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Word Count: 932
The past is not dead William Faulkner once said Its not even past He might have added that public memories of the past are also the battlefields of the present Last week controversies erupted over how to remember two singular events in the history of this troubled century - the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in January 1945 and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945 Auschwitz-Birkenau built by the Germans near the Polish village of Oswiciem was the largest of the Nazi death camps where Jews made up the overwhelming number of victims But the Jewish groups that were invited to the Polish governments official commemoration on Thursday complained that the ceremonies had been poorly planned and had a strongly nationalist flavor that obscured the magnitude of the Jewish losses In the case of the atomic bomb the debate was equally sharp with American veterans vehemently objecting to a planned exhibit at the Smithsonians Air and Space Museum about the Enola-Gay the B-29 airplane that dropped the bomb The exhibit they said showed bias against the American war effort by portraying it as the beginning of a bleak period of nuclear proliferation by painting the United States as the aggressor and the Japanese as hapless victims and by underestimating the number of casualties the United States would have suffered had it opted to invade Japan instead By the end of the week more than 80 Republican and Democratic members of Congress had called for the removal of the museums director Martin 0 Harwit How should such stories be told Are these historical events about national pride and perseverance or about martyrdom Both the Auschwitz death camp and the Enola Gay are physical relics that demand explanation for it is in the telling of their stories that people and nations come to understand themselves By themselves monuments are of little value
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