Commentary: We must guard against becoming complacent

Polish far-right activists enter the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo)

A few days ago it was Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I heard a commentator on the radio suggest how someone living in Utah might put Holocaust statistics into perspective.

Approximately 11 million people were killed in the Nazi Holocaust (including 1.1 million children). Six million of those victims were Jewish.

The current population of Utah is about 3 million people, so the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust was approximately twice the population of Utah, and the total number of people killed was close to 4 times the current population of Utah.

For me, visualizing just Salt Lake City being vacant of people, all the buildings downtown and all the homes vacant, the streets with no cars moving on them, no one on the sidewalks, no one in the suburbs, and then imagining that scene all across Utah, freeways with no cars, all of Utah's cities and towns empty, all of the children gone, and then doubling that and quadrupling that vast loss of life is a helpful visual aid.

Six million people extinguished, sometimes after unspeakable suffering in concentration camps, just because of their Jewish ethnicity, and the entire nation of Germany (with relatively few exceptions) was complicit. Or maybe complacent would be a better word, allowing Hitler and his people to sell them falsehoods claimed to be truth.

Although the stakes might not currently be so high, maybe we also need to guard against being complacent. Maybe we need to look at the facts, read the facts, do our own fact checking, finding out for ourselves when things spoken by our elected leaders are true and when they are not, holding our leaders accountable for what they do and say based on the facts.

Maybe you already do this. If not, I think it is important to do. There are non-partisan, unbiased fact-check sources available on the internet.

As many know, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda said, “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”

When those who lead us tell us something is one way or another way, we need to check the facts ourselves. It is not about our party affiliation. It goes beyond that. It is about knowing what is true and what is not.

J. Alan Gift

Alan Gift is a social worker in Ogden.