“I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.” The Diary of Anne Frank, unknown date, 1944.
Anne Frank penned those words 64 years ago while she hid from the Nazi regime in Amsterdam. However, on this day, when we commemorate the Holocaust perpetuated by Nazi Germany against Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Slavs, Catholics, and many others, we should be saddened and sobered by the fact the cruelty of which she wrote has not truly ended, but continues on in our own world.” ~The Diary of Anne Frank (1943).
Often, when we look back at the holocaust, we fail to realize our own blame in its occurrence. Before anyone starts sending death threats, think about if for a moment. Yes, the ultimate force behind the deaths of some 11 million people was Hitler and the National Socialists. However, we must remember, the Holocaust started in 1933, six years before war broke out, and seven (almost eight actually) years before the United States became actively involved in the conflict that became World War II. Dachau, first of the concentration camps, opened in that year, while at the same time, the Jews were barred from Civil Service and multiple professions. Hitler went unchallenged by the rest of the world.
In 1935, when the Nuremberg laws were passed, stripping citizenship from Holocaust victims, Hitler went unchallenged. When Hitler annexed Austria, it was allowed. It wasn’t until Germany invaded Poland that Britain and France, admittedly unprepared, declared open war on the Nazi regime. Even then, the goal was not the end of concentration camps and oppression, but the protection of British and French interests in Europe.
As the world turned a blind eye in the hope of avoiding conflict, the foundation for terrible atrocities was laid, atrocities that were carried out 64 years ago. “New” terrible atrocities have been carried out through this century, and continue even now in parts of the world where we turn a blind eye. In 1991, Rwanda experienced a mass ethnically motivated genocide. The Darfur region of Sudan is locked in bloody struggle now. Liberia and Sierra Leone suffered under regimes of mass hatred and violence that killed untold numbers. Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge decimated populations. Millions died under the Marxist-Leninist regimes in Russia, China, and Vietnam. Serbian actions in Kosovo drew international attention to the Balkans, part ofa supposedly free and calm Europe.
In 2005, during the 60th session of its General Assembly, the United Nations passed the first proposal ever put forth by the state of Israel. The proposal, co-sponsored by the United States, Great Britain, and France, declares January 27 (the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army) as United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, let us remember the victims of that event. As we remember them, however, let us also remind ourselves of the solemn promise made at the end of World War II, “Never Again!.”
How many times can we say it and not mean it before “Never Again!” becomes and empty promise that no one believes?