Tuesday, April 25, 2006

To remember is to act

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War II.

Some estimates of this systematic murder place the number at close to 10 million, if you include Poles, Czechs, Slavs, homosexuals, the disabled, and others deemed as "undesirable" by the Nazis.

In all, WWII deaths exceeded 40 million people.

And as important as it is to remember the dead, it's important to recall how it call came about -- because moral, decent human beings watched the escalating violence against the innocent and failed to act until it was too late.

In 1933, Hitler is named chancellor of Germany and the Nazis open the first concentration camp outside of Berlin. Dachau opens later that year. All other political parties are outlawed. Anyone not of pure German blood, and especially Jews, are classified as "non-Aryan." Jews are prohibited from owning property and publishing newspapers. Criminals, beggars, and other "undesireables" are rounded up and hustled off to the new concentration camps.

And no one does anything to stop it.

In 1934, Jews are prohibited from getting health insurance and obtaining legal licenses of any sort.

And no one does anything to stop it.

In 1935, German Jews are stripped of all their rights, reclassified as subhuman under the Nuremburg Race Laws. The Nazis pass a law calling for forced abortions for women with hereditary diseases.

And no one does anything to stop it.

In 1936, the Gestapo is placed above the law and the Germans reoccupy the Rhineland in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.

And no one does anything to stop it.

In 1937, Jews are prohibited from holding professions such accounting and dentistry, and are denied all tax exemptions.

And no one does anything to stop it.

In 1938, the Germans annex Austria and invade the Sudetenland. German Jewish businesses and homes are attacked and Jews are beaten and murdered on "Kristallnacht." Jews are prohibited from practicing law and medicine, and must register all businesses. Jewish women must add the name Sarah and Jewish men the name Israel to all legal documents, including passports.

And no one does anything to stop it.

In 1939, the Germans invade Czechosolovakia and later Poland. The sick and disabled in Germany are rounded up and murdered. German Jews are forced to surrender all gold and silver, may no longer hold government jobs and are forced into ghettos. They are under curfew from 8 p.m. in the winter and 9 p.m. in the summer. Slovakia adopts its own version of the Nuremburg race laws. Jews in occupied countries are also forced into ghettos. A ship filled with Jewish refugees is turned away by the U.S., Cuba and other countries, and returns to Europe.

Finally, France and England act. America maintains neutrality.

But it's already too late.

The Germans have allied themselves with Italy and Japan, and the three begin their plans to split up the globe.

In 1940, the Germans force the Allies forces off the European continent in a stunning defeat. Paris falls. Auschwitz is established in Poland, and the Nazis begin deporting German Jews to concentration camps in Eastern Europe. German ally Romania begins persecuting Jews.

And there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.

In 1941, America enters the war only after the Japanese bomb the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. (The Germans are not involved, but that doesn't stop them from immediately declaring war on the U.S.). Jews throughout Europe are persecuted, murdered, and forced into labor.

That same year, German Einsatzgruppen (Special Purpose Teams) begin rounding up and murdering Jews and other "undesireables" throughout eastern Europe. German Jews are ordered to wear yellow stars. The Nazi leadership adopts "The Final Solution" -- the systematic murder of all Jews. Zyklon-B gas is used for the first time at Auschwitz, and mass deportation of German Jews begins.

There's nothing anyone can do to stop them.

In 1942, mass murder of Jews throughout Germany and elsewhere begins at extermination camps throughout Europe. German Jews are banned from using public transit. Jews in France, Belgium, Holland, Slovokia, Croatia and Romania are ordered to wear yellow stars. The New York Times reports that the Germans have already murdered one million Jews.

There's nothing anyone can do to stop them.

In 1943 and 1944, the Allies invade Europe, first in Italy and later in France, and the Russians begin driving out the invading German army. Over the next two years they will fight their way across Europe into Germany. But the deportation and killing of Jews throughout Europe continues.

There's nothing anyone can do to stop them.

In 1945, the Allies liberate the concentration camps.

But it's already too late -- 10 million people are dead, murdered by the Germans and their allies.

Take a good look at the pictures. You're seeing unrestrained evil in its vilest, most corrupt form.

Confronting evil always comes at a cost. Hesitating to do so only increases that cost.

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