Today, January 27, marks the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps at Auschwitz. There weren’t a whole lot of people left there to be liberated. And of those who were there aren’t a whole lot still alive today. A few years hence there won’t be any. At which point we’ll be able to say, Well, that was that, so now we can move on.
But what exactly is it to move on? It can’t just be to forget, because in what sense hadn’t we moved on just because there were still people who remembered? So could moving on mean something like putting it behind us? I don’t think so, because those who’d been interned there put it behind them as of January 28, 1945, and yet we’d be hard pressed to say that twenty-four hours after those gates were opened those erstwhile internees had moved on.
I think what we’re looking for is whatever sense of having moved on that took place in England sometime between the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and today. And I think that that whatever-it-might-be is its no longer mattering to anyone on which side in that battle one’s ancestors might have fought. So will there ever come a time – and if so when? – when it won’t matter to anyone whether her ancestors were inmates at Auschwitz or the people who put them there? That all grievance and assigning of culpability will just seem silly?
Will that come a thousand years hence? Almost certainly. A hundred years hence? Not a chance. But whenever that day arrives, what kind of day do we now think it will be? A good day or a bad one? That, at any rate, is what I was thinking about today.