[People] The Holocaust and Freedom from Racism -by Fr. Shay Cullen
The Holocaust and Freedom from Racism
29 January 2021
Every year on 27 January, the most horrific crimes of genocide and mass murder on an industrial scale by the criminal Nazi regime in Germany are remembered. As Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, “They who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” These crimes must never be allowed to be repeated although they have been. In a premeditated planned genocide, six million Jews and other minorities and political prisoners were exterminated by individual and mass shootings. Hundreds of thousands were worked to death, killed by starvation, and millions more gassed to death and burnt in the ovens of the infamous concentration and extermination camps that the Nazis built around Europe. This happened during their vicious and brutal conquest of Europe from 1939 to 1945.
I have been to visit the extermination camp at Buchenwald, near the City of Weimar. It was a terrible place of isolation, cruelty and mass murder. In the countryside, it was bitterly cold and forbidding. I saw a massive prison camp surrounded by an electrified fence. There was no escape for the hundreds of thousands of political prisoners, prisoners of war, Jewish people, Roma people, mixed race people and Afro-Germans. Anyone who disagreed with the Nazi regime was sent to the death camps where the SS death squads executed them.
I walked around the camp. The wooden huts where the prisoners slept were demolished. In a concrete building in the corner of the camp with a tall chimney, I saw the “murder room.” One by one, prisoners stood against the wall to have their height measured and they were shot dead through a hole in the wall. In the basement, there is a room with hooks fixed in the cement ceiling. The innocent prisoners with hands and legs tied and a wire around their necks were hung to slowly die by strangulation. Then, their bodies were placed in a large metal bin that was elevated to the extermination room where six large ovens were continually incinerating the bodies like rubbish. Outside, a greatly enlarged photograph showed a large pile of emaciated bodies of those who died of cruel starvation or firing squad waiting to be delivered to the ovens. Prisoners were forced to do the dirty work.
Memorials of these crimes are held every year by a repentant German people and a new generation all over Germany. Many monuments honouring and remembering the victims have been built so that every German and people everywhere will mourn, be informed, be aware and strengthened in their resolve that such crimes and neo-Nazi hateful ideology and racism in any form are resisted, opposed and countered by peace initiatives. There have been genocides since. In Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, Sudan, Iraq, Cambodia, Myanmar, the list goes on and on. The Jewish people were the main target of hatred and racism by the Nazis. The Nazis arrested and deported everyone to the death camps, to be systematically beaten and gassed to death, six million in all, one million were children
People everywhere have to take a stand against such arbitrary killings and atrocities and never standby in silence and allow it to happen without protest. Such silence is to approve and give consent by inaction and be an accomplice to the crime. To stand against such killings, people need a conscience formed by the Gospel values of human rights and dignity to repudiate and condemn such murders, war crimes and genocide. Here, we condemn as evil and wrong all such killings.
The Nazi regime was built on a political party of national socialism that was racist and politically extreme right wing. They believed themselves to be the white supremacists destined to conquer and rule by violence, if necessary. Adolf Hitler, an Austrian migrant, got German citizenship by astute political manipulation. The mainstream political parties compromised with his racist policies and ideology and paved his way to total power. He became chancellor and his cult-like fanatical followers started a fire in the parliament building, The Bundestag, and he blamed the communists and had them all arrested and thrown out of Parliament by presidential decree. Then, his Nazi party had a majority and he ruled Germany with an iron fist and worked to exterminate the Jews and the communists.
When we see the white supremacists and neo-Nazi extreme right-wing groups in Europe and in the United States marching with Nazi swastika flags and symbols, and a US President supporting them, we should think of Hitler and summon up the courage to stand and oppose by word and action this insidious racist political movement.
Everyone ought to support the freedoms and human dignity and freedom of true, fair democracy or for sure we will lose them. This white supremacist ideology has divided America, threatens parts of Europe as neo-Nazis proliferate once again, spreading hatred and violence against migrants.
Some member states of the EU have right wing populists in power and they pass odious oppressive laws. The police and armed forces of America and Europe are reportedly infiltrated by racist neo-Nazi sympathizers, it seems.
Witness the killing and harassment and abuse of so many immigrants, asylum seekers and people of colour in Europe and the United States. It is a poison affecting the police day by day, a dangerous trend of what has yet to come. The police brutality is inciting protests and demonstrations themselves. Witness the Black Lives Matter movement, demonstrations in Belarus, Lebanon, Tunisia and many more.
Complacency, ignorance, apathy, indifference and tolerance that give consent and support for such racism is participating in the politics of racism, hatred and violence. We should not be surprised that the US Capitol was attacked by these Neo-Nazi groups trying to overthrow the democratic process egged on by President Trump and blaming the progressive groups for its ransacking and desecration. It smacks of Hitler-like dirty tricks in burning the Bundestag.
The reluctance of the Republican members of the US Senate to convict Trump for this blatant attack on the Capitol, the heart of democratic processes, is shocking and disgusting. They are in effect condoning this criminal action by the Trump mob. The Trump followers have to throw off the mesmerisation and worship of the Trump cult and admit they have been duped and lied to and reject all that hatred and racism that Trumpism promotes and encourages. They must resist and break free from the manipulation by social media. Freedom from racism and hatred is the freedom to love our neighbour in peace and with understanding.
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