Opinion

Visiting Auschwitz, And Why It Matters Today

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OSWIECIM, POLAND - JANUARY 23: The iconic entrance gate of the former Auschwitz concentration camp that reads 'Arbeit Macht Frei' (Work Sets You Free) is pictured on January 23, 2024 in Oswiecim, Poland. Among the attendees were participants in a symposium on anti-semitism organized by the European Jewish Association. (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)
Omar Marques/Getty Images

I flew to Kraków, Poland, on Saturday night and visited Auschwitz with Elon Musk on Monday.

Auschwitz is an insane experience. For those who have seen images of the Holocaust, seeing the actual structures where mass death was brought upon the Jewish people, as well as Roma homosexuals and Russian soldiers, is an astonishing demonstration of the darkness that is present and possible inside the human soul.

For those who have not visited, it is worth the visit because I think that we tend to live very easy lives — thank God, in the West and in the modern era — and we tend to look around us and see people who are generally good, people who generally believe in non-evil things.

Then you go to a place like Auschwitz and realize it actually is not all that unthinkable for the unthinkable to happen.

I had the privilege when I was younger of helping to write the memoirs of a Holocaust survivor who’d actually gone through Auschwitz-Birkenau. And the stories obviously are horrifying. 

I think there are many important points to be gained from walking through Auschwitz-Birkenau. The first is to realize that people can be made to believe nearly anything. And this holds true on the side of both the evil people and the people who are victimized by those who are evil.

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One of the things you see when you walk through Auschwitz itself, the actual complex, is a room that’s just filled with suitcases. Every person who brought a suitcase to Auschwitz thought they were going to end up unpacking that suitcase step by step. European Jewry thought that whatever was next couldn’t be what it turned out to be, all the way until the final step into the gas chambers. So when we criticize people for not having fought back, at what point were they supposed to believe the unthinkable was now thinkable? Because the unthinkable is unthinkable until precisely the moment that it becomes real. 

OSWIECIM, POLAND - JANUARY 23: A view of the entrance gate at the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz Birkenau on January 23, 2024 in Oswiecim, Poland. Among the attendees were participants in a symposium on anti-semitism organized by the European Jewish Association. (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)

Omar Marques/Getty Images

There is very little limit to the evil that can be created in the human heart. That evil can only be masked by ideology. Ideology absolutely matters. It absolutely matters.

To truly understand what happened in Auschwitz-Birkenau, you have to understand German and European history. You have to understand European anti-Semitism. The first and most fundamental thing to understand about anti-Semitism in the modern era is that it is a conspiracy theory about power. When you read the writings of Hitler and those who preceded Hitler by 50, 60, and 70 years — anti-Semitic writings — what you see is that there’s a conspiracy theory about Jews.

These conspiracy theories assert the powerful in every industry are Jewish, that they are part of an evil conspiracy, and that the only reason they gain power is through some sort of perverse machination, and they, therefore, must be extricated; they must be destroyed. The theory of power suggested they were the exploiters, they had rigged the system on their own behalf, and, therefore, they had to be destroyed.

And that ideology, a self-justifying ideology whereby the people you’re about to kill are actually the true victimizers, breeds the victimization of Jews and is very much alive and well and with us today.

When we see places like Auschwitz-Birkenau, we think the extent of the horror is so unthinkable and so unimaginable that we tend to cut it off from the rest of human relations. We tend to think, “This is an outlier. It’s just this crazy statistical outlier.” When, in reality, it is just the culmination of a continuum theory that has been present on Earth for literally thousands of years, going all the way back to the Book of Exodus — the same remarks Pharaoh was making about the Jews, that he felt they were exhibiting rising numbers in power and a threat to the Egyptians. That same stuff was repeated by Hitler, and it’s being repeated by some people today.

One of the things Elon and I discussed at fair length was diversity, equity, and inclusion. DEI is the basic thesis that the world is driven by power dynamics, that virtually every system is a power dynamic system and that free speech is actually just a stand-in for power. That free markets are standing for power, that those who are successful in these systems are actually perpetuaters of the system for their own exploitative power.

That is a dangerous theory. The theory that power lies behind all systems exists on all sides of the political aisle.

You see people in the West marching on behalf of members of Hamas. The only rationale for LGBT people suggesting they have solidarity with people who would literally murder them the first chance they got in the Gaza Strip is this DEI theory that there’s a system of power that must be torn to the ground. That merges with anti-Semitism, because, after all, if you’re making the case that there is a group of people with disproportionate power along racial, ethnic, and religious lines, and they are, therefore, the oppressors and exploiters, that merges well with conspiratorial theories about anti-Semitism.

This is why you see all these streams crossing with the DEI Left. This is why you see Black Lives Matter protesting for “Palestine.” This is why you see people who are socialists protesting on behalf of some of the least socially responsible people on planet Earth.

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In the modern world, we have been seeing an attempt to read strength as evil and weakness as virtue. That is a despicable morality because it’s not moral at all.

In fact, it’s directly anti-Biblical. The Bible specifically says that if you’re a judge, you are not allowed to favor either the poor or the rich. Why does the Bible suggest you’re not allowed to favor the poor when the suggestion by the Left is that you’ll never favor the poor? The answer is because virtue and wealth are not necessarily connected.

I know very virtuous people who are poor. I know very virtuous people who are rich, and I know many people who are not virtuous, who are both poor and rich. And that makes a difference when it comes to world politics. If you believe the weak are inherently virtuous, that is believing the system itself has made them weak, the system must be torn down, and the people who purport to uphold the system must be destroyed.

That’s how all of this connects to visiting places like Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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