kolmapäev, juuli 13, 2011


Another media-inflamed controversy, in the town where I live. According to news reports "several dozen" attended a ceremony in the German cemetery in Viljandi to commemorate the July 8, 1941 "liberation" of Estonia from Soviet rule by Nazi German forces.

It was condemned.

Ala Jacobsen, chairwoman of the Estonian Jewish community, said, "The usual attempt to portray people who collaborated with the Nazi occupational regime as 'warriors against Bolshevism,' and furthermore on the day when the mass murder of the citizens of Viljandi and Estonia who belonged to the 'wrong' ethnicity began [...] appears completely idiotic."

The news of the small gathering of several dozen in Viljandi also reached the Holy Land. From his offices in Jerusalem, Wiesenthal Center's Israel director Efraim Zuroff was moved to speak, "No one is disputing that the Estonian population suffered under the Soviet Union. But to celebrate the Nazi invasion, in which 99.3 percent of Estonia's Jews ended up being murdered, is unacceptable."

A small gathering of several dozen draws a reaction from two individuals, and then ensnares the rest of us. Bolshevism. Nazism. What a joy it is to be a denizen of the post-war world. We talk and argue and talk, and never really get anywhere. My particular favorite is the tenuous link between these several dozen and the rest of the Estonian population. From this several dozen, a whole larger mass of individuals can be smeared.

Per one comment on ERR, "I think one should say straightforward what Estonian people are doing here: They are trivializing the holocaust crimes and other human rights violations committed under the Nazi-regime."

Shame on you, Estonians. Shame on me. I live here and did nothing to stop the ceremony. I didn't even know it took place. It seems that none of my friends or acquaintances did either. It hasn't been mentioned in any conversation. It would have just slipped by if it wasn't for all the media coverage.

But now it's on my mind and it's a good thing too because I had nearly forgotten about it. Oh, Holocaust, it's been too long. How I have missed you. In sixth grade, it was The Diary of Anne Frank. In eight grade, it was Night by Elie Wiesel, and the mandatory viewing of Schindler's List. In tenth grade, we were summoned to the auditorium to view old film reels of emaciated bodies being bulldozed into mass graves. We were each given a yellow sticker. On it, the Star of David, the number 6,000,000, and the slogan, "Never forget." I took it home and placed it somberly above my desk.

Holocaust. We used to have such an intimate relationship, and yet I have become desensitized to you, detached from you over the years. We've grown apart. All the other death, all the other suffering. The massacre at Mai Lai. The carnage of Chechnya. It's all just a blur, really, a long, red river of nightmares. Forgive me Holocaust for forgetting about you. It's nothing personal. You understand me, don't you?

A warm night in the Old Town. A conversation with a middle-aged German and a middle-aged Estonian. I'm the third corner of the triangle, the clumsy not-so-young youth. Summer in Tallinn. Three glasses of Chardonnay and torment.

"My father's generation was tormented," said the German. "That generation was taught to give orders and follow out orders, give orders and follow out orders. They were all tormented, so tormented."

"All the Germans, they carry around with them this huge guilt," said the Estonian. "But we Estonians, we are proud of it." The Estonian tapped her shoulder. She was being ironic.

"Why do some people still admire Hitler?" I asked the German. "Not only did he murder millions of people and destroy his country, but he lost. He was a loser. Why do people admire a loser?"

The German seemed perplexed. "I hate that man with every bone in my body," he said.

I wondered if I hated Hitler. Really hated him. It all seemed so distant. Far, far away. Nearly all my relatives who were adults at that time are dead. This German was born a decade after the war. He only knew his parents' inner torment second hand. His guilt is acquired.

"I've become desensitized to it," I confessed to the German. "I've heard about it so many times."

"Ever been to Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen?" He countered with a raised eyebrow. The German leaned in especially close to me, so I could hear him utter the ugly names, smell the torment on his breath.

"No," I answered.

"You should go," he nodded, knowingly. "Everyone should go."

Should we? To be honest, it's not high on my list. "Hey, honey, let's take the kids to Auschwitz this summer! They'll love it." I'm sure that would go over well. Why would I purposefully go to a place of such profound suffering? To feel more guilty? To feel more tormented?

Once we drove from Paldiski to Tallinn and stopped at the Klooga camp memorial. It was a peaceful place, and I allowed myself a modicum of quiet reflection at the suffering of others. My children were there, and I had no idea how to even explain the significance of the Holocaust to them. They're too young anyway. Why torment them with history?

I can begin to see how the post-war generation is haunted by it though. For my generation of Americans, it is Vietnam that was the tormenting conflict. It still feels close to me after all these years, breathing down my neck. Vietnam. I am always thinking about it in some corner of my mind. We are all scarred by it. It is a deep scar, a blot on our souls. The German has his Auschwitz and Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. I have my Mai Lai and Agent Orange and Punji Sticks. A nightmare, a recurring nightmare. The ghosts of Southeast Asia never rest.

I admit that I really fell in love with Anne Frank when I read her diary. Ah, those Jewish girls, with their dark eyes and their unleavened cakes. And I felt as if I knew that girl. I felt as if I lived in the Annex, that I knew Peter and Margot and Lies Goosens. It seemed so incomprehensible to me at the time how such a young person could die. It didn't make any sense. None of it does. All of the death, all of the suffering, all of the torment and blurry nightmares, and in the end, the only thing that can still reach me, that can breach my insensitivity, that I can remember, is the voice of someone who was once very much alive.

50 kommentaari:

LPR ütles ...

The lesson from all these massacres to your kids remains the same: "Don't talk to strangers"

See what happened? Estonians talked to strangers and next thing they knew, they were doing totally irrational things. Goose-walking, kolkhoz building or Gulag travelling. There was no time to play and sing. The things they did before they talked to strangers.

I bet, they'd understand. The rest of the world might not, but they would. They are still unspoiled, unpoisoned and clear-thinking.

LPR ütles ...

Goose-stepping, rather.

Lingüista ütles ...

And don't forget Miep! :-)

I suppose there's now attention to things like this Viljandi ceremony because, on the one hand, Russia concentrates on it (they can't believe the Estonians wanted to be 'liberated' from them...); and on the other hand, there is the fear that the Holocaust will be trivialized.

Whatever the next big, scarring, Vietnam-like thing will be, the Shoah institute is afraid it will be felt as more important than the Holocaust. Even if it objectively isn't. And that would be, they think, the end of it. The door would be open for the Holocaust to repeat itself.

As if that door had ever been closed, I say to myself.

Kristopher ütles ...

I missed this story, but I'm not surprised to see the number of comments. I guess two other currently popular issues had been taken as far as they could be for now.

Giustino ütles ...

Dutch people have wonderful names.

Sharon ütles ...

The trouble with Hitler is that he's been blown completely out of proportion - and it's all because people can still remember what he was responsible for.

Big fat gobs of death and pain and suffering happened as a flow-on from his commands (both directly and indirectly), and there are still people alive today who can remember it - and who want it to be remembered. Need it to be remembered.

Fair enough. But after it has all finally gone from living memory, it will be interesting to see what "Hitler", as a concept, becomes. Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun or Nero?

One thing though - and no matter what else you think of him, you can't deny this, and you can't lessen it - the man was the most incredible public speaker in recent history.

Martin Luther King managed to convince a nation to do something that was good, noble and decent - and it really only worked on the essentially decent people anyway.

Hilter managed to convince several nations to do things that were irrational, inhumane and down-right wrong. He managed to talk decent people into doing indecent things.

People should be paying a lot more attention to how he did it, if we hope to stop someone from doing it again.

Sharon ütles ...

By the way, a big part of "how he did it", was convincing the Germans that they were doing the decent thing. That they were the liberators. The great hope. The people who were going to lift humanity up.

If a "few dozen people" would like to keep believing that, well you can't really blame them. You can point out that they are hideously deluded, but you can't blame them for wanting to be the liberators, rather than the bad guys.

Giustino ütles ...

Sharon, I once went into a store in Tallinn eight years ago and they were selling a CD of Hitler's speeches. I said to Epp, "Hey look, honey, Hitler has a new CD out."

"Isn't he dead?"

"Oh, you know, it's like Tupac Shakur. They keep releasing new albums."

The seller was not amused.

LPR ütles ...

When I watch him giving speeches, he cracks me up. Maybe it is just because I do not understand german. It just amazes me that his audience, instead of convulsing in throes of belly laughter, stands there completely enthralled. I would have been the only heckler in that crowd, only to have been quickly shushed down.

This is when you look at the man with the post-Seinfeldian outlook on life.

Another thing - if you study his actions from the point of management principles, he totally failed as a project manager.

I am not even going talk about ethics and morality.

Kristopher ütles ...

Hitler is having a brilliant afterlife. The latest is the "talking dog" connection -- Maureen Dowd even just wrote a column about it. You'd think Hitler just died, not Obama. The problem is that anything that makes Hitler seem more wacky also makes him look less evil. Michael Vick more unsavory than Hitler, hmm.

Anyway, the world still needs a great Stalin film. A cult pop classic such as Tarantino would make, except a pure biopic. In which he is depicted as an out-and-out monster.

Lingüista ütles ...

I do understand German, and I feel see the effect his speeches had. He could convince people that he was special, that he had something in him. Also, he made people feel they were part of this 'special thing', that whatever set him apart and made him special also somehow rubbed off on them as they listened.

Also, he sounded so convinced. He sounded like a strong, fully believable Father, who tells you the Truth (because he loves you, though you infer it from him telling you the truth rather from him actually saying it).

He made those who listened to him really feel like Übermenschen, like supermen. It's, I don't know, a bit (I know it's very different, but still) like loving Star Trek, and feeling elated every time you hear any of the series' songs (I especially liked Deep Space Nine). Suddenly you're lifted from this mundane world of day-to-day preoccupations into a higher, cleaner, more meaningful world, full of light and certainty and the Prime Directive and a Goal, and everything makes sense, and we're all helping, part of this big goal...

It's heady stuff.

LPR ütles ...

Interesting. Now, thinking of Stalin, can't remember him giving speeches at all. He is always just standing there, waving limply or just puffing on his pipe.

How did he rally his hordes of commies to action?

Maybe I should google or youtuble to find some riveting Stalin speeches. I could understand what he says.

So off I go, to see what I can find out ...

Sharon ütles ...

Oh, yeah, the Deep Space Nine theme rocks.

Christine ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Christine ütles ...


The first study on this was done in the early 60's ...
It was part of my 2nd year abnormal psychology course.
Sad to see not much has changed.

Asehpe ütles ...

I've read about this experiment.

I don't think much can change in that respect; it's instinctive feelings and reactions that evolved in situations that had little or nothing to do with pulling levers, but which will act like that in the lever-pulling context.

I have a somewhat more optimistic vision. I think that, if we could turn off whatever made those people pull the lever despite the pain they seemed to be causing, it would also turn off other things in us (mysteriously connected to it) that make us good. The sweet and the sour are interconnected.

LPR ütles ...

This is deep indeed. I agree. For example mating, at least between humans, involves intricate combination of gentleness and violence. It is such a delicate and artful balance.

Some people buy various paraphenalia to enhance the experience or even pay someone to "pull that lever".

Christine ütles ...

I would disagree that this ying without yang would somehow negativly ater us as a "product'.

What I believed then and continue to believe is that some people are simply born to "follow orders" and that others, although perhaps fewer in numbers fall into a "hell no" group. This group and their genetics have probably been significantly "eliminated" or diminished by the world's bullies over time.

Asehpe ütles ...

Christina, as far as my experience goes, people aren't born to "follow orders" or be "hell no" types; people are born to adapt to situations, starting out as babies with pretty much nothing except a desire to imitate behavior among them and ending up as humans with certain deep habits that have helped them along their development.

This plasticity means it's possible to develop anything (or to change anything into anything, given the appropriate context), though certain things are probably easier than others. This includes developing "obey orders" or "hell no" attitudes (or even personalities) if they help.

The human psyche is interconnected in ways that make a mere yin-yang comparison overly simplistic. If we knew what is connected to what, and how!...

My gut feeling is that you're wrong, even though many people agree with you. People whose activism for the causes they believe in may be generating harm that will simply surprise them.

Here's a parable. I've once heard a story (which I can't confirm) but which goes more or less like this. One of the first environmentalist groups once acquired an area of land where they wanted to keep a certain group of herbivores (say, deer) safe from their carnivore predators (say, tigers). It seemed to them the best way to help the deer would be to kill all the tigers (they were evil deer-killers after all). They did so. At first the deer were happy, but after a while they ate all the available food and started dying of starvation. Confused, the environmentalists realized that the tigers, who apparently only had an evil influence on the deer, actually did help in one way: they kept the deer population within safe limits for that particular area.

Because they thought that there was no deeper, 'yin-yang' relation between the deer and the tigers -- that things were simple: tiger-evil, deer-good -- the environmentalists did something that resulted in the destruction of that which they loved and had wanted to preserve.

Mardus ütles ...

I love Deep Space Nine, too.

I guess it was the first show to bring me home the meaning of war. This was the show that introduced me the concept of "comfort women" ("Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night"). I didn't even know anything about what was going on in Japan-occupied Korea during WWII and before.

Then Farscape, the reimaged Battlestar Galactica, and Stargate Universe.

I thought now that there are at least two different ways to remember.

One concerns remembering bad events with bad feelings, and one having pleasant feelings in the process of having to remember bad events.

The latter, perhaps, is not masochism, but acceptance of both the events and acceptance of having to recognise and counter possibilities of bad events in the future.

Maybe it's also about feeling dignity in remembering.

I might have to write more about this later on.

Lingüista ütles ...

I was always a fan of Deep Space Nine, and not only because of their musical theme -- they tried to escape the boundaries of the positivistic, always optimistic, science-paradise Star Trek world. Gene Rodenberry wouldn't have liked it, which to me is a plus.

But I was an even bigger fan of Babylon 5, which addressed even deeper questions about the meaning of war, to people, to individuals, to civilizations.

Whatever memory you have of bad events, they are partially responsible for making you who you are. And to the extent that there is some good in you, these past events are also (partially) responsible for them.

Which to me explains how you can have good feelings while remembering them. You're remembering part of what made you be as you are now.

Mardus ütles ...


If you're a fan of great music, I do suggest you watch Stargate Universe. Joel Goldsmith has done amazing work on the series score. Much of the first season of the show also features very nice musical montages.

Joel Goldsmith is the son of Jerry Goldsmith and Jerry Goldsmith composed the great score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

On memory...
Because of a lack of time (I was already late to a family engagement), I was left with just enough minutes to write a very simplistic view of the issues surrounding remembering and remembrance.

LPR ütles ...

Asephe - It is interesting that you say, "people are born to adapt".

Thus every dissident would in essence have adaptability issues.

Christine ütles ...

Asehpe ütles...
Christina, as far as my experience goes, people aren't born to "follow orders" or be "hell no" types; people are born to adapt to situations, starting out as babies with pretty much nothing except a desire to imitate behavior among them and ending up as humans with certain deep habits that have helped them along their development

* I went to school when the "Blank Tablet" theory was being promoted.
Babies were born as little empty computers just waiting to download the experiences of life both good and bad that would make them "adults" one day.
After raising 2 sons watching my 6 nephews and 1 niece grow into "adults",and now with having almost 5 grandchildren I can say with absolute certainty that nothing could be further from the truth.
You/we are born as a little Genetic package and with some skill and perserverance one might be able to enhance that little package or not in a more positive or negative direction thru nurture.
The rest is you get what you get, right down to Mimi's design skills and her quick wit and temper.

LPR ütles ...

I wonder if our fire breathing humanist and embattled "set the hsitorical record straight" moevenort is out there celebrating the release of KGB murderer Mikhail Golovatov?

Go Austria! Right, moevenort?

moevenort ütles ...

I assume you are talking about your hysteric lithuanian brothers? the same Lithuanians who were proud like Estonians to fight side by side with SS in WW2 and enjoyed killing jewish citizens, too?

plasma-jack ütles ...

the same Lithuanians who were proud like Estonians to fight side by side with SS in WW2 and enjoyed killing jewish citizens, too?

you mean these Lithuanians?

moevenort ütles ...

no, I mean stupi neonazi guys like these:


plasma-jack ütles ...

Yeah, don't these guys look far more decent? That's because they're from a superiour culture. As old AH used to say, without proper Germanization these Baltic nations will never rise above mediocrity.

Oh wait, there's more. Is that... is that a march for SS veterans?

LPR ütles ...

Moevenort, do you want to go on the record with your opinion about the release of KGB murderer Golovatov?

moevenort ütles ...

why should I? why should I talk with some east-european nazi-friends like you about those issues?

LPR ütles ...

No need to talk or hug. Just state for the record that the people killed in Vilnius uprising were nazis and that they deserved it.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Well, as Mr Ribbentrop once put it, there is no problem between the Baltic and the Black Sea that could not be solved between Germany and Russia.

plasma-jack ütles ...

why should I? why should I talk with some east-european nazi-friends like you about those issues?

Because you think that even unevolved eastern barbarians deserve to be shown the (unspecified) true path by means of concise, yet pointed comments? Kind of like German koans (similar to Japanese koans, but without a hint of humour).

Lingüista ütles ...

Möwen-Ort, you're yourself the biggest nazi-lover here on this comment thread. That you should accuse others of this is just evidence that Golovatov's case just doesn't fit in your worldview.

And like everybody with a worldview set in stone, when something doesn't fit... you just ignore it.

Hey, happy holidays!

Lingüista ütles ...

Christina -- if I may...

The old discussion between the innate and the acquired... If I understand you well, now that you've watched kids grow up and realized the Blank Slate (I never heard 'Tablet', only 'Slate') Theory has serious problems, you turn to the opposite theory (call it the Our Soul Shines Through theory if you will). Whereas nature and nurture are precisely one of those yin-yang relations that we would be well advised to grasp; because, otherwise, we condemn ourselves to shifting between absolutes ('man is a product of the environment!' 'no, man is the shaper of his environment!' etc...)

We do have lots of innate things, among which the propensity to adapt, the propensity to lock on certain things in our environment (sexual impulse is a clear example of that), a certain tendency for more and/or less aggression...

But yes, we adapt. Kids will learn their parents' language; they won't make up one of their own. They'll choose someone to imitate -- and they will imitate him/her. (Ever noticed how children love to imitate -- how everything to them is like an imitation feast? 'Look, daddy, look! I'm X/Y/Z/...'.)

Sharon ütles ...

It's always interesting that people still fall back on dichotomies - it's either A or B. That's bunk. A and B are two points on a continuum. At any given point of our lives we can be lead/pushed to one point on the continuum, or we can actively chose to move to another point on the curriculum - A, B or anywhere in between.

It's never a case of "who you were born to be" or "who you were raised to be", but a mixture of both with a good dose of "who you have chosen to be" thrown in for good measure.

Everyone has the ability to chose to be "better". Sometimes they need to be reminded of this a few times - and we can all make bad decisions as a result of listening to the wrong voices - but we all have the ability to chose the better part of ourselves (no matter how often we don't chose the better part).

Everyday. Everyone.

We are a package of potential, and there is always hope for this afternoon - let alone hope for tomorrow.

And that's about as deep as I feel like getting on a Thursday.

Christine ütles ...

Lingüista ütles...
Christina -- if I may...

The old discussion between the innate and the acquired... If I understand you well, now that you've watched kids grow up and realized the Blank Slate (I never heard 'Tablet', only 'Slate')

"Tablet" was my English translation of what was the original term in Latin.
I am not sure how old you are but I have watched family members who grew up without any contact with their father, walk like them, talk like them and act very much like them.
Studies on identical twins who were adopted by different parents and grew up in very different settings are probably the best argument for a theory that is not mine alone.

Asehpe ütles ...

Christine -- I'm 42, and I have also seen people grow up to be very much like their parents (my brother is a good example of that). Or sometimes to be like not their parents, but a more distant relative they never met. Or sometimes to be something totally different from anyone else in the family (that's my case.)

I have two identical twin sisters. And I have rarely seen two people as widely different in attitudes and preferences as these two are -- despite the fact that they are, even today, disturbingly similar physically (they had a good time pretending to be each other to their boyfriends; it usually worked well for a few minutes).

Which is why I, who don't despise the Our Soul Shines Through theory, also don't despise the Blank Slate theory -- a theory also not mine alone.

Or in fact, I do despise both -- because they're absolutist. Call me a yin-yang guy, but I think neither Blank Slate nor Our Soul accurately describe reality.

Or, as Sharon said above: "It's never a case of "who you were born to be" or "who you were raised to be", but a mixture of both with a good dose of "who you have chosen to be" thrown in for good measure."


Asehpe ütles ...

By the way -- I'm the same guy as Lingüista. My computer is doing something funny today with my google accounts, and I can't seem to switch between them as I want. Sorry if that causes any confusion.

LPR ütles ...

That "chosing" part of being is the hardest. Darn, is that hard or what?

I'd just sometimes just rather let go. Be the tablet or whatnot.

I'd like to re-direct all that culpability so bad ...

LPR ütles ...

While we are bickering here who is a nazi, who is a commie and what are the true values, history and blah, blah, blah ... islamists are destroying the world around us for real and right now.

Maybe, nazi like me and a commie like you, moevenort, we should go back to our common roots and start building the funeral pyres for islamists instead? Or they will be building them for us both and you and I will burn there together.

Needless to say, I am pissed off today like there is no tomorrow ...

Effin hankyheads.

Your turn, moeveort.

moevenort ütles ...

it is probably impossible to top you primitive way of thinking, redneck.

you do not deserve an answer, village-nazi, the only thing you still get from me is a quote.
out of an ERR-comment:

" we should not be surprized about the comments here. Estonia has been a save harbor for National Socialist ideologists ...The aggressiveness of the comments speak for themselves and need no further explanation. It makes no sense to deal with such people. However, it *** this country into a questionable light, which is likely to deter a large number of potentional investors (by far not only from Russia and equivalent). In so far it may be a necessary evil to take time to expose these people and put spoof on it, but we must not respond to their arguments any further. So much of our precious time they do not deserve and you can't argue with them in any case because their 'opinion' is already pre-chewed. They do not want to discuss, they want to pass on the ideology, preferably done through channels that pick conspiracism and esoterism as a central theme these days. Open up a discussion about 9/11 and the usual suspects here would turn the discussion into what 'the Jews' have to do with that..."

that say everthing necessary I guess..

Christine ütles ...

Asehpe ütles...
Christine -- I'm 42,

My son is almost your age ... I believe that your Bio identical twin sisters do possess totally different personalities but that would be somewhat rare....
Look, we are all born individuals, even clones are not totally identical... and yes nurture and ones upbringing can make a difference in the development of a child.
I'm sure you are very different then your brother or other family members as you have said, but unless you are adopted you remain a composite of your family's genetics.

plasma-jack ütles ...

that say everthing necessary I guess..

so you're absolutely sure that you don't find anything else to add? wanna bet?

Lingüista ütles ...

Möwenort: blah blah blah Estonia SS blah blah blah Nazi blah blah blah Estonia bad blah balh bad Estonia blah blah reactionary blah blah blah fascist Estonia blah blah Waffen-SS blah blah Estonia blah blah blah blah bad Estonians blah blah Hakenkreuz blah blah Estonia blah blah blah

Möwenort quote: Someone else said that blah blah blah Estonia SS blah blah blah Nazi blah blah blah Estonia bad blah balh bad Estonia blah blah reactionary blah blah blah fascist Estonia blah blah Waffen-SS blah blah Estonia blah blah blah blah bad Estonians blah blah Hakenkreuz blah blah Estonia blah blah blah

Actual evidence & arguments? What for?


Mardus ütles ...



kassandra ütles ...

I'm still waiting for Alla Jakobson to ask for forgiveness for her father's murders. Her father, Idel Jakobson, was personally responsible for signing the death sentences for some 56 Estonians, in addition to being complicit in the transfer of dozens of Estonians to the outer reaches of the USSR. He was accused by the Estonian court of crimes against humanity in 1996, but the trial was terminated because the Estonian court decided he was too old to stand trial. (Has that ever happened when someone was accused of crimes against the Jews?) He lived another ten years in the bosom of his family, including his daughter Alla Jakobsonm, for another ten years.

The Germans are asking for forgiveness left and right, but Alla Jakobson continues to blame the Estonians.

It's not the Muslims that Estonia should fear, but the likes of emigrants like Alla Jakobson and her father, Idel Jakobson.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Why on earth should daughter apologize for father's deeds? That's not how it works, especially not in modern Estonia (thank God for that).

JM ütles ...

The Holocaust is something far more horrible than any other war crime I can think of. As a child I was exposed to the images of the killing in former Yugoslavia, with people being shot one after the other, women starving in KZs, etc. But the Holocaust is something more complex, more organized.

I think going to Auschwitz is not a bad idea in order to better understand this part of our history. You can visit Krakow, which is very nice, see the empty synagogues in the Kazimierz district, and make a trip to Auszwitz and Birkenau. But I would not take the children with me, I have friends who were traumatized because they visited KZ's in their childhood.