Tuesday, 27 January 2015

January 27 - 70 years ago Not an end yet to genocide

English: Photo of the Nazi extermination camp ...
Photo of the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, taken by a United States Army Air Force plane, August 25, 1944. Crematoria II and III are visible. For reference as to the date of the photo and what it shows, see The Case for Auschwitz by Robert Jan van Pelt, 2002, Indiana University Press, ISBN 0253340160, page 175. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today seventy years ago soldiers could not believe their eyes. They found the last extermination camp of the Germans still functioning.

Serbian 1990 War camp
On January 27, 1945, the Soviet troops entered the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and  found 7,000 survivors. Another 50,000 inmates had been marched out several days earlier by the camp’s staff in order to prevent them from falling into Allied hands. Most of them perished before the war ended. Auschwitz, where over one million people – most of them Jews, but also several non-Jewish Poles, political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, disabled persons and Jehovah’s Witnesses  — were killed, has become a symbol for the Holocaust and for evil as such, and rightly so. But people thought at that time and some even now that this could never again happen. Like they said "Never again" at the end of World War I in the last few years we have seen very similar extinguish camps and Serbia was the most horrible place after World War II where the international community did not take action straight away though they did clearly knew what was happening there.

Luckily for humankind not yet any genocide took place in the form or magnitude as the German extermination camps. We luckily never saw any more such torture and horror coming over one specific race or group of people.
The Caucasian race and Germans and extreme right people should shame themselves and sink deep into the ground that their ancestors could bring such a terrible fear over one group of people. For the Jewish people, it is the largest Jewish cemetery in the world, a cemetery without graves and still many families are not sure where their ancestors found their death and are put into the ground.

HKP survivor Pearl Good
points to Plagge’s name on
the Wall of the Righteous at Yad Vashem
Though the present generation can not be culpable for what their ancestors did, plus we must know that not all Germans did agree with this situation or did become such monsters. The thousands and thousands which were cramped together in huge place, too small for the amount of people, had to face dehumanization as part of the camp system, but they also could find friendships which went beyond all human expectations. There were remarkable acts of solidarity and humanity by camp inmates. Among them were non-Jews, who at risk to their own lives, sought to ease the pain, to give aid and to rescue Jews. They proved that even within the brutality and the murder, people could choose not to remain indifferent. There were even stories of German soldiers , even SS officers who like Maj Karl Plagge, Wehrmacht officer, engineer and Nazi Party member who used his position as a staff officer in the Heer (Army) to employ and protect some 1,240 Jews.  {Good 2005, p. 154.}

On 27 January of 2015 many international leaders shall come together in the afternoon, going along the fortified walls, barbed wire, platforms, barracks, gallows, gas chambers and cremation ovens of the largest of the concentration camp complexes created by the Nazi German regime, which show the conditions within which the Nazi genocide took place in the former concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest in the Third Reich.
The Nazi policy of spoliation, degradation and extermination of the Jews was rooted in a racist and anti-Semitic ideology propagated by the Third Reich.

According to historical investigations, 1.5 million people, among them a great number of Jews, were systematically starved, tortured and murdered in this camp, the symbol of humanity's cruelty to its fellow human beings in the 20th century. 

A few of those who saw the liberating soldiers coming closer to the camps where at that time still not sure what was going to happen with them and for sure could not count on it they would survive it. It is known that also many died  in a few weeks time after coming out in the world of the living again, when they became ill of the food they ate after their liberation.

Having been many times between life and death those survivors would continuously have to live with a huge nightmare and many still find themselves today crawling on the barrack floor or through the mud, because they no longer could walk. Many of them also  remember how they just kept thinking, I must survive, I must survive.

What we commemorate today should be printed in the minds of many generations to come. We may not be at ease thinking that what was unprecedented in human history, this mass killing motivated by the perverse, race-based ideology of the Nazis, who sought to track down and kill every last Jew and any others they considered to be inferior, would not happen again.

Humankind may have come united to overcome the Nazi menace but everywhere we see the (Neo-)Nazi spook turning up again.  Today, we see many similarities with the period coming up to the 1940ies. The economical but also political crisis's and pressure form all sides against immigrants. Not much yet seems to have changed for the minorities which everywhere often face bigotry.  We can not ignore that sectarian tensions and other forms of intolerance are on the rise. Since two years in Belgium and France we have seen a growing amount of anti-Semitic attacks. In several countries in the West it happens that Jews are being killed solely because they are Jews.

Those who belong to Christianity should make it very clear that all people, believers, non-believers and other-believers are all created in the image God. They should react against those who torture or kill others because of different beliefs. they also should demand from their governments and from those countries where there is inequality that the rights of humans shall be respected.

Vulnerable communities around the world continue to bury their dead while living in fear of further violence.
The mission of the United Nations was shaped by the tragedy of the Second World War and the Holocaust.  We want to see that their commitment to protect the vulnerable, promote fundamental human rights and uphold the freedom, dignity and worth of every person shall be worked out fully.

It is good to see that for the past decade, the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme has mobilized students and educators around the world to help them achieve these goals. 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message on the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust:

"The violence and bias we see every day are stark reminders of the distance still to travel in upholding human rights, preventing genocide and defending our common humanity.

We must redouble our efforts to eradicate the deep roots of hatred and intolerance.  People everywhere must unite to stop the cycles of discord and build a world of inclusion and mutual respect.”
From the ashes of the murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau and other death camps arose the words “Never Again” – spoken as shorthand for our collective responsibility to act in the face of genocide.

Janice Kamenir-Reznik who like many Jews who grew up in the 1950s, internalized a deep sense of responsibility to safeguard the memory of the Shoah – so that the world would understand anti-Semitism’s dangers and prevent Jewish persecution in the future.
He says:
Yet, when I heard about atrocities in faraway places like Cambodia and Rwanda, the notion that I could do something – that I should do something – never materialized in my head. My mindset shifted because of one man, Rabbi Harold Schulweis – with whom I co-founded Jewish World Watch. As he changed my perspective, Rabbi Schulweis dramatically changed my life – and saved thousands of others.
How many of our generation had not heard "Plus jamais" or "Never Again". this they said already after the first World War and repeated it as if they saw the summit after the second World War.

We must confess that our industrialised world did not manage to avoid the horrors of the Holocaust to be followed by genocide after genocide, atrocity after atrocity – from Cambodia to Rwanda, from Darfur to Congo. Since 1945, 46 genocides have claimed the lives of tens of millions.

In 2004, at 80-years-old, Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis founded an organization – a movement – that has become one of America’s largest and loudest anti-genocide groups. In the decade since that Rosh Hashanah, Jewish World Watch has been at the forefront of advocacy efforts that helped to bring about pressure to end the genocide in Darfur, drive the most lethal militias out of Congo, and create broad awareness among governments and global corporations about the threat of emerging genocides around the world.

Regarded as the most influential synagogue leader of his generation led the Conservative Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) in Encino for nearly 45 years, introducing significant innovations in synagogue life while also insisting upon connecting the Jewish world with the larger community worldwide through foundations, outreach organizations and, his most successful program, developed late in his life, Jewish World Watch.

Rabbi Ed Feinstein, his friend and successor as senior rabbi at VBS said about Harold Schulweis who died in December at his home after a long struggle with heart disease, that he
"was  a public intellectual who redefined what it is to be a Jew, an author and passionate orator who met injustices and suffering with action,”
In 2004, Schulweis delivered a sermon at VBS on the Jewish high holidays calling for a Jewish response to genocide. He challenged the congregation:


“We took an oath, “Never again!” Was this vow to protect only Jews from the curse of genocide? God forbid that our children and grandchildren ask of us, ‘Where was the synagogue during Rwanda, when genocide took place and eight hundred thousand people were slaughtered in one hundred days?’”

Schulweis’ concern for genocide around the world, led him to reach out to the large Armenian population in his San Fernando Valley neighbourhood after his 2004 sermon at VBS on the Jewish high holidays calling for a Jewish response to genocide.
He had challenged the congregation to take an oath, “Never again!”and not only to protect Jews from the curse of genocide.

In 2005, the rabbi officiated with Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Armenian Church of North America at the first joint commemoration of the Jewish and Armenian Holocausts. He joined band members of the rock band, System of a Down, all of them children of survivors of the Armenian Holocaust, in an educational program affirming the common responsibilities of Jewish and Armenian youth to remember their collective experiences of genocide, and to act to prevent its re-occurrence.

The Jewish World Watch and the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (JFR) (originally called the Institute for Righteous Acts) provides monthly financial support to some 500 aged and needy non Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. The Foundation preserves the legacy of the rescuers through its national Holocaust teacher education program.

Such education programs and us remembering what happened in the 1930-1940ies but also using those awful memories to warn those living today that we always should be at the look out to avoid such disasters coming over humankind.

Janice Kamenir-Reznik, Esq., President and Co-Founder of Jewish World Watch – a multi-faith coalition representing hundreds of thousands in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities, says:
We live during a time in grave need of Rabbi Schulweis’ message. From Congo and Sudan, from Iraq to Syria, from Burma to the Central African Republic, we are called to take the words “Never Again” and turn them into action. In his memory, let us continue to breathe life into the best of our Jewish values to create a better world.

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 Find also to read:

  1. Holocaust Survivor Eva Kor Explains How to Stay Hopeful During Tough Times
    The fact that I have overcome so much adversity in my life helps me to have hope during tough times. I believe if I could survive Auschwitz, if I could survive crawling on the barrack floor between life and death, I could probably survive anything. Basically that is the way we gain confidence in our ability. When we overcome one difficulty and one hardship, we can build on that when any other hardship comes along in life. I also like the fact that people who hear me speak can tune in and feel inspired. They see that I could do it, and they realize they can overcome whatever they are trying to overcome too. That is helpful to realize, that maybe each of us can help others overcome by sharing our stories.
  2. Turning ‘never again’ into action: the legacy of Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis
  3. Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, ‘Rabbi of Rabbis’ and world-renowned Jewish leader, dies at 89
  4. Black page 70 years Release – commemoration Auschwitz
  5. Zwarte bladzijde 70 jaar bevrijding – Herdenking Auschwitz
  6. 2012 mensenrechten rapport – 2012 Human Rights report
  7. Vredesweek 2012 en Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
  8. De Vredesweek vraagt Internationale Gemeenschap Verantwoordelijkheid te nemen
  9. Malaysia requires sole use of God's title for Muslims
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