On this day the 27th January 1945 the Nazi death camp known as Auschwitz was liberated. Men, women and children who found themselves imprisoned by the Nazi regime were once again allowed to live their lives. Why were these specific members of human society singled out and persecuted by those in power? The answer is a simple one. Their was a man, a man who made speeches, he spoke to the people and he used his words to influence the way society felt about specific groups of people.
The theme of the 2018 Holocaust Memorial Day is “The Power of Words”.
When I was a child I would often hear the other children say, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. In my naivety I may have spoken those words myself a few times. It is not until you get older you realise how wrong that childish chant is. Words have the power to hurt you in more ways than you can possibly image. In fact the bible tells us in James 3:8 “But no human can tame the tongue. It is unruly and injurious, full of deadly poison,”.
Throughout history the amount of humans whose lives have been effected by a tongue full of deadly poison is probably without number. You only need a quick glance through any history text book to see how the words of some have caused the death of others. Within the past five hundred or so years there have been witch trials, slavery and genocides all of which have been caused by the superstition and prejudice of other people who have used their words as hurtful tools and have the blood of their victims on their hands.
Those humans who were liberated from Auschwitz on this day 73 years ago, and all the other death camps. Who had their lives taken away from them and were tortured or murdered just because of their differences, you would have expected the human race to have learnt from those atrocious acts. Since 1945 though their have been further genocides, wars, humans who have used propaganda to incite hatred with their neighbours and thousands of deaths / suicides of those who have been the victim of hate crimes, just because they look or live their lives differently to those around them.
James goes on to say in verse 9, that with that same tongue we praise God, yet we use it curse man, who is made in Gods image. Whether you believe in God, a different deity or no god those words make sense. How can you use your tongue to pray to a God or deity, praise or ask for help, worship or find delight in anything if you are using your tongue to spread poison about any other individual.
Words can make a difference for bad but also for GOOD. Anne Frank wrote in her diary:
‘I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I am so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s in me. When I write I can shake off all my cares; my sorrow disappears; my spirits are revived.’ – Anne Frank, written in her diary, 5 April 1944
The reason we know who Anne Frank is and her tragic story is due to the words she wrote. People remember the words you say or write whether it is to them or about them. Once those words have left your being they are out and they can never be taken back. Look at the problem past tweets have caused for individuals in the public eye over the past 12 months that have contained offensive or racist language. Some have tried to excuse themselves, others have lied, trying to get other people on their side claiming it is a misunderstanding but those who have been wise have apologised.
Words can be painful, they can hurt deeper than any physical injury and can cause suffering for many days, months and years to come. While it is easy to say but not always so in practice, it is indeed prudent to think before we speak and evaluate our actions before we carry them out because we effect not only out own lives but the lives of those around us.