My wife and I went to see “Cabaret” tonight. The show is fun, sexy, dynamic, and interactive. It’s set up like you’re in an actual night club. As it opens, you’re excited and everyone’s laughing and it’s a blast. But then, as it progresses, you realize that these characters’ lives represent so much more than a simple story. “Cabaret” ultimately reflects the state of the world leading up to WWII. Although it takes place in Berlin, Germany, the characters individually represent the people and environmental conditions that allowed Hitler and the Nazi Party to exterminate over six million people.
I bring this up on this particular blog because WWII, particularly the Holocaust, has always resonated very deeply and powerfully within me. I don’t remember when I first learned about Hitler or the mass genocide he orchestrated, but I do remember when I began to understand the complexities of how such an atrocity could occur. And that was something I found very relatable. I certainly do not mean to minimize or be insulting, but I want to be clear that yes – I am drawing a comparison between my own traumatic childhood and the heinous acts committed against the Jewish (among other) people. Why, or even how, could I do such a thing? Because the very same elements that allowed the Holocaust to occur allowed my abuse to occur.
Adolf Hitler was an exceptional orator who used fear and charisma to convince ordinary people that Jews were the enemy of Germans and would result in their inevitable downfall. As a teenager, I used to refer to my biological mother as “Hitler of the household” because I felt that she led her very own dictatorship within those walls. She was extraordinary in her ability to spin tales and gaslight the people around her into believing things were just as she said they were. It was very easy to to lose yourself amidst her lies and manipulations.
Since the people surrounding my biological parents found their façade so compelling and believable, they were somehow able to overlook what I know was obvious to them. But they found ways to deny it. I once read a book that interviewed Germans who witnessed Jews being marched through their towns and put on cattle trains to their deaths. When asked what, exactly, they imagined was going to happen to those Jews, the people stated that they believed what they were told: that the Jews were being segregated and moved to separate areas for housing and employment. They knew – somewhere inside themselves – that this was likely not true, but most chose to ignore the dissonance and accept the lies funneled to them through political parties. I do not blame them. It would have taken incredible courage to go up against the Nazi Party during such a time.