Remembering Auschwitz

Trinidad & Tobago Express, Trinidad and Tobago –
Jan 28, 2005

Remembering Auschwitz

Our Opinion

While we know that some citizens will remember events and understand
the significance of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of
Auschwitz, observed, we point out, and not celebrated, this past
week, we are also certain that many of today’s generation may be
unaware of Auschwitz and what it means.

Some will not even be aware of the enormity of the horror of the
Holocaust. It was the industrialised murder of a people employing
many technicians of death at the instigation of a psychopath and his
circle-it was genocide, the product of totalitarianism, of some very
demented people, and widespread European anti-Semitism.

Auschwitz was a death camp in Poland, a place to which human beings
from different parts of Europe were transported in cattle cars and
systematically murdered in mass gassings of men, women, children,
infants and babies, simply for being Jewish.

The 20th century saw two major conflicts. The second, World War II,
killed about 50 million people, the majority being innocent
civilians. Warfare is as old as the first civilisations millennia ago
but genocide, as far as we can see, is a relatively recent
phenomenon. The dividing line between legitimate warfare in defence
of a people’s or a nation’s boundaries or space and the systematic
elimination of a people is vague. Peoples have always collectively
suffered at the hands of others, whether by conquest, enslavement,
occupation or in conventional or legitimate warfare, their suffering,
injury and deaths now euphemistically called collateral damage.

Genocide, however, is different. It is an attempt to destroy another
people. In the past century there were the noted examples of the
expulsion of the Herrero people into the deserts of Namibia and
similar treatment of the Armenians by the Turks. Citizens may recall
the massacres of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia and the slaughter in
Rwanda in Africa, as well as the victims of Shabra and Shatila,
Palestinian refugee camps, and Srebenica, a Bosnian UN declared safe
city, and the current conflict in Darfur, described by Colin Powell
as genocide. These killings were all directed at recognisable ethnic
groups.

The Holocaust however was different in more than one way. The sheer
numbers are probably beyond the comprehension of most readers. It
consumed six million souls. Its methodology singled it out. It
consisted of the systematic serial collection of Jewish nationals of
several European countries, their transportation to purpose-built
facilities designed to kill human beings en mass, after either
enslaving them in factories or simply stripping them of their pitiful
material possessions and even their hair, and removal of gold teeth
after gassing them.

At Auschwitz over 1.5 million, mainly Jews, were so murdered, with
the daily tally often rising to two or more thousands. What also
singles it out is that the mass murder was not civil or internecine
warfare within a state but rather the actions of a state beyond its
boundaries, a state born of elections. No one can deny that mass
murder on this scale had not been carried out by large numbers of
compliant individuals.

Citizens by now may not be aware of the one side effect of
anti-Semitism on our history. Several Jewish families from Germany
and Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia fled even to places such as
Trinidad with nothing more than their humanity, culture and what they
could carry and made new lives for themselves and families. One such
family name is Stecher, with which most are familiar. The Express
reminds its readers of Auschwitz and the tragedy of European Jewry
and joins with the rest of the world in observing the 60th
anniversary of the horror of genocide. A lesson for all.

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