One of the world leaders who thinks he is the best and the only one who can solve the problems in this world, President Donald Trump, was proud to have created a solution for the two states, Israel and Palestine, but also paid tribute to the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Trump touted the executive order he signed in December to address anti-Semitism on college campuses and strangely enough, him being an instigator of much hate crime, said:
“Anti-Semitism will never be tolerated, and this action bolsters my Administration’s efforts to create a culture of respect that deeply values the dignity in every human life.”
He expressed his hope that on the commemoration day of the liberation of the Polish concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, people would reflect and seek to ensure that we can stand united against intolerance and oppression of people of every race, religion, or ethnicity. Trump said
“And, in order to ensure that these horrific crimes against God and humanity never happen again, we must resolve to combat evil and oppressive regimes with democracy, justice, and the compassionate spirit that is found in the hearts of all Americans.”
Also the newly elected British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a statement on Jan. 27 commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day, with vows to combat rising anti-Semitism, making sure this would never happen again.
“Even though the Shoah was a crime so unprecedented it required the creation of a new word — genocide — simply to describe it, its perpetrators wished for it to be left unnoticed by the history books.”
From the moment the Germans started to see it could well be that they were going to lose the war, many tried to make sure that they would not land up in prison for certain crimes. As the Red Army’s 322nd rifle division closed in on Auschwitz, retreating Nazis destroyed the gas chambers and crematoria in a desperate attempt to cover up their crimes. We must not forget that there were really very nationalist Germans, who were totally convinced their Arian race was the best on the world and had to be united in one Great Third Reich. Many German soldiers did not mind doing what their leaders wanted them to do, even when this went in against any human decency. Looking at the possible defeat of the German army, despite their enthusiastic participation in the slaughter, they didn’t want the world to know what they had done.
Today all over the Western world we still find people who are convinced the Arian race is the better one. Many of them are also attempting to whitewash the Holocaust. The last decade we can see hatred against other human beings is growing again.
Johnson warned that it is imperative that such people do not succeed.
“Speak to anyone who survived the Holocaust and they will tell you that it did not begin with the gas chambers or the pogroms.
It began when anti-Semitic slogans were daubed on a Jewish shop window. When a Jewish child was abused on a bus. And when ordinary, law-abiding people chose to turn away and do nothing.”
In Belgium we may find mayors who want others to believe the carnival caricatures of Jews are innocent. But when we look at the figures with crooked noses and compare them with pictures which were made in the previous decades before the pogroms (Russian: “devastation,” or “riot”) and extermination camps, we get a more problematic view.
The persecution and killing of a particular group of people is nothing new from the previous century. Jews in the Russian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have been a favourite target.
Today they, with Muslims and refugees, again have to crawl through the eye of the needle and have to be strong enough to withstand the false accusations, harassments and hurtful jokes about them.
Sometimes governments found pogroms to be a good outlet for the people, because it distracted attention from the poor economic situation. An example of this is the pogroms that took place in Tsarist Russia in 1881-1884, 1893-1894 and 1904-1905, where several thousand Jews were killed in the process. Today we are again at such crossroad, were populist politicians want to bring people away from the more serious problems, or do not want them to see how they are manipulated by those in charge of the government, so that politicians can fill their pocket and can introduce unpopular measures, giving others the fault.
Those who taught mass killings and genocides would not be possible any more after World War II, should have a closer look at what happened in 1946 in Kielce city, capital of Świętokrzyskie województwo (province), and what happened after the proclamation of the state of Israel in 1948, when many pogroms took place in the Arab world. 80 Jews found their death in Aden (Pogrom of Aden), more than 70 in Cairo, 44 in Morocco and later in 1954 in Petitjean 12, 70 in Syria, an unknown number in Libya. This led to a wave of refugees from the Arab world to Israel.
From 1993–2017 the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had to look at the Bosnian genocide (refering to the killings committed by Serb forces in Srebrenica in 1995 and the ethnic cleansing that took place elsewhere during the 1992–1995 Bosnian War).
During April 1994 an orchestrated killing took place in Rwanda.
In 2004 the Sudanese populations was victim of brutal killings. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, former Minister of State for the Interior, Ahmad Harun, and Militia Janjaweed leader, Ali Kushayb, had to answer for combatting three tribal groups in Darfur because of their ethnicity, and were charged for crimes against humanity and war crimes. [note: The origin of the word Janjaweed is unclear. It has been translated into English as “devils on horseback” from the Arabic words جن jinn “jinn, demon” and أَجَاوِيد ʾajāwīd “horses”. Other sources suggest its origin comes from the Persian word جنگوی jangavi, meaning “warrior”, or a portmanteau of three words: جَن jan, after English “gun”; jinn; and ʾajāwīd. In any case they acted like real devils, taking children hostage to make child-soldiers and to rape and kill.]
As you can see, several peoples got to see the dark side of human beings.
It is up to those in charge of the world, to make sure that the different governments will lead the fight alongside pacific citizens, so that the darkest of nights is never again allowed to fall upon the Jews of the world, nor any other group of people.
We also should take care no government or army can hide their evil acts.
Before the Russian or American troupes could arrive, the Nazis force marched some 56,000 weakened prisoners out of the Auschwitz camp ahead of their advance, in the dead of winter, with an estimated 15,000 shot or dying of cold, hunger and illness along the way.
Similar marches were taking place all across the eastern front after the SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered that all able-bodied prisoners be taken to the Reich, to eliminate evidence of German crimes and witnesses who could testify to those crimes. He also hoped to use inmates as slave labour to keep the German war going. And rather irrationally, he believed that the prisoners could be used as bargaining chips in any peace negotiations.
Relegated to arduous work at a penal company in Budy, she was saved twice by the camp doctor, Janusz Mąkowski. On 18 January 1945 Posmysz (prisoner number 7566) was to the women’s internment camp Ravensbrück.
The largest single national group there consisted of 40,000 Polish women. Others included 26,000 Jewish women from various countries: 18,800 Russian, 8,000 French, and 1,000 Dutch. More than 80 percent were political prisoners.
By the end of World War II that German concentration camp exclusively for women housed, more than 36,000 females. Some inmates were used in medical experiments. About 50,000 women had died there from disease, starvation, overwork, and despair.
The 96-year-old survivor remembered the biting cold on the night the guards gathered thousands of women outside the gates of the death camp Birkenau.
“We didn’t know what it meant that we would leave the camp.”
Those gathered in a hurry were wondering what would come next.
“We didn’t know if we would have to undergo some sort of selection.
“We heard that those who could not walk would get to stay in the hospital, but we weren’t sure if they would be kept alive. We knew nothing and worried.”
But how could it be worse than the hell she had endured for three years? One memory came rushing back to her.
Ms. Posmysz was among those made to march. In her memory, after the first bitterly cold night, the days blend together, something Holocaust scholars say is common among those who survived.
Her next memory is arriving at the station in Wodzislaw Slaski for a train that would take her to another camp in Germany. She would be moved one more time before the end of the war, to the Neustadt-Glewe satellite camp, where she was liberated on 2 May 1945 by the US Army.
Maria Kopiasz, 93, still lives in the same house in the town of Brzeszcze that she did during the war, and the grim scene of the march has stayed with her.
“They marched in the middle of this road, SS men on both sides. Every third of them or so with a German shepherd.”
“I remember mainly women. We knew we couldn’t even show any sympathy as we would be taken with them. I could only watch quietly through the window.”
Jan Stolarz, a retired miner, has led a small group of people on a trek to retrace the path of one of the marches for nine years.
“I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau with my wife 10 years ago,”
“I saw a handwritten note left by someone in one of the barracks. It read:
We live as long as the memory of us is alive. This message resonated with me strongly.”
He hopes that in some small way, his walk will help do that.
It may have been 75 years ago, but for many survivors of the Holocaust who are still living todyay, the horror is every day with them. The memories of life and death in the Nazi extermination camp remain painfully fresh.
Since their liberation three quarters of a century ago, their skin has wrinkled with the march of time and the numbers tattooed on their left arms have faded — much in the same way that the collective memory of the Holocaust might become to blurr.
It was good that several television stations gave some time to have those survivors speak as the last witnesses to traumatic events that, now in the 21st century, are often called into question by anti-Semitic revisionists. Even so many years later, we could see how those memories still hurt them and get them to have tears rolling over their cheeks.
Others no longer have the strength to speak, some have had their memories ravaged by Alzheimer’s. Others are still consumed by the shame of being one of Adolf Hitler’s victims.
Some ex-prisoners of Auschwitz told how Belgian inmates were willing to teach French or to talk about the Creator and a better world awaiting for those who kept in line with His commandments. Having learned French and having heard so many beuatiful stories of Belgium after their liberation they went to live in Belgium, to be far away from the place of horror and bad memories. Though the nightmares kept bothering them, they reasonably found a good way of living in that tiny country, called Belgium. Several of them found a partner and started a family, hoping for a good life for their children. But it seemed not to last, when they started feeling friction and seeing how ‘black-‘ and ‘brown shirts’ started to come more in view again.
At the commemoration days some made it clear that after having lived in Belgium after the war, they got the feeling not to be safe any more in these regions.
For many years, Icek, number 117 568, kept his imprisonment at Auschwitz secret from his wife. After living together in Belgium for years, the couple now inhabits an apartment in Jerusalem where old family portraits hang in their living room. One shows his father with a full beard, wearing a round hat, while his mother’s hair is cropped short in the style popular in that era.
A month after his sisters disappeared, the Germans came for the rest of his family: his parents, two brothers and him.
“When he arrived at Auschwitz, on getting off the train, he held onto his father’s hand like a little boy,”
Sonia said of her husband’s deportation.
Icek wanted to stay by his father, but like with other children the parent probably also knew it was better to go to stand by the other children. The same way we heard about a girl who did not want to depart from her father, but he insisted to go to join her elder brothers.
Icek, like so many other children, got separated from his father by a Nazi. The child kept crying but they German soldier had no ear and no compassion for him. With a fierce voice the German said:
‘no, you (go) over there’.”
That was the last time Icek saw his father, who was sent to the gas chambers. Both his parents died, although his brothers, like him, managed to survive.
Menahem Haberman, 92, with the Auschwitz prison number A10011, came to know that all his family were ashes in the canal he had to run to each side and pour ashes into the water four hours after their arrival.
His bitter encounter with death at the camp was to drive his overwhelming determination to survive.
“I told myself, I don’t want to die here, I don’t want my ashes to sink and flow in this canal towards the river,”
“There was a guy there who said in Yiddish:
‘Those who don’t have the strength to work, will end up in the chimney.’
“I kept that phrase in mind and repeated:
I do not want to die here.”
The experiences of the last remaining survivors, who were children when they were sent to the death camps, remain seared into their minds.
“Every day I think about it, especially at night.”
Haberman tells with shaking hands and moist eyes. He continues, as if he, in a way, feels guilty that he survived and others who looked stronger did not.
“It’s deeply ingrained in me. Seventy-five years later, we still live with that, we don’t forget… we cannot forget.”
“We are survivors, we are not escapees. The camps are imprinted in our skin.”
“I really knew people who were better men than me. Why did they die and why am I still alive?”
is not only a saying of Menahem Haberman. It could fit also others who survived the most horrific and inhumane horror of the 20th century.
From the witnessing we could see the last days we saw that while age has muddled some of the ex-prisoners their memories and their speech has become somewhat confused or difficult, the traumas of Auschwitz for all of them remain vivid.
Soon nobody would be left over to tell about what really happened in those camps. They may then disapear in oblivion or the ‘forget well’.
We ourselves, having heard the many stories directly from our family members and friends, which had felt the terror of the Germans or had become victim of collaborators, are also geting older and have even seen younger ones leaving this earth for what it is.
Before death catches us, we have to make sure that the next generation shall be ready to take over the torch and shall be strong enough to make sure that the horror of the 20th century shall not repeat again.
It would be foolish to think such things can not happen any more. When I look what is happening now, I am afraid to see similar things as what happened in the 1930ies. Today we do not hear the marching boots which are still imprinted in our head (from the time when we were ‘innocent children’). We have seen what a guilty community can do to other human beings. Now we should be attentive not to be guilty by being or staying silent, like so many have done before us.
The heart-wrenching testimonies from survivors, many now living in Israel for only a few more years, should be a voice to resound for ever.
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