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Friends, tomorrow, Jan 27, is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I’ll be taking the day off of Twitter for reflection. So today I’m threading together some thoughts on the things that I’ll be reflecting upon. 1/
I’m not a Jew nor a historian. I’m a biologist who began life as a “surrendered infant” adopted by a German American family, raised as a Methodist. On the day Auschwitz was liberated, my dad was an 18-yo soldier in Italy. Don’t be a Good German, said the man who raised me. 2/
Here are a few things I’m thinking about: 41 percent of US adults surveyed—and two thirds of millennials—say they do not know what Auschwitz was.

At the same time very few survivors remain to tell us their stories. Half have died in the last 5 years. 3/…
So my first impulse is just to keep learning more about what it was. Auschwitz, the symbol of the Holocaust, was not just a single concentration camp. It was a complex of 40 different camps in Poland—some death camps, some labor camps—where 1.2 million people died, 1941-45. 4/
Most Nazi concentration camps were destroyed after the war but Auschwitz has been preserved as a museum and world heritage site. You can learn a lot about it here: @AuschwitzMuseum 5/
I’ve been reflecting a lot on the numbers. 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz. 1.1 million died there. One million of these were Jews. 80% were gassed immediately upon arrival. Only 144 people successfully escaped. 6/
That means the stories from Auschwitz survivors come from those whose experiences were atypical. Typical = immediate execution by poison gas upon arrival. As I return to the words of writers Elie Wiesel, Viktor Frankl, and Primo Levi who bore witness, I’m thinking about this. 7/
Among the labor camps at Auschwitz was one called the IG Farben camp that provided slave labor for a syndicate of German chemical companies called IG Farben. The IG Farben camp was the first of the Auschwitz camps to be liberated on Jan 27, 1945 by the Soviet army. 7/
One of companies in the IG Farben cartel was Bayer. All together these companies provided materials for the German war effort, including Zyclon B, the neurological poison used in the gas chambers at the other camps. 8/
At the end of the war, IG Farben was seized by US forces. 13 directors of IG Farben were subsequently convicted of war crimes during the Nuremburg trials in 1947-48.

Historian Peter Hayes’ 2003 paper “Auschwitz: Capital of the Holocaust” is a good source here. 9/
According to Hayes, the management at IG Farben all knew.

“The killings were an open secret within Farben, and people worked at not reflecting upon what they knew."

I am thinking about that quote a lot.

Choosing to hear and see no evil is not passivity. It’s fucking WORK. 10/
I’m also thinking a lot about the fact that an organized resistance movement was always operating within the various Auschwitz camps through its whole awful tenure on this earth. Even in the death camps. This blows my mind. 11/
For example, one if the very few successful escapees from Auschwitz was actually a Polish spy who LET HIMSELF BE ARRESTED AND SENT THERE in order to smuggle information out. He was imprisoned from 1941 to 43. And then he escaped.

His name was Witold Pilecki.
Since I’m an adoptee without genealogical roots or ethnic identity, I’d like to choose Witold Pilecki as my ancestor. Going forward, he can serve as my role model for activism. 14/
Even Jewish prisoners conscripted to lead others to the gas chambers and deal with bodies afterwards, and who were routinely and periodically executed...even they staged an uprising at one point—setting a crematorium on fire with rags they had ratholed away and soaked in oil. 15/
Also: photos secretly taken inside Auschwitz were smuggled out in a toothpaste tube.

I’m thinking about how this evidence and the intel collected by Witold Pilecki—obtained via acts of pure courage—were then largely ignored by the media and the Allied forces. 16/
Again, I’m no expert on any of this. I have so much to learn. I do know that as a non-Jewish American who carries a Germanic name, there is nothing built into my culture to help me remember Auschwitz and the lessons it offers for humanity. So I need to keep seeking it out. /17
I intend to work as hard to reflect on Auschwitz and apply its lessons as the employees of IG Farben worked to turn away from reflection.

My wish for Holocaust Remembrance Day is that my life be worthy of the prisoners who set their crematoria aflame. FIN

PS. With apologies for messing up the enumeration of this thread. Again. Obviously, I’m not an accountant either.
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