вторник, 27 января 2009 г.
The point of view:The many faces of the Holocaust
The many faces of the Holocaust
The mass extermination of Jews by Nazi Germany is one of the cornerstones of the current world order. This ugly page of history is read with grief, penance and speculation.
Jews were not the first people in history who faced persecution and death solely for their ethnicity. There was the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. The ill fate of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Australia or Africa, who were decimated by European colonists, was no less grave in terms of loss of life and suffering either.
Neither were Jews the only group whom Nazi deemed unworthy to live. Roma people, Slavs, and even fellow Germans who were unlucky to have mental illness or be homosexual suffered from the regime obsessed with racial purity. And while Nazi war crimes were grave and many, the attention paid to them largely surpasses that to the atrocities of, say, Japan in the Asian countries that they conquered during World War II.
Still many scholars consider the Holocaust as a unique tragedy of the Jewish people, the Disaster.
It’s true that Nazi leadership treated Jews with special hatred and wanted them wiped out from the world. And they did much to reach their evil goal, slaughtering Jews in pogroms, summary executions and death marches, starving them and in ghettos, creating a whole industry that existed only to kill people. An estimated six million Jews fell victim to the Holocaust, with up to 90% of the population wiped out in some countries like Germany itself, Poland or the Baltic states.
What makes the persecution special is the involvement of the winners in the war in these atrocities. In many countries occupied by Germany there was widespread anti-Semitism and too many people became willing accomplices to the Nazi. For instance the Auschwitz death camp was run by German officers, but many of the guards were Ukrainians. Collaborators assisted in hunting down Jews in occupied territories. While many of those involved in the crimes were prosecuted after the war, the scale of involvement was too large to simply dismiss it.
Many more people didn’t take active part in the Holocaust, but had good reasons to feel guilty for taking conformist stance and turning a blind eye on the crimes. When the true scale of the tragedy meticulously documented by Germans was revealed, it couldn’t help but leave a mental scar on millions of Europeans who lived under Nazi rule. Moreover, unlike the East, Western Europe didn’t witness many of the horrors of the war and was not prepared for this injection of the ugly reality.
The sense of guilt was one of the reasons why for so many nations the Holocaust became not just a war crime, but the war crime: the ultimate evil that history has ever borne witness to. The support that the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine had from Europe, despite the resistance from the Arab world, can be seen as an act of penance. Denying the Holocaust is a crime in Israel and in 12 European countries, including Germany, Austria, Romania and Poland – countries that were among the perpetrators. It’s no wonder that some people see it all as a Zionist conspiracy and claim the Holocaust is a hoax.
Perhaps in several generations the acute memory of the Holocaust will weather. Even now some politicians challenge Jews’ monopoly for the term while pursuing their agendas, like Hamas political leader in Damascus Khaled Mashal, who labelled Israel’s resent offensive in Gaza Strip a holocaust of Palestinians, or President Yushchenko who referred to the Holodomor – the mass famine in the 1930s that he claims was orchestrated by Stalin – as Ukraine’s Holocaust.
On January 27 the world remembers the victims of the Holocaust. On this day in 1945, Soviet troops liberated the remaining 7,500 prisoners of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The retreating SS troops were ordered to execute the prisoners, but it was never carried out.
Alexandre Antonov, RT