hanna larson pic

We visited the Imperial War Museum in London. Here, Britain’s military achievements are proudly displayed. I didn’t spend much time marveling at the artifacts. Instead, I spent several hours at the Holocaust exhibit. In The States, we all have learned the facts about the Holocaust: Hitler’s rise to power, the millions murdered at the death camps, and the atrocities towards the Jews. But what we aren’t told are the stories, the individual recaps. These people weren’t just one of millions. They were unique individuals who had lives to live before they were snatched away by the overwhelming power of racism and hatred.

Throughout the exhibit, there were TV monitors playing clips of interviews from Holocaust survivors. One woman’s story really stuck out to me. She lived in Germany when the Nazis took power. Walking down the street was even dangerous. One was supposed to step onto the street when an office was coming from the other direction to let him pass. When she was 12, she was walking down the street with a friend. She saw two officers walking towards them and stepped onto the street. Her friend did not. Without hesitation, one of the officers pulled out his handgun and shot her in the head, point blank.

Who watches the news? Not many people my age, that’s for sure. I’ll admit, I only watch the news when my mom flips it on while she cooks. The hardy smells of beef stew or marinara sauce accompany Scott Pelley’s voice as he announces the events of the world. I always think to myself, there are some terrible things happening in the world, horrible, and I pray for those effected by violence and disease. But then I move on with my dinner and my mom asks me how my day is. Good, I tell her. We are so far removed from the atrocities happening in the Middle East, Africa, and other parts of the world, it doesn’t affect our daily life. There are those less fortunate.

One day while walking in the tube underground subway station, two police officers walked by carrying assault rifles, finger hover over the triggers. In suburban or rural U.S.A., this is an extremely jarring and unfamiliar sight. But then I remember the news stories. Not all parts of the world are safe. London is a huge city, and the threat of a terror attack or some other violent crime is real. We Americans have a nice cushion, called the Atlantic Ocean and our own busy lives, protecting us from these realities. But here, Londoners deal with these issues every day. That’s why it’s important to remember current and past events, like the Holocaust, to listen and read the stories of the individual who didn’t have the luxury of an ocean separating them from violence.

–Hanna Larson