: Esther Bauer a voice of life for all to hear
Nov 24, 2013 | 489 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
One of the most telling thoughts on learning from our past in order to guide our steps into the future is commonly quoted as, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”

Many are familiar with the mindful warning, but it is likely few know the man behind it. Our brief research identifies him as George Santayana, a Spanish native who was raised and educated in America. A philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist, Santayana died three months shy of his 89th birthday in 1952, but not before leaving mankind with the haunting commentary.

The wise heed its message. And those who don’t ... should.

Thankfully, the world still has a handful of such messengers. One is Esther Bauer, a survivor of one of the most hideous eras in the troubled chronicles of humanity. The tiny-framed Jewish woman, who will turn 90 in March, lived through the horror of Adolph Hitler’s dictatorship in Nazi Germany and his murder of more than 6 million Jews — as well as other minorities that he felt to be inferior — in a genocidal nightmare that led to World War II.

Last week, Cleveland and Bradley County residents welcomed — for the second consecutive year — this precious woman to Cleveland State Community College. It was a refreshing sight to see the George R. Johnson Cultural Heritage Center overflowing — again — with those whose eyes wanted to see and those whose ears wanted to hear her compelling story.

“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”

When crowds like those in our Cleveland hometown turn out to be reminded of such horrific accounts of man’s cruelty to man, it brings hope that such atrocities will never be seen again on the face of Planet Earth.

Obviously, mass murders over a prolonged period have occurred since the years of Fascist Hitler. One need look only as far as Rwanda on the African continent and Cambodia in Southeast Asia, among others. But none has rivaled the sheer numbers as those during Hitler’s reign of terror in Europe.

When Esther Bauer speaks publicly, it comes with purpose. She focuses on two audiences: those from her generation who will never forget and who still seek comfort through sharing, and those from today’s generation who must be reminded.

Such outpouring may appear — to the uninformed — as narcissistic. It is nothing of the sort.

Her cries of inhumanity must be told. It is obligatory that her message reaches wide. It is a moral mandate that her words be heard.

“They must not let it happen again,” she told her Cleveland audience last week, just as she did here last year. “They must not let anyone forget.”

“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”

Tracey Wright, director of CSCC’s Office of Special Programs and Community Relations, told our newspaper prior to Bauer’s address that it is rare for her to book the same public speaker in consecutive years. But stories of survival, and messages of inspiration, like those brought to Cleveland by a tiny woman who overcame the nightmares of the German concentration camp at Auschwitz must be told.

Most importantly, they must be heard ... over and over and over.

If history teaches us anything, it is that mankind sometimes fields a short memory. And sometimes it is a selective one.

“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”

To think that a madman could never again collaborate such outrage in the presence of an unseeing world would be irresponsible. It can happen. It has happened. It will happen again.

But an educated people, an enlightened people, an informed people will at the very least serve as moral gatekeeper against such invasion of humanity.

Graphic images best tell a frightening story. But words can do the same, such as those by Bauer in front of the huge CSCC audience. Had a pin dropped it might have been heard in the cavernous auditorium when she recalled, “One night there were trucks driving people to the gas chambers and we could hear them yelling and screaming. I can hear it today. And I will never forget the smell of the burning flesh.”

No one likes to be reminded of tragedy. But when it is man-made, such recollection is vital ... especially for generations who will command the future.

Our world is a better place thanks to courageous women like Esther Bauer.

As long as this inspiring woman chooses to come to Cleveland, she will capture a deserved space on our front page. We offer our foremost reason for such commitment:

“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”

We will not forget, not in this life nor in our next.