They say that the winner gets to write history and of course, there is truth in that. History is always a subjective assessment and there are always several points of view just as when several people observe an event and yet recollect it differently. Another aspect of history is that we often make the mistake of judging by today’s standards forgetting that the historical culture might possibly be not just different but totally alien to us in our time. None the less, history is important we just need to remember that it is imperfect.
In the past, history came mainly from school, books and TV. The message was fairly consistent and led us to believe in a certain take on history. These days, with internet and social media, we are exposed to many different histories where there used to be one. Much of the time, as individuals reading these different versions we are unqualified to decide or judge which may be the closest to the truth. It is, or can be, deeply disturbing to read an alternate version of history, especially one that rubs up against our taught view.
I think its good to have different versions or views on historical events. It makes one think and it challenges long-held viewpoints. However, there is also a lot of nefarious rewriting of history that deeply disturbs me and often is accepted as fact by people on social media who simply are not qualified to be able to decide the truth or fiction of what they read. I was reminded of one today by an article in the Hull Daily Mail of all papers. The article was published a couple of days ago on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Belson concentration camp. It is here for those of you interested enough to follow a link.
What is compelling about such an article is that it was written by an eye witness on the day that the camp was liberated. It is blunt and it is horrific reading. Maybe some people don’t want to believe that humanity is capable of such things, maybe some people simply hate jews, maybe some people want to believe that somehow this whole story was made up for reasons of religion, politics or nationalism. I have no idea why people increasingly feel the need to rewrite history in radical ways. Perhaps humans simply cannot forgive themselves for being human and for being less than perfect. I do not know. I know this though, if we are to learn anything from the past, we must accept that such things did happen and strongly reject attempts to distort and confuse.
Here is an excerpt from the article – I do hope the Hull Daily Mail won’t be too unhappy with me for reproducing it here…
In one hut I found about 50 men huddled almost sore-to-sore. One seemed to have a rail over his head — then you recognised his arms. One seemed just bone till you went close to him and saw that he had skin as well. One, for scabs, could see only through narrow slits of eyes. One was trying to bite rotting wood. One was trying to stand on string-like legs that dangled from a torso the thickness of a naval hawser. But they all said “Hello,” and tried to smile. Half these men were professors, inventors, intellectuals, industrialists, some of them Jews