Tino’s Corner – Memories of My Trip to the Dachau Concentration Camp Museum

By Tino Mantella

President & CEO of the Turknett Leadership Group

Like most in my generation (kids of WWII vets), we knew the history of the atrocities that took place in the “death camps” to Jews and others.  When I had an opportunity to tour the Dachau Museum,  I learned that Dachau was the first concentration camp opened in March of 1933 by Henrich Himmler on orders from Hitler. It was far less infamous than Auschwitz and others, but 32,000 deaths were officially recorded in that camp.  We saw the places where floggings and pole hangings took place and the ovens where bodies were incinerated.

When we ended the visit, I felt sad and angry. Two teammates attended with me and one of them was my Jewish friend and fellow grappler. We had a chance to debrief after the visit and it became quickly apparent that the two non-Jews could never feel the depth of emotion that our Jewish friend experienced.  One thing we all agreed on was that NOTHING like what had happened to the Jews in WWII could or would happen again.  As a side note, we often associate the idea of concentration camps with the extremes…. the Holocaust and the Russian Gulags for example.  Even today, there are many places that have “education camps” or other forms of detention including but not limited to China, North Korea, Syria, and places closer to home.

My lingering question, after Dachau, for all of these years has been how and why can one human, a group of humans, a country, or a world discriminate against another person because of their religion, race, or because they are different in some way.  How does that anger build up to the point where people are treated differently?

I have always felt that of all the speeches ever made, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech presents a message with America’s biggest challenge – “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”.  That speech took place in August of 1963.  Some things have changed but it’s been a slow long slog.  Too slow!

I like to believe that this is the moment for quantum change in the United States.  People of all races and religions standing together and finding a voice, can make a difference.  Policy changes need to happen but that won’t be enough.  Until individuals change in their heart and soul it will never be enough.

Going back to my Dachau experience, perhaps every time a statue is torn down that may have glorified past wrongs something takes its place that educates.  And, from my experience being with my Jewish friend, I know that I will never have the depth of feeling as the people closer to the particular discrimination.

I was fortunate to have great parents who always demonstrated by their actions that people are people.  Still, my town in Upstate NY was very white. In fact, being Italian was actually a differentiator.  And, when you are different, you are different, and people sometimes see you differently.  Of course, that was a miniscule bump in the road for me.

One of the best decisions of my life, which my parents encouraged, was to leave the farm country of Upstate NY to attend Temple University, located in the heart of inner-city Philadelphia.  There is nothing like being part of a diverse culture to shape one’s values if you are open to it.

As I end, I know I have just put a bunch of words on paper.  A lot of people are doing that right now.  So, I have to challenge myself to do more to address unconscious bias and diversity and inclusion.

Here are some things that TLG is doing:

  • We have partnered with noted psychologist, Dr. Cherry Collier. Collier is an expert on the subject of diversity and inclusion.  We will be building out workshops and training for companies across the USA, around D&I.  We also plan to create a certification program for coaches who want to have a deep competency in inclusion…. Inclusion Coaches…
  • The Turknett’s Leadership Character model has been the central pillar to all TLG programs. Bob and Lyn have led the effort to spread leadership character around the globe. To that end, we are forming a not-for-profit charity to help develop youth, around the globe, in the tenants of respect and responsibility that lead to living a life where leadership character is an integral piece.

As for me, I plan to be more of an advocate for state and public policies that create a fair playing field for all people.  And, where I see injustice, I will continue to speak up.

At the end of the day, we can all do a little something that will lead to a big something.

Tino

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