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By Kimberly Howard
Milaukee, WI


 

Adolf Hitler once said, "Struggle is the father of all things. It is not by the principles of humanity that man lives or is able to preserve himself above the animal world, but solely by means of the most brutal struggle. If you do not fight, life will never be won"(Russo n. pag.).

The haunting words of the late German dictator who dedicated his existence to hate and destruction are hopelessly involved with a sordid irony that manifested itself in the atrocities of the Holocaust. While Hitler anticipated success for those that use violence to pursue an existence superior to that of animals, such tactics corrupt the sanctity of the human experience, and thus reveal the ultimate failure of human life.

Although life is a struggle from which no human being is exempt, the murder and torture of innocent individuals are means that can never be justified as appropriate solutions for internal conflict or desperation. Ironically, brutality exposes the most profound difference between humanity and the animal kingdom, as the nature of conscience allows human beings to gage the morality of their actions. Adolf Hitler inspired, "the murder of six million Jews" (Gilbert 62), which he deemed "The Final Solution" (Gilbert 62). In remembering the Holocaust, as not only an unwarranted assault against the Jewish community, but as the most severe crime against humanity in documented history, three participants must be identified: the victims, the perpetrators, and the bystanders.
Richard von Weizsaecker reflected on the Holocaust, stating, "There were ways of not burdening one's conscience, of shunning responsibility, looking away, keeping mum. When the unspeakable truth of the Holocaust then became known at the end of the war, all too many of us claimed that they had not known anything about it or even suspected anything"(Lessons Learned from the Holocaust n.pag.).

Only recently, twenty-four students and two teachers from Divine Savior Holy Angels High School located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, stood in the house of Peru's prime minister, Pedro Paulo Kuczynski. The enlightening trip ended with a small brunch with the prime minister's wife, Nancy, which was intended to inform the students on the state of politics in Peru.

The current presidential race in Peru was exasperating tensions between the upper and lower class, and natives and non-natives. The three candidates, Ollanta Humala Tasso, a radical ex-general whose actions have shown a tendency toward dictatorship, Alan Garcia a former president and fugitive, and Lourdes Flores Nano, a female lawyer, have been the source of much controversy in the media. Tasso, who would if elected become the second president of Incan decent, threatened to kill Prune Minister Keczynski, sever ties with the United States, and expel all foreigners from Peru upon appointment. As young American women who had just spent a week being welcomed and pampered by Peruvian families, it was difficult to understand why this candidate was winning so many votes.

Then it came, the truth, as liberating as it was clear as it pierced the silence of the humid midnight air when Nancy said, "There is a great sense of distrust amongst Peruvians when it comes to Americans. The war in Iraq, the embargo against Cuba, and the thousands of indigenous peoples being killed in third world countries like Peru and Guatemala by troops trained in the U.S. has severely damaged the American image in this country."

Graduates from the School of the Americas located at the army base in Fort Benning have been behind many atrocities taking place in Latin America. In Guatemala alone, "tens-of-thousands have been slaughtered, with the total killed estimated to exceed 200,000" (Third World Traveler).
In our failure to recognize our government's motives in training Latin American soldiers at the academy formerly known as School of the Americas, but often called "School for Dictators, Nursery of Death Squads, and School of Assassins" (Third World Traveler n.pag.), we are also guilty of ignoring grim reality for thousands of victims at the hands of tyrants trained in our own country.

Before we could accept the truth of our status as despised American tourist whose nation-state contributed to the military violence committed in Latin America we were informed of an even more unsettling fact that Tasso has also discussed allying with terrorist groups in the Middle East in an effort to form a united front against the U.S.

For some reason, in the paradise we call America, the role we play in the suffering of foreigners had never occurred to us. Could it be that we had dictated a quality of life that was filled with the sorrows of poverty for millions of people around the world? Had our wealth demanded their poverty, and our sweatshops been a source of exploitation and virtually free labor? Or had our desire for cheap goods exhausted their bodies to the point of ailment?

The late Martin Luther King Jr. once stated that, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The injustices that occurred during the Holocaust are beyond words, but best put by Winston Churchill, "None has suffered more cruelly than the Jew the unspeakable evils wrought on the bodies and spirits of men by Hitler and his vile regime" (Gilbert 62). The gas chambers and death camps of the Holocaust left all too many relatives with one horrifying statement mirroring that of holocaust survivor Jack Brauns when recalling his family's life in a Kovno Ghetto, "I never saw them alive again" (Gilbert 97). The suffering of the Jewish people was not only indicative of the corruption of Nazi Germany, but of the negligence of countries that did not act soon enough, or even at all, in their defense.

Edmund Burke proposes "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" (Russo n.pag.). Intolerance for acts that are egregiously destructive to any human population is imperative for the future of the world community. The history of the Holocaust must be taught to each generation as a perversion of politics that resulted in years of severe negligence in which men, women, and children suffered the unprecedented consequences of Nazism. We must petition our governments to offer asylum to the victims of war crimes, and demand justice by supporting the international criminal court. As a global citizen each person must exhibit compassion and empathy while staying forever fixated on the ideal of the world as a community absent of poverty, genocide, and the moral corruption that allows these conditions to exist. However, the most effective form of combating prejudice, discrimination, and violence is evaluating one's own contribution to injustice in what one does even or even in what one fails to do. For as Rudi Raab says the most dangerous act is to forget, "for if we do we forget that the perpetrator can be in all of us"(Lessons Learned from the Holocaust).

 

Works Cited

Gilbert Martin. Never Again A History of the Holocaust. New York: Universe
Publishing, 2000
"Lessons Learned from the Holocaust." Quotes from the Holocaust. 2002. 04/20/06
<http://library.thinkquest.org/CR0210130/quotes.htm>.
Russo, Roy. "WorldofQuotes.com Historic Quotes and Proverbs Archive."
11 Jan 2006. 04/02/06 <http;//www.worldofquotes.coml>.
"Third World Traveler." School of the Americas. 04/20/06
<http://www.thirdworldtraveler.corn/Terrorisro/SOA.html>.

 

 


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