My mom, trying to be diplomatic, paused before giving her answer. "Maybe they didn't know."
I thought about that. I could understand how people in the United States wouldn't have known about the concentration camps, but something didn't sit right with me. "But... What about the people who lived there? There were people who lived in the area of the concentration camps. People had to notice the other people in their towns being taken away."
I could tell my mom was uncomfortable, and of course she was. There's no good answer to the question I was asking, much less one you want to admit to an elementary schooler. "Well, some people did try to help," she said.
"Then how could this have happened? How could people let this happen?"
Even then, I was asking the question that has plagued me my whole life.
As a child, I was able to excuse many people's ignorance of the occurrences of the Holocaust due to proximity. In a pre-television world, ignorance was a standard of life, but today, in our world where we can watch videos that have been emailed to us from anywhere in the world on our watches, ignorance just doesn't have the ring of viability that it used to have.
So what if I told you that an estimated 200,000 people are currently being held in prison camps that are comprable to those run by the Nazi party?
Would you believe it? Would you ignore it?
Sadly, most of the world is currently choosing to ignore that statement. (Heck, a chunk of the world is still choosing to ignore the Holocaust.) But I'm writing to you with a heavy heart, today, because I can no longer hope that this is just a rumor, a falsehood spread by propagandists, trying to sway our opinions. Very early this morning, I was shown definitive proof that North Korea is operating the prison camps that refugees have claimed to escape (assuming, of course, that you don't consider refugee testimony to be definitive proof).
What you probably don't know is that right now, as you're reading this, a man named Joshua is carefully monitoring satellite feeds, focused on North Korea, and he's releasing all of his findings to the public by way of his blog, the most horrifically fascinating part of which is the section that gives detailed descriptions of and instructions on how to use Google Earth to see these prison camps. Entranced, I spent the next two hours, pouring across the mountains of North Korea, searching for the camps he described. Sure enough, they're there.
Joshua has a section devoted to each camp in North Korea, even spending countless hours scouring satellite feeds and Google Earth to find ones that had yet to be located but came up in refugees stories. He reports all information he has to the Internet at large here. I'd encourage you to take the 5 minutes it requires to download the Google Earth plugin for Google Maps, or to even download the program onto your computer. Then, start finding them yourself, noting that some of the areas have changed slightly since he first uploaded his photos (he's since upgraded his technology which will not allow him to upload photos). For example, Joshua features this photo of camp 18:
Whereas, today, I searched for it and found this:
As you can see from the washed out bridge and entry area, it looks like they've had some recent flooding, but they are clearly the same place.
Now, to the untrained eye, I can understand how this may look like any other North Korean city, but there's a tell: All North Korean prison camps are guarded by towers and lined by electric fences. So, the "gimme" that you're looking for is a seemingly dirt-road around the "city," interspersed with "houses," like here, at the northwestern border of camp 18:
This is real. This is happening, and it has been happening for years. Already, our children are going to ask us the same questions that I asked my mother. I, for one, do not want to have to tell them that I stood by and did nothing.