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Matt Rossi @MatthewWRossi
, 16 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
Okay, since we're remembering the Holocaust, I'm going to tell a story about my grandfather. He was, by and large, a strange man who treated his children and wife poorly. And the reasons were complicated, and rooted in his time in the Army.
Before WWII my grandather was a recent medical school grad who wanted to be a plastic surgeon. He was the son of an Italian immigrant who'd managed to get through school on his own dime, married a model (my grandmother was in Vogue, I'm told) and was all set to have a great life
He was somewhat isolationist, from what he'd told me. Didn't care about Europe or her problems, certainly didn't care much about Jews. Typical stereotypes, saw them as greedy and money hungry. Didn't want to go over and fight. Then Pearl Harbor happened.
He ended up a doctor in the Army. He actually volunteered. Was so mad about the sneak attack. Thought he'd end up in the Pacific, but that's not how things went. Served in North Africa, then Italy, before D-Day. (He spoke Italian and German so he was valuable.)
Of course he saw a lot of shit. Told me about watching men die on D-Day, being unable to do anything for them. Told me about the slow, inexorable march through Europe, the push to defeat the Germans. Told it in a very clinical way, because it barely mattered to him.
What mattered to him was what happened after they'd pushed the Germans far enough back.

See, my grandfather was one of the first Americans to see a concentration camp. As a doctor, he was one of the first ones to treat the survivors. And it broke him.
I want you to imagine that man, sitting in a chair in the basement of his son's house some forty years after, staring off into space as he told his grandson about watching people die from starvation and dysentery. About trying to feed people and killing them.
For my grandfather, that moment was the whole war. The utter failure of his world to save those people. He was a doctor and he couldn't save them. He came face to face with the industrialization of genocide and he simply broke, and remained broken for decades.
He came home and had kids (my father was the oldest, born in 1948) and never recovered from what he'd seen. He went into plastic surgery and was quite successful. He didn't love his wife anymore, or the children he had with her, or really anyone or anything. Nothing mattered.
The idea that people will try and tell you it wasn't real drove him insane. The idea that it could happen again here, that anyone could parrot the mad ideals that led to it, that his own relatives in Italy, his cousins had fought for fascism... he lived his life broken by it.
He didn't come home and put it aside, because he couldn't. I remember being a child sitting in the basement with him while he shook and wept and told me these things that I was far too young to understand. Because somebody had to know, and his own son hated him.
"I deserve it."

He had brown eyes. I remember them, the way they looked.

"I should have left them years ago."

The Holocaust was a real thing. Never let anyone tell you different, or try and reframe it as anything other than genocide.
It was genocide against Jews, the Roma, homosexuals and it was waged in stages. Bergen-Belsen didn't spring up from the ground like sown dragon's teeth. They started with restrictive laws, rhetoric, and grew. The oxygen that fueled that flame was the blind eyes the world turned.
These are the things that old man told me. While telling me about trying to feed a small Jewish girl and coming back to find her dead anyway. The smell of bodies and waste. "So thick in the air I could see it." That's the crop you grow when you sow these dragon's teeth. Dead kids
He told me that it was real. That it was death industrialized. That it was carried out right up until the end. That we... the USA... did nothing to stop it, when we could have. That people like him had even supported turning boatloads of Jews away in the 30's.
I remember as much of it as I can for him because he's gone now.

The Holocaust was real. He saw it. He told me. We can't ever forget.
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