It doesn’t matter how many times you visit museums and memorials which commemorate genocide, any genocide. The sense of disbelief at humanity’s ability to destroy and divide is overwhelming.
Visiting Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial with a friend whose family lost relatives during Nazi Germany’s rule was always going to be moving. We move around the maze of 2,711 grey concrete slabs, each one a different size and height, remembering the six million Jewish children, women and men who died during World War II.
I hold her arm and we walk silently through the blank blocks, projecting our own thoughts onto their featureless sides. About ten minutes in, we see an old man, perhaps in his 80s, looking distraught. Instinct and etiquette collide – to approach, or respect his privacy? As we near, my friend touches him lightly on the shoulder and keeps her hand there, just for a second or two, then smiles gently as we pass him.
“Gott segne Euch,” he says. “God bless you.” We carry on, wandering and wondering, our minds heavy with jumbled thoughts of war, brutality, pain and separation.
We see an old man, looking distraught. Instinct and etiquette collide – to approach or not?
A few minutes later, she translates his words for me: “God bless you.” She’s an atheist but the sentiment is everything. It’s a reminder that kindness is the most underrated yet most important trait we can display. To whoever needs it.
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