Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday 27 January 2005

Never again! (vain hope?)

Today is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet army. It is estimated that about 1,100,000 people were murdered there by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Of these, about one million were Jewish, with Gypsies, Communists, homosexuals and sundry other groups of 'undesirables' comprising the remainder.

"First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist,
so I said nothing.
Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat,
so I did nothing.
Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist.
And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew,
so I did little.
Then when they came for me,
there was no one left to stand up for me."

Pastor Martin Niemoller

- you can read more about Pastor Niemoller here, how he voiced his opposition to the Nazi policies promulgated by Adolf Hitler's regime, how he ended up in various concentration camps before being freed by the allies in 1945. The article also contains some very interesting observations about the way the wording of his poem has been distorted (and indeed, manipulated) to suit the purposes of various individuals and groups in the years since the end of the Second World War upto very recent times.

It would be comforting to think that a horror such as the Holocaust could never happen again. Unfortunately several similar events have taken place in much more recent times, not to mention the tens of millions who perished in the USSR under Stalin. A few that spring readily to mind include Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Sudan (happening right now!) - so it is salutary, and necessary, to be reminded. Having a Holocaust Memorial Day will probably not prevent such things from happening again, but if it causes one less such occurrence than might otherwise have occurred, then it is a very small price to pay, even if some people risk being bored by such 'charades'.

Roughly 11 million people were killed in the Holocaust. Six million Jews and five million non-Jews (Slavs, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Political Enemies, Jehova's Witnesses, sympathetic citizens, etc). This figure includes the camps as well as the mass graves in the countryside, killings on the street, organized shootings (such as Babi Yar when 100,000 were killed at Kiev in September 1942 by the Nazis, etc.) and basically, any person singled out for their religion, political beliefs, or their sexual persuasion.

In some of the other atrocities I mention, the following estimates of fatalities are:
- During the 4 years (1975-9) of the Khmer Rouge between 2-3 million people were killed or forced out of the country. This was about 1/3 of the population;
- Rwanda - 500,000 to 800,000 killed in the four months April-July 1994;
- Bosnia - the UN estimates roughly 8,000 were liquidated; this is disputed by the then Serbian authorities;
- Sudan. This is still continuing, so the numbers are not clear, but estimates vary from 50,000 to 250,000.

This is why I included 'vain hope?' as part of the title of this article.

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