“We must do something to
-Martin S. (Witness)
Mine is not a story of great evil. I did not endure long blistering days
of endless labor, I did not eat cold, moldy gruel spiced with wood chips
and glass. I have never stood naked beneath a great shower head and
prayed that the rumors were not true, and I have never had to watch
countless loved ones die right before me.
I hope I never do.
Mine is a story of great discontent. I did endure my mother’s endless
invectives and lamentations, her blame of my twin brother and me for the
loneliness of her life as a single mother. I have gone days without
eating, unfed because I refused to hear the whispers of her
hallucinations. I have stood naked before her stream of abuse and hate
and prayed that she would go to sleep and leave us alone. I wept in
relief when she barred the door and told me I could never come back.
Before her her voices took her, my mother told us stories of our
history. Our family is Polish, and the Holocaust has been a constant
shadowy presence in our lives. Moments throughout my childhood were
spent with me agog in horror, asking my mother how any human being could
be so evil to another, grasping at straws that might give me a fragment
of an answer. She quietly reassured me, and I happily lived in my belief
that the Holocaust was over, and that it was a single and unique time of
great evil, and it would never happen again.
Fortunately, I had teachers who were not content allowing their students
to sit by and believe the world was perfect. They demanded that we pay
attention to current events, and by the end of seventh grade I knew the
Holocaust was not a horrifying stand-alone act, but one of the many
instances of great evil that man has committed against his fellow men.
Less than three decades before the Holocaust, the Turkish Government
slaughtered two million Armenians based on race, just as the Nazis
murdered the Jews. Following in their footsteps are the Cambodian
Genocide and the Bosnian Genocide. Two million were killed in Cambodia
as casualties of a “combined extremist ideology with ethnic animosity
and a diabolical disregard for human life to produce repression, misery,
and murder on a massive scale” -(CGP), and two hundred thousand were
killed in Bosnia by the Serbs because of their Muslim religion.
Today, over five million people have been murdered in Darfur, and the
mortality rate rises each day; yet another act of genocide, taking place
“People don’t give a damn. And I can tell you, maybe I understand it,
because when things are happening in the world, I don’t take- I don’t
feel their pain.”
-Martin S. (Witness)
The fact that the killing in Darfur has reached the point where it can
be classified as genocide and yet those who hold the power have not
taken action to stop it is both astounding and frightening. Instead of
promptly crushing the forces corrupt enough to kill so many people for
something so brutally insignificant as race, we’ve waited for “someone
else” to take action, and so far, no one has. There is no one else.
The world cannot continue to stand by in indifference. We, as individual
human beings, cannot continue to wait for “someone else” to do what must
We need to take action. Every person’s awareness is crucial. If one race
gets abolished, another race will follow, then another, until finally
there will be no one left, every individual having killed each other
over meaningless differences.
Through the education of history and cultural values, we have the
ability to eliminate fear and distrust. Through the voices of the
silenced, we have the responsibility to speak out wherever we witness
injustice and abuse. It can be as simple as teaching your friends about
your heritage, and as complicated as confronting a friend when he seems
prejudiced or insulting. It can be as simple as volunteering in the
local homeless shelter, or as complicated as submersing yourself in the
life and customs of a different culture, then traveling and presenting
your findings through lectures and seminars. My personal dream is to
photograph, visually showing the world the outstanding beliefs and
rituals of the diverse peoples that inhabit our planet.
“The world has to know that one small spark of hate can kindle an
overwhelming conflagration that soon gets out of control” -Lucie
Adelsberger (A Doctors Story)
Each person who speaks out against injustice, be it large or small,
creates a spark. “One small spark” of goodwill, that can kindle a
conflagration of understanding and benevolence, resulting in one less
mass grave, one less work camp, one less abused child. In my life, the
spark was the kind words of a friend and the offer of a safe home.
Through this life change I have gained the strength to end my own cycle
This is our Earth. We’ve inherited it from the victims, the abusers, the
innocents, the killers, and the bystanders. It is up to us to ensure
that our Earth remain as diverse and beautiful as it can be, and to
protect every single person, regardless of gender, race, religious
affiliation or sexual orientation.
“The legacy of the dead rests in our hands; it is incumbent
upon us to tell their story”
-Lucie Adelsberger (A Doctors Story)
Our time left with the survivors of the Holocaust is limited. We need to
take action, learn their stories, their ideals, and take to heart the
courage of one extraordinary race of people. Their survival fuels us,
shows us it is possible to endure the unendurable, and gives us the key
to preserving our own humanity.
1. Armenian Genocide: http://www.genocide1915.info/
2. Bosnia: http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/Genocide/bosnia_genocide.htm
3. Cambodia Genocide Program: http://www.yale.edu/cgp/
4. Darfur: http://www.ushmm.org/conscience/alert/darfur
5. Book: Auschwitz: A Doctors Story, Lucie Adelsberger, Northeastern
Publishing, September 28, 1995
6. Book: Witness: Voices from the Holocaust, Joshua M. Greene, Shiva
Kumar, Free Press Publishing, April 3, 2001