An End to the Killing
Standing at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum, my ears were ringing with the agonizing screams of six million specters pleading for my help. “What can I do now?” I wanted to shout back. I could not resurrect the over six million Jews, fifteen thousand homosexuals, five hundred thousand Romani Gypsies, and countless others who had perished as a result of intolerance and hatred. What was I suppose to do?
I ran into the closest building that looked quiet in an effort to silence those cries and the burning questions echoing in my mind, “What could I do, what should I do?” I found myself in a dark room, illuminated by one single candle, and yet hundreds of thousands of candles appeared before me. The screaming voices running through my head were slowly replaced with the calm, peaceful voices reciting the names of the Holocaust children. I could feel the presence of my own family reaching to me from across the decades and eternal space. The Nazi soldiers had put them to death, one by one, shooting them into their shallow graves in Ukraine. What could I do? With tears flowing down my cheek, I wanted to go about my life as if nothing had ever happened. I felt small and helpless and it was too hard for me to imagine the horror.
I am a Jew. I am proud of my heritage and my religious convictions. As a human being, I am first and foremost a Jew. I live my life by the Torah and proudly, without fear, wear a Kippah. In this country, I am first and foremost an American. I am judged by my actions, intellect and what I can contribute to society, not by my religious convictions. I was blessed when I was born in this “land of the free, and home of the brave”. Those wishing to escape religious persecution founded our country. Freedom became our right. My ancestors and the families of millions of other Europeans did not grow up with this privilege. During the most devastating war that mankind has ever known, children were not viewed as best in his kindergarten class at reading, or as captain of the gymnastics team at her middle school; they were summarized by one word: “Jew”, and rather than pride, they were frightened.
I will never forget those screams inside my head, and am baffled at the many who are able to drown out the voices from our past and continue ignoring unspeakable atrocities. Friends ask me, “What is the big deal? The Holocaust happened long ago, it will never happen again.” Long ago? These people are missing the point! In the course of my lifetime, yes, it was long ago. In the course of human kind, no, it is like yesterday. The evidence for how recent these atrocities were surrounds us. Asher Aud, an elderly Polish man in Jerusalem, tries to live his life normally while walking around with numbers tattooed to his arms. Residents at Seattle’s Kline Galland Nursing home have pictures of their dead spouses and missing children from the Holocaust. These are not fading scars; the Holocaust remains a gaping wound on the soul of humanity. A wound that will not heal, can not heal until genocide stops. Until we are certain that another life will never again be ended because of the color of a persons skin, the god they choose to worship or their family heritage, the holocaust is real, it is fresh and it is our lesson for changing the future.
The Holocaust will never happen again? Then who were the two million Cambodians, eight hundred thousand Rwandans, three hundred thousand Ugandans, two hundred thousand East Timorese, two hundred thousand Bosnians, and one hundred fifty thousand Kurds of Iraq killed in subsequent acts of genocide? The Holocaust will never happen again? The over four hundred thousand Darfurians killed and over three million displaced will tell you that the Holocaust is happening to them today. My father asked his parents why they had not worked exhaustingly to persuade the American government to help our family and many others in Europe before it was too late. My grandparents’ told my dad that at the time the media did not inform the American public of the acts of ethnic cleansing by the Nazi Regime. They did not know. But I do, and the answer to my question, “What can I do?” is becoming clearer. I can study the factors that allowed the Holocaust to happen, I can spread the news that those factors are still present. I can teach others about these atrocities and I will take a leadership role in that study and in that publicity.
In order to prevent genocide we must study it intensely. While it is illegal in many European countries to dispute the factuality of the Holocaust, the world turns a blind eye to the genocides that have occurred since the most dreadful era in the history of mankind. Most people do not know of the genocides of East Timor or Uganda because they are seldom discussed, taught or mentioned in the media. The same is true for the current crisis in Sudan. Four years ago, my friends and I had never heard of Darfur until we had a lecture from a religious school teacher about the genocide that was taking place. I was horrified and taught it to my parents and friends, as well as brought it up at my Amnesty International meetings and educate my friends.
I have the ability to make a difference in the world, whether by taking five minutes to write my congressman a letter asking him as a voter to bring attention to the House of Representatives that the people in his district want an immediate stop to the genocide, or by speaking out to my classmates at an assembly of what is occurring on the other side of the world and why we must stop it. As a student I have the power to make a difference, and as a citizen of the world I have the obligation to stop the killing of my fellow man. It is clear why we must continue to study an event that should have never happened; the Holocaust did not happen a long time ago and did not cease, it continues around the world today. I can imagine a day when studying the Holocaust that we can say that was a long time ago and it will never happen again! I can imagine that day, but that day is not today.
Ahumada, Ricky. “Uganda
and the Holocaust.” Published 22 March, 2007. Accessed 20 April, 2007.
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