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Fall 1999

When Memory Comes
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"It was unsettling finding that letter because this was in 1941, when everyone knew what was going on," Friedlander says.

This led Friedlander to examine the Vatican documents, which resulted in Friedlander's 1965 book, Pius XII and the Third Reich, in which he examined the role of the Catholic Church during this time.

When asked if an event like the Holocaust could happen again, Friedlander shrugs.

"Something can always happen again, maybe in different ways." There are echoes of the Holocaust in the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and in the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia before that, he says. "That is why it is so important to study the Holocaust, so it doesn't happen again. Human evil is something permanent. Sometimes the social frameworks that control it are weak."

The more he studies that era the formative era of his life the more he is astonished by "the width and breath of how many people were involved in the Holocaust, how widespread it was, how little was done to stop it."

Friedlander pauses to look at the purple jacaranda trees in full blossom beyond his window.

"It was so ruthless and systematic," he says quietly. "There are still questions to answer."

Roberta G. Wax is a freelance writer in Los Angeles and an instructor at UCLA Extension.


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