I see her in the dining hall every day. She is bent nearly double with age and even though I have never spoken to her, I know she is a widow. Her husband passed on a few years ago and now she comes two or three times a week to eat lunch with the other seniors who are a part of our organization. She may be old but she is still graceful. However, sometimes, her fingers shake uncontrollably as she plucks out a carton of milk from the crate. But amazingly, she never drops it. She is strong– just like she was nearly 73 years ago when her cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents were murdered by the Nazis in cold blood.
I am political. It is how I have always been. But while any student of politics accepts that there is no such thing as an objective truth, there some elements of history that leave no room for debate. The Holocaust is one of those events. A genocide of such scale as the world had never seen before. A genocide that claimed the lives of millions of people– Gypsies, Communists, Trade Unionists, Intellectuals, Scientists, Philosophers, Gays, Lesbians, Disabled People, Small Children, Pregnant Women, Old people, People of Color– And Jews.
6 Million Jews.
Nearly 70% of the entire Jewish population of the world; murdered in the most mechanically, coldly, bureaucratically orchestrated genocide in human history.
When the war ended, the survivors and the international community said ‘Never Again.’ It became a rallying cry, a call to action, a plea to humankind– to be kinder, gentler, and better people.
But in the 73 years since the Holocaust, genocide has happened again and again and again.
Rwanda: 1994: 800,000- 1,000,000
Cambodia: 1979: 1,386,000- 3,000,000
Bangladesh: 1971: 1,000,000- 3,000,000
East Timor: 1975: 85,000- 197,000
Kurdistan (Iraq): 1989: 50,000- 200,000
Indonesia: 1965: 1,000,000- 3,000,000
Bosnia: 1991: 100,000
Darfur: 2003: 300,000
Have I numbed you yet? I hope not. These numbers don’t really numb me. They just almost numb me.
When I mistype a comma between the zeroes or if I put an extra zero in the end, I simply press backspace, correct the error, and move on to the next one. I don’t linger to read the implications of an extra zero. And when a number requires only one comma as opposed to two, a tiny part of me says, “oh, that was not that bad then…” And I feel ashamed of myself.
It is amazing and devastating that hundreds of thousands seem like rounding errors in the tragedies of millions.
Never Forget, this is still the same world that said “Never Again.”
Now is the time to raise your voice. Silence is a crime. Don’t be a criminal.