“Who after all speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
There’s a famous quote that is said with numerous variations, but always sounds a bit like “if we don’t know the past we’re doomed to repeat it.” The European Holocaust, which led to the deaths of around 12 million people (6 million of whom were Jewish), is one of the most glaring examples of this history. It’s a history that I remember being taught in middle and high school over and over again with the message that we can’t let this happen again.
The European Holocaust was not the first genocide (though it holds the highest death toll), and it was not the last. Cambodia, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Burundi, Iraq, Guatemala, Bosnia, Chile, Syria, Sudan…what can we say about the continued slaughter of people by the thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?
We can say that history repeats itself and that humanity doesn’t learn and that as a collective mankind is fairly terrible. However, when we remember the European Holocaust we also have to remember the individuals who went against the Nazi government to hide and save those who were being persecuted. In high school, my favorite was Sophie Scholl who helped establish the “White Rose.” The White Rose spoke out about the genocidal policies of the Nazi government from within Germany even though the members of the organization were not a group at all targeted by the Nazis. In fact, Sophie’s brother Hans was a medical student at the University of Munich. Even though they were safe and “Aryan” they still stood up for what was right and they died because of it. Sophie, and the other members of the White Rose, were executed in 1943.
As long as there is brutality, genocide, and violent repression there will be people who stand up for what is right. When the Adolf Hitlers rise up so will the Sophie Scholls. That’s what history can teach us, and also encourage us to take a stand against injustice.