Friday, January 27, 2017

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

We should always remember what happened across Europe 70+ years ago, as the threat of similar occurrences remains. Just three years after the Nazi empire fell amid the bombed out rubble across Germany, South Africa instituted a strict policy for racial segregation, known as apartheid. It had laws that were fairly similar to the Nuremberg laws, as the legal structure of government-sanctioned racism began to be put into place. The white minority government remained in power until 1994, and many of the segregation policies had remained in place even after being officially abolished.

There have been plenty of other instances throughout history of massive crimes against humanity. There was the Biafran war in Nigeria in the 1960's, the takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970's, massive famines in Africa, particularly Ethipia, in the 1980's, ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990's, ethnic cleansing in Rwanda in 1994, and ethnic cleansing in Sudan in the 2000's. There were reports within the last year or so that the Central African Republic was on the verge of their own struggles with ethnic cleansing.

The Taliban imposed a very rigid version of religious rule in Afghanistan that was more extreme than anything that had been seen before them. They destroyed the historic Bamiyan Buddhas, and forced non-Muslims to wear yellow identifying markers, which was a little too similar to the Nazis forcing Jews to wear an identifying yellow Star of David on their clothing. More recently, we have seen the Islamic State take over in Iraq and Syria, and there was some question as to the possibility that they might be a "genocidal regime," although certainty has not been achieved there. We see extremists making inroads in other countries, such as with Boko Haram in Nigeria. Certainly, religious extremism seems to be making inroads in numerous parts of the world.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, as well. Many French Jews are leaving France, and extremist, far-right political parties have made significant inroads in Europe in the last decade and a half, or so. An extremist party actually won an election and shared power with a conservative government in Austria. More recently, one outright neo-Nazi party, the Golden Dawn, actually gained seats in Greece.

In the United States, we have prominent politicians who gave speeches to white supremacist groups, and David Duke, the founder of one such group, almost won the governor's race in Louisiana in 1991. There are plenty of episodes that take place in the United States otherwise that betrays the simple truth that racism and intolerance is still alive and well.

So, yes, it is important still to remember what happened, lest we forget. Six millions Jews killed, as well as many others, including homosexuals and gypsies.

It is our responsibility to remember, and a day such as this allows us the opportunity for quiet reflection and, hopefully, increased awareness, so that we never have to see such a place as Auschwitz again.

As an aside, but related, please take a look at the article I wrote for Guardian Liberty Voice (my first in over a month and a half!) on the subject of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz:

Auschwitz Liberation 70 Year Anniversary

Some Holocaust lessons being forgotten as survivors gather at Auschwitz 70 years on by the Associated Press, January 26, 2015:

Dwindling group of survivors to mark Auschwitz 70 years on.  By VANESSA GERA, January 26, 2015:

Holocaust survivor danced for the 'Angel of Death':

Conspiracy - Movie About Wannsee Conference      

I watched this movie not long ago, and find it quite amazing that such a meeting actually took place.

I first learned of the Wannsee Conference in 1942 back in 2000 or 2001, when I studied modern German history at Rutgers University. The idea of a conference being held to discuss the most inhumane things under the illusion of normality is, I think, what made this conference such an oddity, and garnered so much attention and fascination since people first learned of it.

This movie captures the paradox of human beings in high-ranking, government positions sitting down at a conference, and being catered with fancy food in posh surroundings, and discussing as a badge of honor their hatred for Jews, and debating the best and most effective means of killing Jews.

I do not if this is the actual manner in which the conference took place, but again, we need to remember that the Nazis were human beings as well, which makes their cold and calculated "Final Solution" plans (which originated at the Wannsee Conference) all the more chilling. Hitler had requested some kind of ultimate solution to the Jewish problem, and the Nazis that participated in this conference were the architects, on many levels, of the infamous "crimes against humanity" that Germany would soon pay for after it was defeated in the war. This is where it was revealed that the Jews would be taken to death camps (Auschwitz is referred to be name, if memory serves correctly) and gassed in the showers.

Again, we need to remember that these were human beings, even though what they did was outrageously inhuman. These were people with careers, with homes, with families, with experiences and stories. According to this film, these were educated people, with accomplishments under their belt, and with ambitions. With distrust and rivalries existing within their ranks. Also, with at least attempts at good humor. It is important for us to remember that these were actual people, and not some fictitious monsters that existed once upon a time. Nor is it legitimate to suggest that these things were unique to Germans, which is an argument that I always thought was a cop out. It happened in Germany, but it could have happened in another country, as well.

These things happened and, yes, they can happen again. Most likely, it will not look exactly the same. But that a spirit of inhumanity and a desire to kill off a contending group of people could rise again in an official capacity, I have no doubt.

We often think of "the Nazis" as these monsters, because of their monsterous acts. But this film is chilling because it portrays them in very human situations, with all-too human reactions when they feel slighted, or compelled to test one another.

Indeed, it is the show of humanity among individuals that we now tend to view as heartless monsters somehow different, somehow less human, then us, that makes this movie all the creepier.

I recommend that you watch it, and judge it on your own:

Conspiracy (2001)

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