On March 8, 1944 the world
of young Etunia Bauer was shattered. On that cold winter morning, the
Banderowcy, a band of Ukranian patriots, discovered her family’s hiding
place in their efforts to eradicate Jews from their midst. The family
was familiar with the fear of discovery as they survived in the shadows
of the Polish countryside during the long years of the Holocaust. Weeks
earlier, fearing imminent discovery by the Gestapo, Etunia reflected
“How can I describe our last embraces, our convulsive grasping, our
cleaving to one another--our tears, tears, waves of tears...With
precious moments to live, there was a rush to express love, to say a
forgotten something, to live a lifetime in minutes. Grief, love, agony,
anger: all poured out in bitter despair, and those memories remain
etched indelibly in my heart.” (Bauer Katz 82) On this particular
morning, clinging to the elusiveness of life, the Bauer family fled
their shelter, running into an open field. Etunia’s beloved father,
sister and brothers were all murdered. Etunia’s cries of despair on that
fateful day must resonate within each of us in order to prevent similar
atrocities from occurring.
On July 12, 2004 in the village of Donki Dereisa South Darfur, Sudan,
Fatima Ibrahim awoke to the sounds of terror as the Janjaweed descended
upon her village wreaking death and destruction to the peaceful village
and its inhabitants. Hiding in a nearby ravine with her young daughter,
Fatima heard the desperate pleas and cries of the innocent villagers
which were forever silenced by the unbridled hatred of the Sudanese
soldiers. Fatima bore witness to the brutal murders of her brothers as
well as the soldiers’ tossing screaming young children into the burning
fires they had set. (Wolf)
Although the brutality and murder witnessed by Etunia Baeur and Fatima
Ibrahim occurred forty years apart, the cries of the innocent transcend
time and space. The painful, sorrowful cries emanating from the
concentration camps are the same sounds as those rising from the
scorched Sudanese villages. We must not turn a deaf ear to the cries of
the Bauer family, the pain of Fatima Ibrahim, the screams of the burning
children and all the people of Buczacz, Poland and Donki Dereisa who can
no longer speak for themselves. These cries must pierce our veil of
The people and voices of the Holocaust are remembered when we utter the
words “Never Again.” These two words represent a commitment to
preventing future atrocities from occurring. While we spoke these words,
however, the twentieth century has been plagued by acts of inhumanity,
human rights violations and genocide. The world did not hear the cries
nor see the blood spilled by the Khmer Rouge on the “killing fields” of
Cambodia resulting in two million deaths between 1975 and 1979. The
world did not listen and turned away in 1994 as 800,000 Tutsis were
brutally murdered by Hutu militia in Rwanda. As Samantha Power, Director
of the Human Rights Initative at the Kennedy School of Government,
observed, “Never Again” has come to mean “Again and Again.” (Power)
“Never Again” is more than a phrase, however–it is a covenant we made
with those who perished at the hands of the Nazi’s, and it must be
upheld. I will not sit idly by and ignore the cries of the victims of
genocide throughout the world. I am part of a generation that is
uniquely qualified to absorb the lessons of the Holocaust and take an
activist approach to global issues. Growing up with an awareness of
terrorism, my generation understands our global connectedness and that
we are citizens of the world. Through the internet, we can convey
information to one another with a degree of speed and exposure that was
previously impossible. We have the consciousness and commitment to heal
the ills of the world.
My generation bears a particular responsibility for educating ourselves
and others about the Holocaust. This generation will be the last to have
contact with the survivors themselves and, as such, we must listen to
their stories and cling to their memories, etching them in our hearts
and minds. With this awareness, I participated in an “Adopt-a-Survivor”
program in which I had the opportunity to develop a relationship with a
Holocaust survivor. The wisdom and lessons Etunia Bauer imparted to me
extended far beyond her words. She maintained a faith in humanity and
was committed to a lifetime of Holocaust education. I was changed by my
relationship with Etunia Bauer and promised to keep the memory of her
family and millions of others who perished in the Holocaust, alive.
There are many steps that may be taken on the road toward addressing
human rights violations and genocide throughout the world. The first
step along the path is for each person to listen to their inner voice
and follow their own moral compass in tackling the issues of the day.
Whether it be globally or locally, individually or collectively, our
commitment must follow our conscience. We each will be held accountable
for our behavior as we heard the desperate cries of the people of
Darfur. Understanding the lessons of the Holocaust is a moral imperative
if we are to create communities, cities and countries which repress
hatred, discrimination and terror and foster tolerance and human rights.
The next step is to act in ways that promote tolerance. Our actions, or
inaction, today will impact the world tomorrow and for future
generations. Each act we participate in leads to another; each step we
take brings us farther along the road toward protecting human rights. My
participation in a Holocaust survivor program led me to develop a
program bringing survivors and students together through lectures and
educational activities. For me, stepping forward has meant finding ways
to bring the issue of genocide to the forefront of students’
consciousness. Toward this end, I have sought to have a class examining
genocide incorporated into my high school curriculum. While interning at
a state Senator’s office, I have also helped people take steps to affect
change in different ways. Whether joining a mass rally or participating
in a letter writing campaign, we each can “repair the world” in a way
that is reflective of who we are.
There is a long road ahead in addressing human rights violations.
However, it is the lessons of the Holocaust that will provide us with
the skills to navigate a course toward peace and tolerance. As survivor
and author Eli Wiesel poignantly observed. “What all these victims need
above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting
them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours....”
We must listen to the voices of Etunia Baeur and others rising from the
depths of the Holocaust. We must listen to Fatima Ibrahim and the people
of Darfur. We must listen so that our hearts are stirred to action.
Then, we must raise our own voices on behalf of those who are unable to
do so and ensure that these cries are never heard again.
Bauer Katz, Etunia. Our
Tomorrows Never Came. New York: Fordham University Press, 2000.
Bauer Katz, Etunia. Personal Interview. 6 December 2006.
Power, Samantha. “Never Again The World’s Most Unfulfilled Promise.”
Frontline. 21 February 2008.
Wolf, Daniel. “Death and Deception in Darfur.” 31 July 2004.
Washingtonpost.com.6 March 2008.
Wiesel, Eli. “Nobel Prize Speech.” 10 December 1986. The Elie Wiesel
Foundation for Humanity. 12 February 2008.