Monday, 26 January 2009

Holocaust Memorial Day

Today Is Holocaust Memorial Day, its held on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz. The word Holocaust is used to describe the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II, as part of a program of deliberate extermination planned and executed by the Nazi regime in Germany led by Adolf Hitler. Also murdered were; Roma, Soviets, Poles, the disabled; homosexuals, freemasons, Jehovah's Witnesses and political opponents. To help stigmatise them, Jews had to wear yellow stars, homosexuals were forced to wear pink triangles. Taking into account all the victims of Nazi persecution, the total number of victims would be between nine and 11 million. Around 6 million of the 7 million Jews in Nazi Europe died.

We used to say never again about the holocaust, but since WW2 there has been Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. The terms 'Rwandan Holocaust' and 'Cambodian Holocaust' are used to refer to the Rwanda genocide of 1994 and the mass killings by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia respectively. Before this 'African Holocaust' is used to describe the slave trade and the colonization of Africa, also known as the Maafa.

The reasons given for it were an 'international Jewish conspiracy to control the world'. No genocide to date had been based so completely on myths. There were also financial reasons, stealing money from Jews led to some very wealthy and corrupt Nazis.

The persecution and genocide by the Nazis were accomplished in stages. Legislation to remove the Jews from civil society was enacted years before the outbreak of World War II. Concentration camps were established in which inmates were used as slave labour until they died of exhaustion or disease. Where the Third Reich conquered new territory in eastern Europe, specialized units murdered Jews and political opponents in mass shootings. Jews and Roma were crammed into ghettos before being transported hundreds of miles by freight train to extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, the majority of them were killed in gas chambers. Every arm of Nazi Germany's bureaucracy was involved in the logistics of the mass murder, turning the country into what one Holocaust scholar has called "a genocidal state".

Parish churches and the Interior Ministry supplied birth records showing who was Jewish; the Post Office delivered the deportation and denaturalization orders; the Finance Ministry confiscated Jewish property; German firms fired Jewish workers and disenfranchised Jewish stockholders; the universities refused to admit Jews, denied degrees to those already studying, and fired Jewish academics; government transport offices arranged the trains for deportation to the camps; German pharmaceutical companies tested drugs on camp prisoners; companies bid for the contracts to build the crematoria; detailed lists of victims were drawn up using the Dehomag company's punch card machines, producing meticulous records of the killings. As prisoners entered the death camps, they were made to surrender all personal property, which was carefully catalogued and tagged before being sent to Germany.

An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Jewish partisans actively fought the Nazis and their collaborators in Eastern Europe. The Jewish Brigade, a unit of 5,000 volunteers from the British Mandate of Palestine fought in the British Army. German-speaking volunteers from the Special Interrogation Group performed commando and sabotage operations against the Nazis behind front lines in the Western Desert Campaign.

Europe’s Gypsies were targeted by the Nazis for total destruction. The “Porrajmos” (literally “The Devouring”) is the term used to describe the genocide of Europe’s Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) population by the Nazis. Upwards of 200,000 Gypsies were murdered or died as a result of starvation or disease. Many more were imprisoned, used as forced labour or subject to forced sterilisation and medical experimentation.

More than 1.5 million children from across Europe were murdered under the Nazi regime. The Nazis, obsessed with the notion of creating a 'biologically pure', 'Aryan' society, deliberately targeted Jewish children for destruction, in order to prevent the growth of a new generation of Jews in Europe. About 10,000 mostly Jewish children escaped to Britain via Kindertransport, and were fostered or placed in hostels. The Diary Of Anne Frank tells the story of a young Jewish girl in occupied Holland.

So the world needs to be reminded so not keep repeating the same mistakes. The key lesson we must remember from the Holocaust is that we must never again stand by and let hatred take root. Greens are determined not to forget, and to fight always against prejudice, discrimination and the forces of fascism.

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