genocide

 

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“I have seen something that will haunt me to the end of my life. That there were children, little children. And what they had done ― ‘they’ I mean the enemy ― they had dug pits. It seems there was no room anymore in the gas chambers. They would throw those children in the flames, alive. That we have seen that and not gone crazy is, that’s a miracle. … For a while I thought maybe I, maybe I was still a prisoner of my nightmare.  But then I met friends, and I told them the same images, and I found documents corroborating it. What we have seen, it’s true.” (1)

No, don’t ever try to fathom the depraved depths of mankind’s inhumanity towards fellow man.  It’s a place too dark, too evil for the soul to enter.  But, we must remember the hell which had been leveled against innocence, against the children and the helpless, against men, women and children who did not fit the acceptable pattern of Nazi Germany.  We must remember these horrors lest that cowardice occurs again in the world of the 21st century.  Today’s political events indicate that we are not above the hatred and intolerance which permeated the white nationalist mindset ushering in the 3rd Reich and its Holocaust.  Never forget the history of mankind’s capacity for darkness and evil.

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(1) ELIE WIESEL

 

yesterday

“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”  Elie Wiesel

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Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Several of my blogging friends wrote about it and covered the details thoroughly.  In my newspaper today a well-written article by the AP also gave recognition to the greatest act of inhumanity ever in modern history.

And some people say, “Whaaaat? What are you talking about?”

To me it is unfathomable that anyone living on planet Earth does not know that over 6 millions Jews plus Roma, gays, and the handicapped were systematically rounded up, sent to the death camps and murdered.  To me it is unconscionable that groups exist in my state that say the Holocaust was a hoax.

My newspaper article this morning referenced a study released by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the Azriekli Foundation stating that in Canada 52% of millennials cannot not name even one of the concentration camps and that 62% of millennials did not know about the 6 million Jews killed.  These findings are similar to a study conducted last year in the USA.

We must never forget nor allow others to forget what happened in the death camps.  We must always stand up for the oppressed and disenfranchised.  Not knowing is not an excuse.

elie wiesel

injustice – elie wiesel

“Injustice may inspire anger or rebellion, but must not create despair.  Injustice has been part of our world since its beginning……..despair is when you no longer believe in anything.” ELIE WIESEL, The Night of the Uprooting

CANDLE

CHRISTMASTIDE – Dec 25th-Jan6th

Yes, this is an appropriate quote for the season of Christmastide.  Why do we think the concept of a Savior and Deliverer was introduced to the world with the story of Jesus, born in Bethlehem?  Why do we marvel that this babe was announced to shepherds, the lowest class of Hebrew society only a step above lepers?  The world of Judaism 2000 years ago is a case study in oppression and social injustice from not only the Roman conquerors, but also the Jewish religious hierarchy.

Elie Wiesel suffered the most inhumane form of injustice at the hands of the Nazis in the death camps of Hitler.  He could not approach the significance of his internment for several years after being freed by the Allied Forces.  Fortunately for us, he eventually saw the writing of his story as a duty to the Jewish nation and the world.  He shared the pain and the horror of the Nazi atrocities in his subsequent books.  Mr. Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Any of us today, me included, would surely “be inspired to anger or rebellion” if subjected to the same treatment as the Jews of 1930s and 1940s.  Justifiably so.  But, how many of us would  not curl up in despair?  Whom among us would be able to sustain faith, hope, and love while starving in the humiliation, the cold, the desolation of a prison camp where survival is a daily challenge?  I pray that neither you nor I ever have to suffer those consequences.

Despair is our enemy.  Not having hope is a death sentence of the soul, but faith in the unknowns of this life inspires hope and defeats despair.  The Christmas story, whether I believe it to be reality or you believe it to be myth, tells us how to relate to a world filled with violence, hatred, oppression, intolerance.  The life and teachings of Jesus portrayed by ancient scriptures is a blueprint to living life abundantly with faith, hope, and love in the midst of man’s inhumanity toward man.

We are witness today to unfathomable social injustice which should make us angry and rebellious.  But it does not need to devour us with despair.  That is the essence of the gift presented to us by the birth of a child 2000 years ago.  It is up to you and I to make it a marvelous myth or a life-saving reality.  Our concept of Jesus is hope in a seemingly hopeless world.

Let it be real as the morning sunshine, the stars in the nighttime sky, the singing of angelic children.  Let us discover, now, in the midst of turbulence and injustice the strength of faith, hope and love.  Lead us to defeat despair with the power of his eternal story.

philippians 4:7

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lest we forget

 

 

As they arrived at their unfamiliar destination, fear and uncertainty filled their hearts.  The children clung to their mothers as men speaking harshly directed the travelers to an unseen outpost for processing.  Upon arriving there, the children were separated from parents and taken from the sight of mothers who by now were desperately sobbing and screaming, “Where are you taking my child?”  

A scenario from America’s southern border with Mexico where refugees from Central America and South America have been stopped by immigration officials?  No, this is a scene from Hitler’s Nazi Germany during the early 1940s.  Those children were sent to slave labor camps to work for the German war machine or to their deaths because they were too young to work.

I have often been chided for slipping from sobriety and spiritual themes offering hope and recovery to issues of social justice facing our contemporary society in not only the USA but also the world.  For reasons unknown to me even I can convince myself that I should avoid straying from noncontroversial topics.  It’s safer and it’s more pleasant to prattle on about the ABCs of ‘serene and clean” living then to face the harsh realities of the world in which we live

WWJD?  What would Jesus do?  What would any community-spirited sober-minded citizen do?  The answer always comes back to me in undeniable clarity.  Having read the words attributed to Jesus and the stories of his ministry to his oppressed and downtrodden fellow Israelites, having been advised by a Higher Power in the form of other recovering alcoholics that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is preparing me to return to society as a useful tool and voice in my community, I must muster the courage and determination to be a voice, no matter how small,  for justice in a socially unjust society.  That’s my definition of spirituality and recovery.

You say my introductory paragraphs can’t happen here in America in 2018?  Really?  It’s a slippery slope on which our experiment in democracy finds itself today.  The grand copper  Lady in New York Harbor welcomed “the tired and poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse, the homeless and tempest tost.”  The words from the Book of Matthew which evangelical Christianity tongues fervently, “As ye do unto the least of these, my brothers, ye have also done unto me,” convicts us of our failure in today’s refugee crisis.

If I am truly a child of God created in the image of God, a spiritual entity, then I must be concerned with the injustices I see on a daily basis on my media screens.  I must offer a dollar or a meal to the homeless man on the corner.  I must be involved in a political process which challenges the greed of the wealthy and the indifference of the politically powerful.  When I talk the talk of sweet verses and inspiration, I also must walk the thorny paths of human misery shoulder to shoulder with the huddled masses.  I am nothing if I can’t empathize with the suffering brother, the hungry beggar, or the homeless man on the corner.  “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith which can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2

When I am tempted to stand before the world thumping my chest with American pride and Christian hypocrisy, when I want to believe somebody else will take care of the poor and homeless, it is then that I need to find a quiet place and reorganize my priorities asking WWJD.

Think about it.  Hitler denigrated Jews as sub-human, as animals.  He fed the fears of Germans with racism and intolerance.  He appealed to human depravity at its worst.  He declared Aryans to be the superior, God-blessed race.  Their fate is well documented in historical annals and film.

Can’t happen again?  Maybe or maybe not, but I don’t want to be the one who quietly stood on the sidelines of neutrality.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.  The opposite of art is not ugliness, it is indifference.  The opposite of faith is not heresy, it is indifference.  And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” 

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Elie Wiesel

 

 

Irena Sendler

“The opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference.”  Elie Wiesel

The children called me Jolanta.  My real name is Irena – Irena Sendler.  I was born in 1910 in a small town to the southeast of Warsaw.  My father was a doctor and one of the first Polish Socialists.  Most of his patients were poor Jews.  I learned from Father to care for the needs of other people, especially the children.

Then in 1939 my country was invaded by Germany.  The Nazis were horribly brutal spreading  violence and terror throughout my home town and Warsaw.  I was a senior administrator for the Social Welfare Department at the time.  Our job was to provide meals, financial aid, and other services for the orphans , elderly, the poor and the destitute.  However, with the Germans here, we soon were needed to provide clothing, medicine and money for the Jews.  We registered those people under fictitious Christian names and to avoid the Nazis’ inspections we often reported the families as being afflicted with very infectious diseases as typhus and tuberculosis.

But, conditions got worse for the Jews.  In 1942 the Nazis herded hundreds of thousands of them into a 16-block area and then sealed it off from the rest of the city.  We called it the Ghetto.

Well, I couldn’t just stand by and watch those people die.  I became involved in the underground resistance movement, became one of the first recruits of Zegota.  Our job was to rescue the Jewish children.  Because I was issued a pass from the Epidemic Control Department, I could enter the Ghetto legally.  I took food, clothing, and medicines to those poor starving people.  But 5000 of them were dying each month and I then decided that I must help the Jewish children get out.

Several of my friends and co-workers wanted to help me.  We smuggled the children in ambulances hidden in whatever was available.  Gunnysacks, body bags, potato sacks, coffins, even a mechanic’s toolbox were used to hide the children.  They had false documents with new identities awaiting when they arrived to safety.

I knew I could count on the Sisters and the churches to help me place the Jewish children.  They were placed in homes, orphanages, and convents.  None of them ever refused to take a child from me.  I kept record of their original names and new identities in a jar that I kept buried under my neighbor’s apple tree.  At last count there were 2500 names in that jar.

Oh sure, the Gestapo finally caught up with me in 1943.  They broke my legs and my feet and threw me in prison but I didn’t tell them anything.   I was sentenced to execution but one of my Zegota friends bribed one of the Germans and they called off my execution.  I escaped from prison and spent the rest of the war running from the Gestapo.

After the war, I dug up that jar and tried to contact the names and reunite them with their parents.  Most of the parents died in the Holocaust.

The children called me Jolanta.

In 1965 Irena Sendler was accorded the title of “RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS”  and in 1991 was made an honorary citizen of Israel.  She died in 2008 at age 98. 

Written in 1st person narrative by larrypaulbrown from information credited to:

  JEWISH VIRTUAL LIBRARY

 

 

 

 

FYI

The Reichstag (Diet of the Realm) was a legislative body of Weimar Germany from 1919 until the Nazi takeover in 1933.  The German Parliament consisted of two Houses, it was a bicameral body as is the Congress of the United States.  All adults, with only a few exceptions, were eligible to vote in a system similar to our electoral college.  As a minimal number of votes were required to gain a seat, it was a legislative body with innumerable voices represented and subsequently

“each political party wanted to pull Germany in a different direction and parties often refused to compromise with, or even recognize, other parties.”

wikipedia

In the election of 1928, the Nazi Party won only 12 seats in the Reichstag making it the smallest of nine parties in the chamber.  Four years later in the election of 1932, the Nazis and the Communists, both having been declared enemies of the parliamentary system, held an absolute majority of the seats.  From 1930 onwards , the parliament was often circumvented by two instruments not strictly provided for by the constitution.

  1. the extensive use of powers granted to the President by the use of the Emergency Decree of Article 48 of the constitution allowing that President to take emergency measures without prior consent of the Reichstag.  This power was understood to include “emergency decrees”
  2. the use of enabling acts of 1919-1923 and then in 1933 after Hitler had been appointed Chancellor.  These acts became an important building block of his dictatorship.  The  Enabling Act of 1933  was an amendment that gave the German Cabinet – in effect, Chancellor Hitler –  the power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag.

With this latter enabling act, the Reichstag formally gave up its exclusive responsibility for the exercise of the legislative power.

Reichstag fire

An arson attack on February 27, 1933 at the Reichstag building (home of the German parliament) occurred just one month after Hitler was elected Chancellor.  It was blamed on communist agitators in general although it was later decided that it was the act of a lone council communist.  This, however, provided the fuel that the Nazis needed to sway public opinion in favor of Hitler and the Nazis.

The Reichstag Fire Decree imposed on February 28, 1933 less than a day after the fire, rescinded most German civil liberties , including the rights of assembly and freedom of the press.

Should we learn anything from this piece of history?

  • lack of compromise in the legislative branch
  • economic hardships in search of a scapegoat
  • extreme nationalism
  • civil liberties rescinded
  • freedom of press abolished

In a time period of one month in 1933, Hitler and his white supremacist, nationalist Nazi party transformed Germany from a deeply divided and troubled country, much like ours today, into the dictatorship responsible for over 6 million deaths.