Why did it occur?

Many of us, when we were youngsters, had favorite shops we would visit. As often as not, it was not to purchase anything; it was just to chat with someone there whom we liked. For me one such place was a tailor shop near my grade school.

The tailor was a treasure chest of wonderful tales about distant places. I loved to listen to him. He was a great story teller.

On one rare occasion he happened to have one shirt sleeve rolled up. I noticed that a number had been tattooed on it. I asked him what the number meant. He didn’t answer that question; I’m not sure who really can.

What he did say was: “I got that in the camps.” From the tone in his voice, I could tell he did not want to talk any more about it.

When I got home I asked my mother about the tattoo and “the camps.” I had never heard of people at summer camp getting a tatoo. My mother explained to me what “the camps” were. She also told me that the tailor’s wife and children were killed in the camps.

I was blinded by shock and horror; I felt I had been kicked in the stomach; I felt rubber-legged by what my mother told me. I felt terrible for days. For a very long time I was too ashamed to stop and visit my friend.

Many of my parents’ friends were Jewish; in fact, my mother, who was not Jewish, spoke fluent Yiddish. I felt very comfortable with Jewish culture and practices. I was devastated by what I had just learned.

Even as I write this commentary nearly 40 years later, I find that the horror is still so painfully fresh. I am still haunted by the simple question: Why? Why did such horrible even occur? Why am I being placed in a position of having to demonstrate that it did occur?

Newspapers are not obliged to accept any and all advertising copy. The Northern Star, in a thoughful (and rather brave) editorial, pointed out its reasons for accepting the Holocaust advertisement. I understand those reasons and I accept them.

The advertisement allegedly aspires simply to inform and to initiate discussion. I know that the purpose of the advertisement is not merely to set the historical record straight; the timing of the advertisement is, as the Star notes, no accident.

Allow me to make a suggestion. The Northern Star made money form the sale of this full-page advertisement. I cannot believe that, give the Star’s editorial, it can treat this money like any other revenue. It is an incalculable understatement to say the this money is different.

I urge The Northern Star to set aside this money in order to provide advertisement space for groups that might wish to respond to this advertisement. Even from this some good may yet come.

Donald A. Cress