I felt sadness as well as outrage when I learned about the arson that destroyed a small Holocaust museum in the western Indiana town of Terre Haute. The museum was established by Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of Auschwitz. As the Indianapolis Star reported:
Kor and her twin sister, Miriam Mozes Zeiger, along with thousands of other twins, were subjected to experiments under the direction of Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele. Zeiger died of cancer in 1993 in Israel.
Kor was living in Israel when she met her husband, a tourist from Terre Haute. He was a survivor of the Buchenwald death camp. He had moved to Terre Haute because that was the hometown of the Army officer who liberated him.
Wow. I’m not exactly sure why that sentence gives me chills. How is it possible for the nobility of that Army officer to coexist in the same town– let alone the same world– as the cowardly hatred of the arsonist(s)?
My sadness comes from another source. I’ve long felt a special affection for Terre Haute because it was the hometown of the man I was named after– the great American labor leader and socialist Eugene Victor Debs. His Terre Haute home is now a National Historical Site and houses a museum in his honor. I was fortunate to visit it several years ago when I was in the town attend the annual dinner of the Eugene V. Debs Foundation. (They present an award each year to a leading figure of the American Left– some more deserving than others.)
So I guess I take what happens in Terre Haute– the good things as well as the bad– kind of personally.