12. How entrepreneurs can make the world a better place
WHY ENTREPRENEURS NEED TO SHOW UP AND HOW WE CAN HELP
When I was a young student I worked for the Jewish Social Work in Amsterdam. Twice a week I cleaned the houses of Jewish clients. Somewhere between cleaning the bedrooms and the kitchen, there was always time for coffee and conversation.
‘My’ family was an elderly couple. They lived in the same apartment where they had raised their family. Nowadays the children lived somewhere else and it was just the two of them.
One day, it was Friday, the chicken soup was already on the stove, the children would come home to be with their parents for the Friday evening Shabbat dinner, something happened that I will never forget.
It was time for coffee. There was a carpenter in the apartment - the door needed to be fixed - and his tools were everywhere. While we had our coffee the carpenter apologized for the mess he made. He was trying to get everything done before Shabbat.
“I’m sorry for the mess”, the carpenter said. “Oh don’t worry about it”, my employer said. He was standing in the middle of their small living room and pointed at his underarm. “After THIS I learned to never worry about the small stuff anymore.”
He pointed at the tattooed figures on his arm.
His concentration camp numbers.
You could see the uneven shapes. Yanked into the arm of a young man. A young man who happened to be Jewish.
The carpenter mumbled something like: “Yes… well”, and we looked at each other because those numbers opened the door to more suffering than we could possibly imagine.
My employer carried a very public testimonial of the vilest hate against himself on his own body. For everyone to see.
Look. This happened to me.
The silence hung heavy in the living room.
I was a 23 years old smart-ass student and had no answer.
I had no solution, it felt too big, too painful, too intimate and I didn't know what to to do.
This week it was 75 years ago that Soviet soldiers liberated concentration camp Auschwitz. One of the camps where over 6 million people were murdered because they happened to be ‘different’.
Because they were Jewish, or Roma or Sinti, or mentally ill, or handicapped, or gay, or communist, or a fighter for justice …. Cold and systematically killed, tortured and starved because they were not fitting the ‘Purebred White Ubermensch’ norm.
This week I watched an interview with one of the Soviet soldiers who had helped liberate Auschwitz. Liberating was the easy part: “We just shot the guards and opened the gates”. But what he could never forget was "the mountain of children's shoes in front of the ovens"
A mountain of 10 meters wide and 5 meters high.
Only children's shoes.