Seth Boyes joined the Dickinson County News staff in March of 2017. In his first week at the DCN, he covered a train derailment near Graettinger. The tankers carrying ethanol burst into flames. Seth's photo of the event won first place for Best Breaking News photo at the 2018 Iowa Newspaper Association Convention and Trade Show. Since, Seth has won nearly a dozen awards for writing, photography and multimedia content. Seth graduated from Iowa State University in 2009 with a degree in Integrated Studio Arts. His original cartoons run regularly in the Spencer Daily Reporter and the DCN. Both he and his wife Janet hail from Clear Lake and have come to expect summers to be full of the hustle and bustle of tourists and visitors.
I hadn't been keeping track, but I had by chance been reading up on the subject in a way. Monday, Jan. 27 this year will mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It's been three-quarters of a century since Soviet forces opened the gates and beheld the horrors inside. The Aushwitz-Birkenau State Museum expects upwards of 200 Holocaust survivors will attend the memorial.
Auschwitz survivor Roman Kent spoke during the 70th anniversary in 2015.
"We all must make clear that hate is never right and love is never wrong," Kent said, after saying children must be taught tolerance and understanding.
Like I said, the 75th anniversary snuck up on me, but I had actually been reading the account of another Auschwitz survivor told through his son. The book — a compilation really — is called "Maus" and is written by Art Spiegelman. The work is a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel which was published in two books: "My Father Bleeds History" followed by "And Here My Troubles Began."
"Maus" is a story within a story which chronicles Spiegelman's interviews with his father Vladek as the son prepares to create a comic retelling his parents' experience in 1940s Poland. Not only that, it also shines a light on the less obvious scars the author deals with mentally and emotionally as he struggles to tell an honest and candid story of a survivor, while never having experienced the Holocaust himself.
Though there were early serial strip publications of Spiegelman's story in the '70s, the first publication of "Maus" as we know it today were published in the mid-80s, and later compiled in the early 90s after the second volume was complete.
It had mixed reviews in its early days, but the fact that it's still around (and the little sticker on the cover noting the Pulitzer) tell me it's earned it's acclaim. To be frank, it's uncomfortable at times, it's painful and makes you want to tear at your own heart with blunted fingernails for what the human race did to itself in those days. But on the other hand, its palatable. It's straight forward illustrations and the anthropomorphic cat and mouse motif allow the message to sink into the reader's soul without taxing the full brunt of the trauma experienced behind the barbed-wire fences.
It's a gateway.
It's an open door to understanding. It's a clear path to empathy. It's a step toward peace in a lot of ways. You see, there are all types of evil, and they run on all types of fuel, but they're all essentially the same machine. They're dangerous machinations. They cut us. They maim us. They kill us. And uncomfortable as it may be, that's why it's important to remember them. Admittedly, there is still genocide occurring in the world today. One would hope it would have ended, but it has not as of yet. But, we can not hope to keep the blades of organized mass murder from cutting humankind apart if we don't even remember the sound of the terrible engine which brought our parents and grandparents to tears — or worse, took them to their graves.
That's why Monday's anniversary is important. It's important we remember. It's important we remember humanity's misdeeds as much as we understand its resilience in the face of destruction. It's important we learn the stories of the individuals who lived it, so that we might gain at least a shred of empathy. It's important we let their struggles become our own and begin to walk toward peace not for ourselves but for all people.
So, as Monday approaches, I'll encourage you to learn. Read. Watch. Listen. Any way you can. The 75th anniversary will be broadcast live online. And if all else fails, there's always a book I can recommend by a son who struggled through his own personal issues with his father to tell the world a story of timeless importance.