This past Wednesday, the entire sophomore class, as well as the senior Theory of Knowledge class, had the opportunity to sit and learn from a man who has experienced more than any of us can ever imagine. John Ranz, at the age of 88, is a living Holocaust survivor, as well as a teacher, social activist and author. Ranz was brought in by Mark Wolov, BSGE’s 10th grade Humanities teacher to lecture about his personal experiences as a survivor as well as his opinion on what our youth needs to do to assure that the horrors of the 20th century don’t repeat themselves.
Ranz, who spoke slowly throughout the lecture, stressed the importance of racism; how it continues to affect all of us in many ways – how racism was the essential cause for both World War I and World War II. He used several terms or ideas to describe the causes for the Holocaust; Racism, Sexism, prejudice, and most importantly the propaganda that was distributed throughout Germany by the Nazi party. Ranz spoke of the unclear reasoning for Jewish segregation, the ridiculous racism that was portrayed through Germany during the early-mid 20th century. He stated, “New Europe was ugly, monstrous; inhumane”.
This description of Germany, Poland, Russia, and several other large European countries goes to show what Mr. Ranz endured during his tenure as a Concentration Camp inmate and 1940’s Jewish citizen. Ranz went through, as he said himself, “the most cruel, important part of the 20th century”. Beginning in late 1938, the world saw the Holocaust take 6,000,000 Jewish lives, including the entire family or John Ranz. While the Jewish people lost 6,000,000 of their own, WWII took 60,000,000 lives during its five years as an official war. Ranz spoke of how this violence, this senseless murder was all just a product of one groups pure racism. Ranz speaks, “this division [racism] is the worst to embrace human-kind in all of eternity”.
Ranz’ lecture; his ideas and political perspective gives his listeners the opportunity to think – Have we, as a people, left the realm of 20th century racism? Some 60-70 years ago, the world witnessed what was the worst Genocide in the history of modern civilization as we know it. While passionate anti-Semitism has passed on a global scale; are we out of this state or racism completely? John Ranz spoke about the many racist and prejudice groups that live and preach in the southern states of the U.S, marching against Jews, Gypsies, and everything that the National Socialist Party stood against. Swastikas are found constantly engraved on tombstones and empty spaces across Europe, possibly the beginning to a Neo-Nazi revolution, so to speak. Ranz did not speak of these modern groups in detail, leaving it to us to ask the questions. Have we completely abandoned African-American racism? Are we past the anti-Semitic views that Hitler and his party began seemingly so long ago?
While people aren’t dying by the genocidal numbers here in the U.S, there is still severe racism that is portrayed throughout the nation, especially in recognition of social class. The upper class in the U.S takes up roughly half a percent of the population, showing the significant percent of people in the middle and lower class. While a high majority of the upper class is Caucasian, a very high majority of the lower class is either African- American or Hispanic. The disparity between classes is obvious and the race trend clearly shows the indirect racism shown towards second and third hand races. This isn’t the same segregation that killed 6,000,000 people, nowhere near the same type of racism that John Ranz endured; however, it is a distinct example of the ongoing prejudice shown in the world. It’s been almost 70 years since 60,000,000 died because of extensive hate, and yet it continues today, not with death, but with economic symbolism.
It was somewhat clear that John Ranz spoke in an extensively biased fashion throughout his presentation. Given this, there is nothing to take away from Ranz; he is a man who achieved an astonishing feat. His struggle will never be forgotten by those who understand the height of the Holocaust, nor will his story ever be forgotten by those who listened to him during his BSGE lecture. Approaching the age of 89, Ranz has written a book, Inhumanity: Death March to Buchenwald and the Last Jews of Bendzin, lectured at many acclaimed colleges, and taught at many schools like our own BSGE. As students left the cafeteria on Wednesday following his lecture, many approached Ranz, simply wanting to shake his hand or greet his wife who was also there and also a Holocaust survivor. As students came by, shaking his hand, Ranz told them individually, “Fight for Peace and Justice so it will never happen again.”