My Day at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

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Last year I was invited to attend a one day conference and tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here in Washington, DC. The event was designed for senior law enforcement management and was inspired by Chief Ramsey the former chief of the Metro DC Police Department. The program started with a 2 ½ hour tour of the museum which in its self is quit a powerful experience. After the tour there was a discussion on the abuse of power by police agencies under the Nazi Ragime and occupied countries. The interesting part of the discussion was the fact we now know today that the participation of police agencies in cooperating with the Nazi regime contributed to the death of over 6 million Jews and others. However, did the police officials at that time see it as any more than their duty? Did many of them know what the fate of the people they where assisting in deporting or rounding up in the name of the Nazi regime? Did they merely feel they were doing their duty in ridding the state of the enemy within as the Nazi Regime depicted the Jews and other undesirables? Those of us who have studied the Holocaust have heard the defense of the perpetrators of it by saying “I was just doing my duty”. Was this true of the average “beat cop” in occupied France, or Hungary or other countries occupied by the Nazi Regime? Was the mindset of the German Police, while assisting the Nazis in the round up and deportation of German Jews just another duty among the calls for police services like auto accidents, assaults and theft and not genocide? These where all very interesting thoughts to pounder. What would have been my thought process had I been a Proud German Policeman in 1942? One thing is sure. When the police participate in the persecution of an entire people then they stop becoming the servant and protector of those same people and no one can hide behind I was doing my duty. Thank God that in this country the police officer is not only the enforcer of the law but the defender of the Constitution and the people it protects. I would encourage you all to visit the Holocaust Museum; it will give the phrase Never Again a whole new meaning.

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