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Remembering the Holocaust

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 28, 2022 15:21

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It is human want to be spared the trauma of recalling the holocaust of Nazi Germany. Schools and community organisations hammered on this, so enough already! Do we need a Holocaust remembrance Day? I would argue that we need for this and similar events not to be removed from daily life, to be remembered by political speeches on a special day or at some remote venue. Because it involves all of us.

I must have been about twelve when, in our town, Pietersburg, I watched a derelict part of town being demolished for a shopping mall. On one of the walls of the old synagogue, long hidden, the demolition revealed a hand-painted sign: Juden Raus!

My father explained the context based on his studies in Europe shortly after the war. Over the years I learnt with growing horror of the systematic extermination, the burocratization of death, of ethnic cleansing. Of the parallels of our Apartheid system with its insistence on racial purity. I visited the killing zones of Rwanda and toured Saharawi concentration camps with youngsters from Gaza. Reports from Xinjiang, Myanmar and the refugee camps in Texas continue. Of a Gaza with limited food, electricity and medicines. Of Yemeni children starving while politicians stoke destruction.

The Reverend John Donne, 1572 - 1631) critic of his times, teacher and guide of Christian ethics for later generations wrote:

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main...

Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.”

As I learnt of the Nuremberg trials in my legal studies I also learnt of holocaust denial. My father, professor in ethics, had a short answer: “So if six million did not die, what number would be acceptable? Even if six died it would have been enough to justify outrage.”

As we remember the Holocaust this week I am reminded that we tend to shy away from these traumatizing events. But unless we face them head on we are not only complicit, we become victims too.

So let us list the faceless, feeling-less burocrats and politicians who turn a blind eye at the plight of a child with an expired passport, stuck in a war zone. A young man in prison, his only guilt being near a crime scene, with documents that were not in order because of inept officials. Children in wire cages with no idea where their parents had been taken. Officials and soldiers raping and brutalizing people because their rulers seem to countenance this. Of Shamima Begum being declared stateless by the mother of democracy because she was drawn to an ideology that offered what her own society denied her.

Every act of denial of rights, of limiting democracy, of politicians and officials taking decisions for people instead of with them has the potential to edge down that slope to where humanity is lost in the red tape, where railway officials could route trains of humans to extermination camps with no question, where weapons could be provided to bomb hospitals, white phosphorous delivered by shippers without them asking if it would be used against school children. 

Politics by force, violence, fear, these are the building blocks of dehumanization, discrimination, genocide. It takes one voice to stop it. 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 28, 2022 15:21

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Source: LA Times

The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy aims to ensure that human rights violations don't go unnoticed.

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