by Ed Harpring
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
This famous quotation from Martin Niemolle, a protestant pastor who spent seven years in a Concentration camp, jumped out at me as our March for Life Pilgrimage group (consisting of high school youth groups and adults from the Archdiocese) visited the Holocaust Museum. Nina, our Tour Guide, led us through an intriguing Exhibit entitled Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust.
Nina asked the question “How was this possible that an entire country could acquiesce to a hate-filled racist belief system?” While most of us attribute the Holocaust to the wildly violent racist views of Hitler and his Nazi Regime, what is less known, but equally as poisonous, were attitudes of apathy and indifference of everyday citizens. As the Nazi propaganda machine knew well, “Repeat a lie often, and people will begin to believe the lie.” While partially fueled by fear of reprisals for speaking out against racist propaganda, the vast majority of German citizens and most of the world, blindly went along, avoiding conflict, in essence, in full complicity with the fallacious predominant cultural hate-filled view of that time.
However, there were many heroes. There were those who did speak out, who risked their lives, and many who did lose their lives because they were willing to speak the truth. Nina gave us many examples of the lesser known stories of individuals, a police captain, a priest, a businessman, as well as many German families that risked everything to save lives of those they did not even know. How providential it was for our group to hear that choices have consequences against the backdrop of today’s pro-choice propaganda that espouses the lie that the abortion choice has no consequences.
On Friday, we all gathered to participate in a historic March for Life that some say was the largest March for Life gathering of all time with over 700,000 participants from across the country, including the first-ever personal appearance by a Vice-President – Mike Pence. There were many outstanding speakers, but one of the most memorable was from Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), she spoke about a couple who courageously immigrated to the United States from Haiti to find a better life. The couple already had two children, and was in dire straits on their way to the United States, when they found out they were now expecting another child. The couple considered abortion. “Forty-one years ago, that couple could have made the choice to abort, but they didn’t. They chose life,” Rep. Love said, referring to herself. “I’m certain that this couple would never have thought that that child would become the first female, black, Republican member elected to Congress.”
Our choices always have consequences. As Scripture reminds us, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
(A longer version of this article appeared in the RECORD, February 2, 2017)