There Is More To The Word Hate

Melanie Liriano, Editor

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Every Sophomore is required to read Night by Elie Wiesel. It is a true story that follows a teenage Wiesel during his time at Auschwitz and Buchenwald  and the events that lead up to it. The novel showed how far humanity had strayed during the mid-20th century and just how much humanity can be lost during a war, especially towards the end.

If you had Mrs. Schlossberg (like I did) you not only read the story, but were able to see photos of the camps more than fifty years later, rotting away and deserted. Despite its age the buildings still held an eeriness to it as though no amount of time could dilute the amount of death and pain that had happened on its land, no amount of rain could hide the blood, ever present, even if it’s no longer visible.

This year, along with Night, the sophomores of Hawthorne High were able to speak with a person who lived and fought in World War II, Staff Sergeant Alan Moskin. On January 31, 2019 the sophomore class went to the auditorium for an assembly. Mr. Moskin, 92 years of age, stood at the podium facing the class. He introduced himself and laid down a few ground rules. First and foremost he asked for students to sit up straight, he had no intention to let them sleep through what he had to say, then he apologized in advance if anything that he mentioned was too graphic or if his choice of words offended any one. He divided his story into two parts. Part one was his childhood as well as his time in the war. Part two was the liberation of Gunskirchen.

Moskin was born in Englewood, NJ to Jewish parents. He described his neighborhood as diverse with people of every race, religion, color, and creed. He grew up with the assumption to not judge a person by the color of their skin or by their faith. It had not occurred to him that there were people in the world who considered those different to themselves as something beneath animals. Like Maya Angelou said, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”     

Moskin graduated high school early, having skipped the fourth grade, and attended Syracuse University. It was while he was attending Syracuse that he received a draft notice in 1943. When he was eighteen he was to be enlisted into the army and sent overseas to fight alongside the Allies in World War II.

It was here that he spoke of the realities of war, everything that Hollywood and video games overlooked. He spoke of his first day in the trench where a soldier’s arm landed on his head the fingers still moving, an eagle tattoo identifying it as his buddy. He spoke of the fear, and how it didn’t make you any braver to try and hide it. He spoke of being in the trenches fighting alongside his friends and a second later seeing that his best friend was missing his legs. He spoke of writing a letter to his friend’s mom with a crayon on some toilet paper about that fact that she would never see her son again. It was hell.

It was here that Moskin noted that nothing was as bad as the Hitler Youth. Young men and women with blonde hair and blue eyes, all copies of each other, all taught hate, all brainwashed by it. He could not comprehend how people younger than him could be so filled with hate, how was it possible to become so jaded so young?

As much as Staff Sergeant Alan Moskin had killed he never took any joy in it. There is nothing to be proud of when taking a life, he noted. Reflecting on the time he shot a German soldier around his same age. In the dead man’s helmet was a picture of an old couple, his parents. What Moskin did saved his life, but it cost the life of someone’s son.

Life continued this way until May of 1945 when his troop encountered a Prisoner of War camp in Austria. It was here that they met a member of the Royal Air Force. The man had heard a rumor of a camp for Jews. The soldiers were perplexed. At the time it was only FDR and Churchill that knew about the concentration camps. The soldiers had never heard of it. They continued on their march across Austria when one day they would face the worst. Moskin said you could smell it first, something so foul that it was hard to breathe. Through the trees they saw a large camp, with a fence, and one single guard. After disarming the guard they entered the camp and were greeted by a living nightmare.

The people were so emaciated that he could not tell the living from the dead, the men from the women, all looked like skeletons.  When the prisoners were released by the Americans they began to thank them and smile. One man even went down to his knees and kissed Moskin’s boots. A forty year old man bowing down to an eighteen year old and kissing boots that were covered in blood, guts, and feces. As the soldiers wandered further into the camp they bore witness to other crimes that are too graphic for the faint of heart.

After the war Alan Moskin stayed in Austria and Germany. During the day he was a part of the army of occupation, but at night he would wander the streets aimlessly too afraid to go to bed and face his nightmares. As is common in many soldiers, Moskin was shell shocked, or as it’s known now he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

When Moskin returned home he lived a normal life. He became a lawyer, got married, and had kids as well as grand-kids. If anyone asked about his time in the war he responded with the bare minimum, even to his wife. It took Mr. Moskin forty years to speak in public about his experiences and when he did he said it was cathartic. This allowed him to remember and to educate those who were not alive at the time and don’t have the connection. World War II was almost eighty years ago and since then people have moved forward or denied it completely. They have denied the deaths of millions of Jews, homosexuals, gentiles, gypsies, Catholics, and so much more. Those people have ignored the stories of the survivors and with the last of the people who were conscious during World War II dead or dying, it is getting easier for them to get away with it.

This is why Mr. Moskin speaks, to make sure that we don’t forget because he will be dead by the time the next generation rolls around. The teens of today are the last ones that can hear their stories first hand, feel the anguish in their features, and promote a world that is more forgiving then the ones of the past. A place that had true acceptance and while we are making strides Moskin notes that we, as a society, are beginning to make the same mistakes again.

As John F. Kennedy said “Mankind must put an end to war or war is going to put an end to mankind.” Let’s work towards a more forgiving future or else we will not have one.

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