Today, April 25, 2006 is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah). On this day, we should ask that our children study the Holocaust (the Shoah) and learn the lessons of one of the darkest of times in our history. I hope that my new book, Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame, can help young Americans do just that.
In the book, my real-life son, twelve-year-old Anthony, time-travels into the past. I used advanced digital photography to place Anthony in the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis with Charles Lindbergh, on the moon with Neil Armstrong, in the laboratory of Thomas Edison, at Jonas Salk's side during the invention of the polio vaccine, on Normandy beach on D-Day, and with soldiers liberating the death camps of the Holocaust.
The storyline is fictional, but the history is authentic. I spoke with relatives of famous scientists and inventors, Holocaust survivors, award-winning biographers, and others who could help him ensure that the facts of the book were both accurate and vivid. Historical accuracy rules on every page: Even Anthony’s conversations with America’s heroes are based on things they really said.
One of the people I consulted was Alan Zimm, a Holocaust survivor liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. In the book, Anthony's conversation with Alan Zimm is based on Zimm's own testimony and description of the day of his liberation.
"This book provides great insight into historical events," Alan Zimm told me afterward. "Anthony's trip through history provides a positive influence on young readers. My family and I feel very honored and privileged to be able to share some of my Holocaust experiences with today's young readers."
I am thankful to have had the help of Alan Zimm.
My book directly attacks modern-day Holocaust deniers. When Anthony first enters the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp after the Nazis flee, he has difficulty believing what he is seeing. “No! It’s not possible,” Anthony cries. “I don’t believe it.” But soldiers with Anthony tell him that “there is evidence and there are witnesses.” The book lays out the evidence, and uses first-hand accounts from Alan Zimm and other Holocaust survivors to reveal the truth. The book also includes recommendations for hundreds of books, movies, music, and places to visit - dozens for the Holocaust. Anthony's top recommendations: Night, by Elie Weisel; Judgment at Nuremburg (1961); Songs of the Jewish Resistance (Partisans of Vilna); and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
It's not an easy book. Anthony compares the people and events of the past with the people and events of his own time. Anthony discusses the nature of good and evil, right and wrong, war and peace, what it means to be an American, honor and discipline, success and achievement, courage and destiny, marriage and family, God and purpose.
At close of World War II, Anthony reflects on all that he has seen. "I felt a deep shame for humanity as a whole," he says, "but I couldn’t help thinking that all the horrors I had seen during this war were somehow connected: the thirty-six million dead, the Death Camps in Europe, and the dropping of two atomic bombs were all part of the shameful price for not stopping evil early enough."
Commenting on his own time, Anthony says: "It’s a lesson that still hasn’t been learned. Nearly a million bodies floated down the rivers of Rwanda, while the whole world watched and did nothing. Four hundred thousand men, women, and children were murdered and then buried in the sands of Iraq, while the United Nations mailed neatly typed letters to Saddam. Entire villages were wiped out in Sudan, while the world’s leaders calmly debated the definition of genocide. In Israel, suicide bombers detonated themselves on school buses, in grocery stores, and at wedding celebrations, while nations argued about a fence. Osama bin Laden directs on his henchmen to kill Americans and Jews, while Americans march in the streets and blame themselves and their president for the attacks. Yes, in my own time, evil is visible again - and I have seen it."
I was motivated to write the book because too many people are confused about the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, heroes and villains. My book makes these distinctions clear, and I use historical perspective to make the point.
But the book is also meant to inspire and to offer hope. The heroes of the past have something important to tell us: that the purpose of life is to live a life of purpose, one person really can make a difference, and doing the right thing always matters.
I tried to get that message across in every chapter. The chapter about Lindbergh’s flight is really about choosing one’s destiny. The story of Lou Gehrig is one of a virtuous life. The chapter about Thomas Edison is really about the benefits of hard work. The story of Apollo 11 is about wonder, taking risks, and courage. The story of Dr. Jonas Salk and the cure for polio is really about dedicating one’s life to a higher purpose. When Anthony “meets” his immigrant great-grandfather at Ellis Island in 1907, it’s really a story about what it means to be an American. Anthony’s observation of D-Day and the liberation of the death camps during the Holocaust is a testament to the reality of evil and the need to fight it.
I chose a quote from Edmund Burke to open the chapter on World War II: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." The quote is a reflection of the hope I have for America's young people.
On this solemn day, let's recommit ourselves to raise good men and women who take action.
Michael S. Class
Web Site: www.MagicPictureFrame.com
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