– Primo Levi.
This quote, displayed in the lobby of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe Information Centre captures the importance of reflection and hope.
Today marks the 71st anniversary of Kristallnacht, a terrifying turning point in history. In the years that followed, Germany was a centre of genocide and oppression.
In a nation with a past filled with violent hate crimes, peaceful protest contributed to one of the most important moments in history. Without a shot fired, the people of Germany succeeded in changing their nation, and indeed the world. Today also marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The words of Levi emphasise the importance of learning. History can repeat, knowledge can empower.
We must never forget the devastation of war. This seems an obvious endeavour, though military conflict is so entrenched in day to day life that it is quite easy to forget that we are at war.
We must always question, and keep an open mind. No matter how convincing an argument, we need to find the facts.
We must always remember that we can bring about change.
Everyday, perhaps without realising, we are in a position to make a difference in our world. Some people campaign for change through overt protest. Others take silent stands to show their own disdain. The beauty of it is that changing the world need not cost you a cent. You don’t need to cancel your plans. All you have to do is be mindful.
Be mindful that thanking the person serving you might just make their day. Be mindful that smiling at a stranger may make them feel less alone in the world. Be mindful that your cheerful “Good morning” to the old man you meet on the footpath might be the only greeting he gets all week. Be mindful that friendships need nurturing. Be mindful that tomorrow, your loved one forgetting to make that phone call won’t matter. Be mindful that yes, leaving the extra lights on will contribute to make a difference. Turn it off.
Practice kindness. It is human nature to become absorbed with our own lives. It’s easy to forget that we aren’t the only ones with troubles. It costs nothing to be kind. You don’t need to become affiliated with a group. You don’t need to devote your weekends to it. All you need to do is think about it a little. Be surprised by the kindness of strangers by surprising strangers with your kindness.
By being mindful , we can learn to take bigger steps.
Berlin, once divided like the rest of Germany, is now a city of hope. In a land of people once governed by some of the most evil in history, faith in humanity has been reinvigorated.
Potsdamer Platz – 15th October, 2008.
Note the curve at the base of the slab. These cobble stones mark the path where the wall once stood.