Governance & Membership
President's Message - August 2021
History Repeats Itself
By Mike Mordy
I traveled Europe with two friends in the summer of 1977 between the time I graduated from undergraduate school and started law school in the fall. You could buy a Eurail train pass back then for not much money and follow a guide titled “Europe on $10 a Day.” We wound up in Munich, Germany, at some point during the trip and traveled to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial 10 miles north of Munich. Dachau was a Nazi concentration camp opened in 1933 and liberated by U.S. forces April 29, 1945. The Nazis used the camp to imprison, torture and kill mainly innocent Jewish people but also Romanians, Polish people and foreign nationals from other countries Germany occupied or invaded. Forced labor was required of the prisoners, and worst of all, prisoners were tortured and killed in medical experiments. There were 32,000 documented deaths at the camp, and thousands of deaths were undocumented.
This experience had a profound effect upon me not just because I was astonished by the barbaric brutality committed by the Nazis upon the Jewish people, but because I did not know and appreciate the extent of the Nazis’ amoral tyranny. I felt this history had been glossed over and had not been given the attention in my education that it should have been given. My age group studied World War II, but I remember thinking back in 1977 when I was at Dachau that the attempted extermination of the Jewish race and the killing of six million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazis was not given the attention and study it deserved.
I bring this up because I know history repeats itself, and therefore, we need to be vigilant in making sure history is taught, studied, discussed and appreciated. There seems to be a movement in our current culture to ignore our history or despise it or, in some cases, attempt to destroy it. We as attorneys know our laws and interpretations of those laws are based upon history, and we should make sure we better promote the study and awareness of history.
The framers of our Constitution, our forefathers, knew and appreciated history and used that knowledge when they drafted the U.S. Constitution. They had experienced strong governmental oppression by the British; however, they still adopted some of their ideals while avoiding the monarchial British system in favor of a democratic government. The framers knew their Greek and Roman history and used that knowledge to avoid a demagogue from being able to wrestle power from the people. The founders did not ignore the history of the brutal and oppressive Greeks and Romans but rather used that history to prevent history from repeating itself.
Bad and evil have happened in the history of humanity and are a stain, but history, both good and evil, is important and must be considered so we can appreciate its impact. Studying history and imparting history to the younger generations supports and promotes the rule of law because we see the effects on mankind where the rule of law is not adopted, administered, adjudicated and enforced fairly and efficiently.
The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial is a memorial to those who perished there; however, it is also a reminder to watch for tyranny and to avoid any type of government that is intolerant of others. The recent public awareness of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 is a current example, in our faces, of making sure we know, and all generations know, of even the bad history of our society so that history does not repeat itself. It has been famously quoted that, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The same holds true if history is not taught. We need to be vigilant to teach, study and discuss all history, good or bad, to avoid that history and to be assured that the rule of law is maintained.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 92, Vol. 6 | August 2021.