Parallels Of Bosnia Holocaust

Posted: September 02, 1992

In just such a crisis as what is occurring in the Balkans do those of us involved in Holocaust education ask ourselves: "What is the value of such knowledge?" Supporters of the Holocaust Awareness Museum do not believe that the study of the Nazi genocide against the Jews is just an exercise in history. They believe in the dictum of the great American philosopher George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

The Holocaust was a unique event in human history, because every Jew - regardless of age, belief, sex or what he or she did - had a death warrant place on him or her. Jewish genocide as a crime against humanity was - in duration, intensity and extent - unequalled in history.

However, there are parallels in the Bosnian situation. The parallels include the concept of "ethnic cleansing," the expropriation of property, savage brutality and random killing, and most dramatically, concentration camps. Today, as in the late 1930s and early '40s, the world seems paralyzed.

Unlike World War II periods, collective memory has come into play. Leaders of nations, recognizing the inaction toward Hitler, are making proposals for action. To the extent that memories of the Holocaust are invoked, and similarities to the torment of the Jews drawn, education about the Holocaust has been a limited success. Museum supporters do not claim expertise on the exact course to be taken, nor do they assert the wisdom to solve ethnic conflicts.

They are firm that the United States, as the dominant world power, must act through the United Nations to stop the horror in Bosnia. The United Nations legal mechanics are in place, treaties which grew out of World War II - the U.N. Charter, the International Court and the Fourth Geneva Convention, which incorporated the principles of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, making leaders of states accountable for aggressive war, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Collective action may move from blockades, air strikes, to small volunteer, international army. Uttering pious resolutions with no action will only encourage further violations of human rights. Swift international action will only encourage further violations of human rights. Swift international action now may serve warning to other leaders and may prevent further horrors.

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