Walk Through the Ashes in 8:46

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Croydon Chronicles

Germans were forced to consider their complicity in the holocaust, but many Americans are only now recognizing the part we play in the effects of slavery.

Walk Through the Ashes

by Jim Bergmaier

Following the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Buchenwald in April 1945, American General George Patton forced about 1,000 German men to march under American guard more than 15 mile miles from the nearby village of Weimar to the camp and back to view first-hand the evidence of the Nazi atrocities.

More than 280,000 assorted “enemies” of the Nazi state and their meth-lab dream of a master race were imprisoned, enslaved, tortured, humiliated, raped, starved, debased and medically-abused, and more than 56,000 were murdered, behind those fences over the seven years of the camp’s existence.

The death camp march was among the first steps taken by the allies, and later the post-war government of Germany, to force the German people to take responsibility for their complicity in the crimes committed by the Nazis against a wide range of humanity. Since the end of World War II, democratically-elected German governments have been vigorous in ensuring that successive generations of Germans know the truth about their ugly history by enacting numerous laws designed to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.

Germany has generally succeeded in confronting and facing-down the pure evil of its Nazi past and continues today to aggressively pursue surviving war criminals and marginalize any sympathy or glorification of Germany’s Nazi heritage.

Germany’s pursuit of genocide during World War II is today considered by most reasonable people to represent the most egregious of crimes against humanity. Most people probably would also agree that the crime of slavery would follow as a close second to genocide.

During the building of America from the 16th Century through the mid-19th Century, an estimated 388,000 of the 10 million-plus Africans who were kidnapped, stolen or sold into lives of slavery in the New World were shipped directly to ports in North America.

By the end of the American Civil War, there were some four million mostly African American slaves in the US. Their forced labor helped make America the economic and military powerhouse that it became, and it made many white Americans — Northerners and Southerners — and their descendants wealthy.

That wealth also helped build America’s post World War II middle class, which in turn helped build middle class wealth for generations of mostly white Americans.

In January 1863, Abraham Lincoln freed the American slaves in the rebellious South with the Emancipation Proclamation. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified by the states in 1865, formally abolished slavery in America.

In the decades since, true emancipation has been a thing of myth. Social and economic advancement for Black Americans as a whole continues to be a tall pole greased by deep-set bigotry, government-sanctioned housing discrimination, and an economically-segregated educational system. Accumulated family wealth for a Black Americans, as a whole, is just 10% to 15% of that of White Americans.

Apathy, selfishness and a willful ignorance or disregard by much of White America toward the deep and long-term impacts of our slave-owning past on millions of our brother and sister Americans has brought us to where we are today.

Simply put, many of our fellow Americans have no clue, or don’t want to know, what 400 years of oppression looks like now. Like the German populace, we are all complicit to some degree. Sadly, there is no General Patton in charge today to march us through the rubble, past the bodies.

But thanks to the ubiquitous cell phone camera, the 24/7 news cycle, and social media, we finally are being marched through the fence-less death camps of America’s original sin.

Turns out that many of us don’t like what we’re seeing.

The question is now: What are we going to do about it?


June 2020

Submitted: June 15, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Jim Bergmaier. All rights reserved.

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