Last week was the 75th anniversary of the suicide in a German bunker of Adolf Hitler, the most evil man that ever lived.In the summer of 2017, I took my family on a three-week trip to visit the killing fields of Europe where six million Jews were murdered in the holocaust. We arrived in Braunau am Inn, the Austrian town where Hitler was born on July 16. The town is adjacent to the Inn River, which serves as the border with the German state of Bavaria.
I thought I wanted to go to the place where a normal baby was born. A child like any other who through his rancid, evil choices brought the world into darkness that had never before been seen. Who would have thought that this one person, this baby, when they changed his diaper and fed him, would go on to create the single most catastrophic event in world history. One man brought it about. Without him, it probably would not have happened. How is that possible?I had to see the place, but when I got there I was disgusted. It was vile. I had an all-consuming feeling that I cannot fully put in words.
There was a palpable sense of evil. When you grow up learning about Hitler and the Holocaust, places seem so far away and the time seems so distant. I’ve studied about the Holocaust since I was a boy. In my mind it was black and white, it was a thousand years ago. Something like this can only happen in the Dark Ages. My attitude started to change when I was sitting in Amsterdam with Anne Frank’s best friend, Jacqueline van Maarsen, and she started showing us the box full of handwritten items from Anne. I realized then the Holocaust just happened; it is still so recent.
There are so many people alive, thank God, that can attest to it; who saw, who experienced, who were part of it. A lot of the evil perpetrators are still alive as well.Now, walking down the street of this provincial town on a beautiful summer’s day, I could not wrap my head around the fact that the man responsible for the Holocaust was born right here. There was an excruciating, palpable sense of evil; an eerie sense of foreboding.Although I knew there was no answer, I hoped to somehow find a clue in his hometown to explain Hitler’s motivations. How did this person come into this world? How could he have caused so much suffering to so many people? It wasn’t just one perpetrator: It was the German people, it was the Austrian people, and all the people who participated. But Hitler was the leader who galvanized them all – all of the evil.