Friday, January 28, 2005

Auschwitz remembrance continued

Some more notables from this week.

First, the UN held a special session of the General Assembly on Monday commemorating the Holocaust victims. None of the Arab League nations attended.

Elie Wiesel, Auschwitz survivor (in addition to Buna, Buchenwald and Gleiwitz -- the Nazis often moved prisoners) and author of the Holocaust memoir Night delivered this speech to the UN. Here are two excerpts:
. . . those who committed these crimes were not vulgar underworld thugs but men with high government, academic, industrial, and medical positions in Germany. In recent years, that nation has become a true democracy. But the question remains open: In those dark years, what motivated so many brilliant and committed public servants to invent such horrors? By its scope and magnitude, by its sheer weight of numbers, by the impact of so much humiliation and pain, in spite of being the most documented tragedy in the annals of history, Auschwitz still defies language and understanding.

Let me evoke those times:

Babies used as target practice by SS men...Adolescents condemned never to grow old...Parents watching their children thrown into burning pits ...Immense solitude engulfing an entire people...Infinite despair haunting our days and our dreams even 60 years later...

* * *

Turning point or watershed, that tremendous catastrophe which has traumatized history has forever changed man's perception of responsibility toward other human beings. The sad, terrible fact is that had the Western nations intervened when Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia and Austria; had America accepted more refugees from Europe; had Britain allowed more Jews to return to their ancestral land; had the Allies bombed the railways leading to Birkenau, our tragedy might have been avoided, its scope surely diminished.

This shameful indifference we must remember, just as we must remember to thank the few heroic individuals who, like Raoul Wallenberg, risked their lives to save Jews. We shall also always remember the armies that liberated Europe and the soldiers who liberated the death-camps, the Americans in Buchenwald, the Russians in Auschwitz and the British in Belsen. But for many victims they all came too late. That we must also remember.

And for uplift, there is this short biography of St. Maximilian, a priest who sacrificed his life for another prisoner, who had a wife and family, at Auschwitz in 1941. The saint has his followers, most notably one of our heroes in Iraq.

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