When you travel long enough in Europe eventually one question must be answered. “Are you going to go to Auschwitz?” My close friends and family carry their experiences touring the Auschwitz Concentration Camp very close to their hearts… and for no small reason.
When deciding to visit Auschwitz you are also evaluating your willingness to commit the sizable emotional investment required to mindfully digest such a horrendous loss. For many it can be a life changing experience, and if you worry that you might be ignorant of the Holocaust in any way then there is no doubt that you must GO! If you are unsure at all… then you must go. Here are 5 Reasons to Go and Why Kids Should Go, and finally some nice answers to Why Should Anyone Visit Auschwitz?
However I chose not to go…
Many describe the experience as so jarring that they become numb as the sheer reality of it all defies comprehension and sends them into overload. But instead of being shaken, as I have been many times before in my world travels, I opt to share this with you instead.
What I Was Afraid I Wouldn’t Find in Oświęcim
The word Holocost comes from ancient Greek and is defined by MariamWebster.com as:
1: a sacrifice consumed by fire
2: a thorough destruction involving extensive loss of life especially through fire <a nuclear holocaust>
3a often capitalized : the mass slaughter of European civilians and especially Jews by the Nazis during World War II —usually used with the b : a mass slaughter of people; especially : genocide
Our world is full of genocide in which the The Holocaust (Big H, as in definition 3a), or HaShoah as it’s known in Hebrew meaning ‘The Catastrophe’, is but one terrifying iteration, for example:
List of Genocides by death Toll – This list includes only “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” (as genocide is defined in international law from the United Nations Genocide Convention).
- 1939 – 1945 | The Holocaust | 4,900,000 – 11,000,000
- 1932 – 1933 | Holodomor and Soviet famine | 1,800,000 – 7,500,000
- 1875 – 1979 | Cambodian genocide | 1,700,000 – 3,000,000
- 1915 – 1922 | Armenian genocide | 800,000 – 1,500,000
- 1994 | Rwandan genocide | 500,000 – 1,000,000
- 1914 – 1922 | Greek genocide | 289,000 – 750,000
- 1915 – 1923 | Assyrian genocide | 275,000 – 750,000
- 1755 – 1758 | Zunghar genocide in the Zunghar Khanate | 480,000 – 600,000
- 1935 – 1945 | Porajmos | 130,000 – 500,000
- 1941 – 1945 | Genocide by the Ustaše | 357,000 – 385,000
- 1971 | Bangladesh genocide | 300,000 – 3,000,000
- 1972 – 1993 | Burundian Genocides of Hutus and Tutsis | 50,000 – 210,000
- 1986 – 1989 | Kurdish genocide | 50,000 – 200,000
- 1962 – 1996 | Guatemalan genocide | 35,000 – 170,000
- 1904 – 1908 | Herero and Namaqua genocide | 34,000 – 110,000
- 1992 – 1995 | Bosnian genocide | 8,373 – 39,199
- Late 19th Century – Early 20th Century | Selk’nam genocide | 2,500 – 3,900
- 2014 – Present | Genocide of Yazidis by ISIL | Thousands
Not included on this list are such unrestrained mass killings as The Destruction of the Mongol Empire, a litany of Japanese War Crimes, forced labor systems for the extraction of ivory, rubber, and minerals leading to the deaths of 20% of the population of the Congo under Belgian Rule, The Indonesian Massacre and the Great Leap Forward.
Also, not yet included are the various and comprehensively terrifying genocides of the world’s indigenous peoples as it is currently a matter of much scholarly debate (more debate, further debate) as to whether these massacres qualify under the United Nations current definition of genocide . For many the debate boils down to the question of perpetrator intent though anybody familiar with the flagrant massacres of Aboriginals during English Colonization of Australia and the subsequent Frontier Wars or the systematic displacement (coined Manifest Destiny) of North American Natives… to question intent would be beyond insulting.
This is insane.
If we are to believe in the power of the people of Earth to rule themselves free of brutal oppression then these atrocities can not continue to divide and conquer us. We have made mistakes, we are making mistakes, and mistakes are how we have to get started. We are creating a future together and mistakes are a necessary part of the creative process. We must admit our failures, take stock of the repercussions (and stop ignoring them) and dream up our next attempt. Success lives atop a mountain of wrong approaches.
We can not be shocked numb by these brutal realities. We must bond together to end the scourge of genocide, mass killings, of modern day slavery!
There are an estimated 20.9 Million people trapped in some form of slavery today. It’s sometimes called “Modern-Day Slavery” and sometimes “Human Trafficking.” At all times it is slavery at its core.
We have the power to change everything. We the people comprise our leaders and thanks to an unprecedented flood of information it is getting easier and easier to educate ourselves. Take for example Saudi women leveraging Twitter to publicly protest male guardianship. Thank you to the women of Saudi Arabia, to Human Rights Watch, and to Twitter. Your work is an inspiration and is changing the trajectory of humankind. #TogetherToEndMaleGuardianship
Solidarity to my brothers, sisters, HUMANS without equal human rights. Don’t give up on yourselves or on the capacity for your fellow humans to help. To gain the compassion you are being denied requires the rest of the world to be educated to your plight. That education will only come from experience and you must continue to be our teachers.
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Some genocide survivors have cultivated powerful voices. To see change we need to know these anti-violence advocates stories, and we must lend them our voices.
- Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond
- An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography (Paul Rusesabagina, Rwanda)
- First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
- A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
- An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe
Let’s bond together and build new tools with the promise of uniting humankind in closeness beyond precedent. Let’s look farther ahead and lets educate our peers.
Want to make a difference now? Share this post far and wide, bring it up with your friends and family, send this infographic out into the world. Just don’t hold still, don’t go numb and don’t stop reaching, pushing, questioning any authority that prioritizes any cause over human prosperity.
Know how else to make a difference? Let us know below.