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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Page 8 news

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I saw a page eight New York Times headline last week saying “The Last Eight Years Were the Hottest on Record,” but I didn’t read the story.

I haven’t felt well lately. From just after Thanksgiving until the second week of January I could not seem to get past a bad cold. Not covid or the flu. “Bronchitis,” the doctor’s note to the Xray technician said. Nothing to worry about, the Xray said. I worried about why I wasn’t getting better, the shortness of breath and difficulty speaking, day after day, week after week. For the first time in my life I felt really old. It’s not a big deal, In that same time two of my friends were hospitalized with more serious conditions. I had a bad cold is all.

My sister’s husband John died last summer and so this has been her first Christmas and New Year’s without him since at least high school. I am not sure, I think maybe John put her pigtails in the inkwell in grade school.

She sent my brother and me a note which she told me I could share with you, it’s “A True Story Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It.”

She said that for the first time in many years,

“I have been going to church at Point. Last Sunday the heat did not work. We had church in the Minister’s office with a small heater. The minister’s office used to be the kid’s church room. Being in that room set off memories I could not turn off. I saw my kids there when they were little dressed in their Sunday’s finest. I saw John’s mother playing the piano and belting out kid’s hymns. I saw you two dressed to the nines. Sid was in the kid’s room. Stan was in the bigger class. I saw people I had not thought ab out in years. Bobby Hill, Kathy Robbins and Morita Hannah. But the biggest surprise was when I saw John dressed as Santa. I like the smallness of the room.

“Church,” Linda said, “is where we make it.”

I told Linda that I had noticed that room, when I was there for John’s memorial service in June. My impulse, I told her, had been to look away from something I did not want to see, the computer on the desk squeezed into the tiny room where I attended Sunday School. “You looked,” I said. “Thank you for making that come alive.”

Only by first looking can we discover and then reveal what we see. No doubt, that “looking” can make us uncomfortable. I know that, first hand, that even in matters that are relatively slight, my first impulse is to look away.

Irving Roth grew up watching the Holocaust unfold before his eyes, from the days of his boyhood home in Czechoslovakia through a cattle car ride to Auschwitz. Before his death two years ago Roth “looked” again and again, reliving his painful memories hundreds of times to thousands of people, “looking” back, for the benefit of humanity. I met Roth at the Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights Summer Seminar in 2013.

Before it was called “the Holocaust,” the Holocaust started small, Roth told us. In 1939, his ten year-old-self couldn’t understand why he had to give his jacket to the police department. What is the sense of that? The laws of Nazi Germany had become the laws of Czechoslovakia. He saw a sign at the entrance to the park where he had played his whole life, saying, “Jews and dogs are not allowed to enter.” What?

On the way into school in September of 1940, the principal stopped Irving Roth and said, “Roth, you can’t go in.”

“All of my friends who are not Jewish march right in,” Roth would recount for thousands.

That afternoon his soccer coach told him that he could no longer play on the team. “We don’t want any Jews on our team,” his coach told him.

“I was good,” Roth told audiences large and small, recreating the sound of an 11-year-old’s attempt to make sense of what happened to him 80 years before.

The Holocaust is not something “out there,” Irving Roth said. “It’s something that happened to people.” His point: Let us take this awful experience and try to learn from it.

Mass murder, later called “genocide” because we’d need a word for that, didn’t happen all at once. There were warning signs.

“Look at the signposts on the road to Auschwitz,” he told thousands of students year after year. “Look at the signposts on the road to Auschwitz,” became an Irving Roth mantra.

Look.

It starts with “looking” and “looking” starts with keeping my head out of the sand.

I have to resist the impulse to look away because something I see disturbs my comfort.

What I see is hard to look at. A thought crosses my mind when I wonder how our progeny will perceive their ancestors, 50 or 100 or 200 or 2,000 years from now.

Maybe the Holocaust itself was a signpost.

Page 8 news: The last eight years were the hottest on record.

Sid Shroyer is a contributor to Michiana Chronicles and was a co-creator of The Wild Rose Moon Radio Hour, heard monthly on WVPE. He became a part-time announcer at WVPE in 2001 and has just recently retired from hosting of All Things Considered.