I believe that the path to healing the world and ensuring that an atrocity similar to the Holocaust happens“never again” is through kindness.
When we say, “never again”, do we mean that never again should an atrocity be committed against 11 million Jews, Gypsies, Poles, communists, homosexuals and the disabled? Or do we mean never again should we take up hatred toward any group. Not Jews, not Muslims, not Christians, not Hindus. Not black people, not gay people. Not anti-abortionists nor gun rights activists.
Anne Frank said, “Then, in spite of everything, I still believe people are good at heart.” And this is what I believe. Despite ISIS, the Unabomber, police brutality, and political corruption, there is still more than enough kindness in the world to make the world a better place.
I hope that this project will inspire others toward kindness, which in turn, I believe can prevent fanatical ideologies that lead to events such as the Holocaust. I believe that each of us has the responsibility to act with kindness in every aspect of our lives. The Holocaust happened not from one massive action but from several people willing to look away.
This project started in 2008. So far, I have photographed over 25 different Holocaust memorials in 8 countries. So, how do photographs of Holocaust memorials promote kindness?
For countries to admit their shortcomings, to preserve these places of horror that would be so much easier to forget, to put their desire to prevent another Holocaust over their own ego, is absolutely an act of kindness. For the survivors, some of whom have become successful to put their money toward educating the world about the Holocaust rather than enjoy a comfortable life takes an unimaginable sort of kindness. Kindness is not only doing something kind in the moment. It’s about forgiveness, empathy and the desire to heal the world, despite our personal circumstances.
As I photograph these locations, I am, of course, moved by considering the horrible things that humans can do to each other. Stories of torture, mass murder, and inconceivable psychological battles are always difficult to stomach. Yet, even more moving to me are the stories of kindness that appear throughout the narrative of hell.
Albanian Muslims risked their lives and the lives of their families to save over 200 Jews, not by hiding them, but by integrating them into their own society. Their reason — “Besa”, often translated “to do the right thing”. Over 20 European nations helped thousands of Jews escape near-certain death. The Chinese unconditionally accepted over 18,000 Jewish refugess. The word “kindness” doesn’t even seem to do justice to describe their acts when you consider that the degree to which they put the safety of their families at great risk to save others.
This quote, from the New England Holocaust Memorial moves me to tears every time I read it: “Ilse, a childhood friend of mine once found a raspberry in the camp and carried it in her pocket to present to me that night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry and you give it to your friend. ”
A future of peace will not come from a small group of people creating massive action. It will come from shifting our perceptions of what is to what could be and then noticing what could be already exists in so many ways. It will come from genuine kindness that we show each other every day, including in offices and boardrooms.
These photographs are intended to make us think about why people come to do such horrible things to each other. But, they are also intended to remind us of the righteous, kind, lasting acts committed each day.