+
Democracy

Panoramic 'tour' of Auschwitz helps us see the massiveness of the largest Nazi death camp

Panoramic 'tour' of Auschwitz helps us see the massiveness of the largest Nazi death camp

When I interviewed 91-year-old Holocaust survivor Ben Lesser a few months ago, I was blown away by his story. I also felt dismayed hearing him explain how Holocaust education is sorely lacking in so many places. Right around the time of our interview, a report came out that our younger generations have a shockingly woeful understanding of the Holocaust. Nearly two-thirds of Millennials and Gen Z participants in a 50-state survey didn't know that 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis. Nearly half couldn't name a single concentration camp.

If we lose that history, we are less likely to recognize when the precursors to such atrocities repeat themselves. Additionally, the victims and families of victims of the millions of men, women, and children who were systematically tortured and killed in the 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos established during WWII deserve to have their experiences remembered and acknowledged.

The largest Nazi camp complex was Auschwitz, which included concentration, extermination, and forced-labor camps. Of the estimated 1.3 million people who were sent to Auschwitz, 1.1 million died there between 1940 and 1945. Nearly five years, and more than a million people murdered in just one camp complex. The statistics alone are mind-blowing.

Such large numbers are hard to wrap our minds around. That's why individual stories like Ben Lesser's matter so much. He himself is an Auschwitz survivor, and his descriptions of what he experienced there are difficult but important to hear.

But what makes the Holocaust especially chilling is the premeditated, factory-like automation of the killing. Camps like Auschwitz were built for the purpose of exterminating as many human beings as possible as efficiently as possible. Men, women, and children crammed into cattle cars like sardines. Men, women, and children stripped and shaven. Nazi soldiers making split second decisions of who was strong and healthy enough to be worked to death and who would be marched straight to the gas chambers.


While individual stories are vital, so are broader visuals that help us understand the scope of what took place. Perhaps paradoxically, some of the most powerful visuals from the Holocaust don't include people themselves. I remember the first time I saw a photo of an enormous pile of shoes from a concentration camp—there must have been thousands of them. That image stuck with me more than any other when I was first learning about the Holocaust. Each pair of shoes belonged to a person, and seeing them systematically yet carelessly tossed into a huge heap encapsulated the inhumanity that kept piling up as Nazi killings kept going and going.

Those who have visited Auschwitz remark about the size of the place—how it keeps going and going and going—but that's hard to capture in photographs. Thankfully, the Auschwitz Museum has an educational tool for those of us who haven't been there to get a sense of the scale of it—a panoramic, interactive tour of the grounds.

The panoramic tool lets you click arrows to move around the grounds, where you see row after row of buildings, some of which still stand and others where you can only see parts of the brick and chimneys. There's a "read more" link in each area that describes a bit about what you're seeing. You can click the link in the tweet or go here to take the interactive tour.

The Auschwitz Memorial Twitter account used the word "impressive" to describe the size of the grounds, which feels like a bit of an odd word choice, but the scope and size of it really is incredible. Imagine the resources that went into creating this place, solely dedicated to destruction and dehumanization. Imagine the number of people it took to run it, to go along with a plan so heinous and horrific that we consider it one of the very worst chapters in human history.

And it really wasn't that long ago. I recently spoke to a living, breathing human being who was taken to this place by train, who watched his siblings' incinerated ashes fall from the sky there, who barely survived the of savagery and genocide that took place on that soil.

As difficult as it is to digest, we need to learn everything we can about the Holocaust. We need to understand that such atrocity happened in one of the most advanced, cultured societies at the time. We need to see what led up to it, how propaganda and prejudice fueled it, how people allowed it to happen. We need to know what hatred can lead to—not just on an individual level, but on a mass scale.

We need to look at the entire Holocaust epic, learn how it played out in all its systematic horror, and vow—continually—to never allow ourselves to even flirt with the opening act.

Pedro Pascal and Bowen Yang can't keep a straight face as Ego Nwodim tries to cut her steak.

Most episodes of “Saturday Night Live” are scheduled so the funnier bits go first and the riskier, oddball sketches appear towards the end, in case they have to be cut for time. But on the February 4 episode featuring host Pedro Pascal (“The Mandalorian,” “The Last of Us”), the final sketch, “Lisa from Temecula,” was probably the most memorable of the night.

That’s high praise because it was a strong episode, with a funny “Last of Us” parody featuring the Super Mario Brothers and a sketch where Pascal played a protective mother.

Keep ReadingShow less
AMC Theaters/Youtube, Variety/Twitter

AMC announced that it would be implementing a new three-tier ticketing system.

AMC Theaters, America’s largest movie theater chain, announced on Feb 6 that it will be adopting different ticket prices based on seat location.

Moviegoers will have three tiers to choose from based on sightline of the movie screen—Preferred Sightline, set in the middle at the highest price point, Value Sightline, set in the front of the auditorium at the lowest price, and Standard Sightline, which is basically everything else (including the back seats, which are perhaps the most commonly picked) set at the traditional cost of a ticket.

In other words…heartbreak will feel more expensive in a place like this…or less, depending on where you sit



The company’s announcement was met with both criticism and approval. While some feel the move follows a well-established business model, others have found it to be taking away a valued aspect of the moviegoing experience.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Keanu Reeves shocks a small-town pub by stopping in for a pint and taking photos with the staff

“So today we had a surprise visitor for lunch. What a lovely man he was, too."

Keanu Reeves in São Paulo, Brazil, 2019.

Keanu Reeves has a reputation as one of Hollywood’s nicest celebrities. Recently, he cheered up an 80-year-old fan who had a crush on him by calling her on the phone. He’s also bought an ice cream cone for a fan to give an autograph on the receipt and crashed a wedding to take photos with the bride and groom.

He’s also an incredible humanitarian who gave up a big chunk of his money from "The Matrix" to a cancer charity.

The “John Wick” star was his usual gracious self over the weekend when on Saturday, February 4, he and a friend walked into The Robin Hood pub in Tring, Hertfordshire, about 30 miles outside of London.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Pexels

A mother puts a fresh diaper on her baby.

Scientists at Penn State University have devised a “smart diaper” that alerts parents when their baby is wet. The diaper is made of paper, treated with sodium chloride (salt) and has a circuit board drawn with a pencil.

When the humidity level rises in the diaper, the graphite and the urine are absorbed by the paper and it turns on a sensor powered by a small lithium battery. The sensor then sets the alarm on an app that parents download onto their phones.

“The hydration sensor is highly sensitive to changes in humidity and provides accurate readings over a wide range of relative humidity levels, from 5.6% to 90%,” the researchers at Penn State said in a statement.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Kelly Clarkson and Pink's gorgeous unplugged 'What About Us?' duet came with a timely​ message

"We're not listening to each other right now. And it's so loud, and so gross, and so angry…"

Pink and Kelly Clarkson teamed up for a sweet acoustic version of "What About Us?"

Pink and Kelly Clarkson are both known for having powerhouse voices that can belt at incredible ranges but also soften for a sweet ballad. Put the two of them together, and…well, dang.

On Feb 6, Clarkson featured Pink on her daytime talk show, in which she often sings with musical guests. The two superstars sang several acoustic duets with pitch-perfect harmonies, prompting fans of both artists to clamor for a collaborative album.

One song they sang together was Pink's "What About Us?" Pink previously described the song to The Sun in 2017: "The world in general is a really scary place full of beautiful people. Humans are resilient and there's a lot of wonderful—like I said in the song—'billions of beautiful hearts' and there are bad eggs in every group. And they make it really hard for the rest of us."

In the intro to their duet, Clarkson asked Pink about the impetus behind her writing the song.

"We're not listening to each other right now. And it's so loud, and so gross, and so angry and people are being forgotten," Pink shared. "People are being counted out and their rights are being trampled on just because a group of people doesn't believe in them."

"Like, I don't understand how so many people in this world are discounted because one group of people decided they don't like that," she continued. "And I won't—I won't have it. One of the most beautiful things that my dad taught me was that my voice matters and I can make a difference, and I will."

The lyrics of the song seem to address the political leaders and decision-makers who hold people's lives in their hands as they pull the levers of power. It's a beautiful song with an important message wrapped up in gorgeous two-part harmony.

Enjoy:

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

"It's a me."

Pedro Pascal and HBO seem to be a match made in pop culture heaven. His role in the fourth season of “Game of Thrones” shot him to notoriety. He’s currently starring in “Last of Us,” which also boasts a massive viewership.

And now, thanks to one epic “Saturday Night Live” skit, fans are clamoring to see Pascal take on a new role—a brooding, hardened, princess smuggling Mario.

The faux trailer imagines the video game Mario Kart as a quintessential HBO drama. Mario (Pascal) has to use his driving skills to get Princess Peach (played by Chloe Fineman) through an apocalyptic Mushroom Kingdom.
Keep ReadingShow less