20 January 2010


The subject of this post grieves and disturbs me -- which makes it that much more important to talk about. Although I am not a Quaker, I hold by their belief in bearing witness, i.e., being mindfully present to remember any illegal or inhumane act, however difficult it may be to watch. This, so that our capacity for evil is always remembered, and may always be resisted.

On this day in 1942, the Wannsee Conference was convened in a Berlin suburb, with the purpose of formalizing and setting in motion the "final solution to the Jewish question," a euphemism for the systematic genocide of European Jews and other non-German, non-Nazi ethnicities and nationalities, including Poles, Czechs, Soviet citizens, homosexuals, gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other political and religious opponents. The plan included the gathering of target populations into ghettos, conscription into forced labor, and ultimately annihilation at extermination camps scattered throughout northern Europe. The plans's administrator was Reinhard Heydrich (shown below). In poetic irony, Heydrich himself died from injuries suffered during an attack by Czeck agents in May of that year.

The Holocaust remains one of the most horrifying events in human history. Those who would deny its existence, as well as those who are unaware of it, are shamelessly ignorant. We each bear a responsibility for challenging and resisting by any means necessary all forms of inhumanity, especially those practiced against an entire group of people. The formulation of the Final Solution, genocide by committee, happened only 68 years ago. There have been many instances of attempted genocide since. We have not evolved as a species to the threhold where we can relax our vigilance against our own tendency toward violent domination. No nation, no individual, is exempt from this responsibility.

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