It is only natural that latter-day supporters of the Hitler regime and enemies of democracy should deny the Holocaust. What is extremely dangerous is the fact that those who support world terrorism, including even a president of a member state of the UN, in effect threaten another genocide of the Jews. You may say that it is just talk; but from past experience we should have learnt that when people say they want to commit mass murder, they really mean it.
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The Holocaust was unprecedented, and we had hoped that it would become a warning, not a precedent. But we have been proven wrong. It has become a precedent, and other genocides have followed it. What does this mean for humanity, what does it mean for the United Nations? Is there any possibility that we may succeed when we try to prevent genocides, using our understanding of the paradigmatic genocide of the Jews, and the comparison with other genocides that must follow from that?
Is the propensity to murder and murder massively something that we all somehow have within us?
Beyond Remembrance » UJA-Federation of New York
I do think that humans have in them the instinct to kill, whether individuals or groups, and we are the only mammals that kill our own kind in huge numbers. This may well be the result of the development of our species, when we defend ourselves, our families, clans, tribes, nations, and territory from real or imagined enemies by eliminating them. If we did not have that instinct within us, how then can we explain the fact that practically all societies have laws against murder?
If we were not inclined to murder, these laws would be totally superfluous. Given different upbringings and socialization processes, and a different history of our communities, we all could become mass murderers.
But if that is so, is there any realistic way of preventing outbreaks of genocidal murders? The Holocaust is one of the genocides that provide an answer to this question: They were only a small proportion of the European populations that did not help their fellow citizens, but they show that there is an alternative, that there is in us also the possibility of coming to the rescue of other humans at the risk of our own lives.
The basic reason why you and I are here today is that we want to do everything we can to move people from nearer the murderous extreme within us to nearer the other one; because the Righteous of the Holocaust are most certainly replicated in other genocides. Let me give you an example: They immediately enslaved the Jews, and set up a barbed-wire enclosure in the village square for the masses of Soviet prisoners of war whom they took in the first weeks of their invasion of the USSR. Thousands were brought in every day, tattered, desperately hungry and thirsty, wounded and sick, and next morning they were marched away towards the west.
The Jewish slave workers had to bring in some barrels of bread and water for the prisoners. There was no ghetto in Kurenets, and in the evening the workers could go home. Gurevich took Danilochkin with him to his parents, who nursed him back to health.
Danilochkin became the organizer of the first partisan group in Belarus, and he did not forget the Jews who had rescued him. The group of eight became the first Jews to join his unit. The young and strong became members of the partisan units; others were smuggled into unoccupied Soviet territory. What have I told you here? I have just told you that during the Holocaust Jews rescued a non-Jew whom they did not know, at the risk of their lives, and then the non-Jew and his comrades rescued Jews most of whom they did not know, at the risk of their lives.
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Certainly, the Holocaust shows the depth of human depravity; but on its margins, there are the peaks of human self-sacrifice for others. It is that that shows us that there is an alternative, that the attempts made at prevention of genocides, as for instance by the office of the Special Adviser for genocide prevention of the Secretary-General, and by various NGOs and governments, are not a hopeless task.
But the failure, so far, of the international community to deal with the ongoing genocide in Darfur shows how tremendously difficult it is. Nazi Germany could easily have been prevented from expanding, starting a war, and committing genocide — not because of the beautiful eyes of the Jews, but in the interests of the great powers, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the US.
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They did not do so, and they paid, not only with the industrial murder of close to six million Jews, but with the deaths of tens of millions of their own citizens, and the destruction of Europe. If today they do not stop the genocide in Darfur, it will spread, there will be more genocidal massacres, and the price for the world will be heavy indeed.
Economic interests are one of the prime factors in preventing prevention; but people should realize that it is much cheaper to prevent a genocide than to pay for the reconstruction later on. The fact that in many, if not most genocidal events the leaders of the murderers escape scot-free is yet another scandal that the international community is called upon to rectify. Impunity encourages more genocidal massacres. After the Holocaust, some of the top leaders of the Nazi regime were brought to trial, and a number of others were sentenced in the sixties of the previous century, mainly in Germany.
But thousands of mid-level criminals were either not brought before a judge, or escaped by various stratagems.
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An effective international consensus should be sought to make all potential mass murderers realize that there is a heavy price to pay for disregarding basic moral principles. We are all one human race, interconnected and interdependent. Politics that are not based on moral considerations are, at the end of the day, not practical politics at all.
It is out of these considerations that I beg you to permit me to repeat here what I said, exactly eight years ago, in a speech to the German Bundestag: I come from a people that gave the ten commandments to the world. Let us agree that we need three more, and they are these: Caring for People in Need. My Account Log Out.
Please check your email to reset your password. Posted April 21st After all, they are. UJA-Federation is a c3 nonprofit organization. When you hear or read a story you somehow become part of the story. You place yourself in the shoes, the mind, the heart, of the person in the story.
The stories build a critical bridge of empathy and an experiential bridge between and across generations. This bridge is at the heart of how telling the story, listening to a witness, becomes a reciprocal act, how listening not only makes you a witness yourself, but is a call to action…. In fact, there is always a moment in each of the diverse stories when the survivor recounts that someone did something that helped them at a critical moment. This moment when someone made a choice to act is invariably the moment that readers and listeners are most drawn to, that they most remember.