Humans built those infernal death factories [“Can Auschwitz Be Saved?”] and humans now bear the burden, not just of memory, but of explanation. Parts of the site will molder and must be allowed to, if only to show the fragility of life. Auschwitz is no more indestructible than we are. caitlin meredith, Trinity, nC
A Stain on History
In 2008, I visited the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau. My experience was one I wish more Americans could share. Standing there, seeing piles of tiny shoes, the grooves in the door of a cell that starving men carved with their fingers—these are the things you never forget. Yes, the fleeing Nazis destroyed buildings in an effort to erase evidence of the evils committed there. But the craters and rubble left behind impress the history of the place upon all its visitors—they were unable to remove that stain from human memory. Are we now to do their work by allowing the camp to disintegrate? We need these places. We need to remember the horrors human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another.
Anne Marie Sohler
Merchantville, New Jersey
An American Dream
“Migrations Forced and Free,” about how post-1965 African and Caribbean immigrants challenge what it means to be African-American, reminded me of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a nation where his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Race is a human construct. Organisms seek diversity. This is how a species makes itself better able to survive. But we still cling to the labels African-American, Asian-American, White. In 100 years, I hope you can do an article called “The Last Hyphenated American,” which will give a perspective on the history that caused us to exist in divided camps. Hopefully, King’s dream will then be realized and the dysfunction that has plagued America will be relegated to history.
St. Louis, Missouri
“Krazy Kat’s” West
The excellent article “Behind the Scenes in Monument Valley” described how one great artist, director John Ford, came to love and depict the valley. But when Ford was still working as an assistant director on silent films, Monument Valley appeared daily as the backdrop to “Krazy Kat,” the brilliant comic strip created by George Herriman . Herriman requested that his ashes be scattered in the valley after his death and cremation in 1944. He isn’t appreciated so much in these days of manga and 3-D animated films, but he remains one of the geniuses of cartooning.
Richard A. Mestis
The humorous “Stamp Tact” cites the U.S. Postal Service rule that “no living person shall be honored by portrayal on U.S. postage.” But three living persons were pictured on a 1945 U.S. postage stamp: Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon and John Bradley. They were among the men who raised the American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945. The other men shown were subsequently killed in action before the stamp was issued, in July 1945.
A stamp historian explains that likenesses of living persons were prohibited on stamps and other securities by an 1866 bill. As the Postal Service interprets the law, a likeness appearing incidentally while honoring a heroic event may be permitted. Thus the Iwo Jima stamp of 1945 and the “Heroes of 2001” stamp. It showed firefighters hoisting the flag above Ground Zero and honored the heroism of emergency-relief personnel killed or disabled while responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.In addition, the Postal Service accepts stamps printed by third parties, including Web sites that make use of uploaded digital snapshots; such customized stamps may be adorned with the image of a living person because they are not made by the government.