Bosnian Genocide, did we learn anything from the Holocaust?
The Holocaust: What value this lesson?
On one continent genocidal evil is acknowledged; on another, it rages unchecked
The Prescott Courier
25 April 1993.
WASHINGTON (AP) – On the day the Holocaust Museum was dedicated in this peaceful capital, children were shot in Bosnia. They died because they were Muslim. [see: video of the 1993 Srebrenica Children Massacre]
On one continent a solemn ceremony acknowledged the need to confront evil and brutality. On another, it raged unchecked.
In dedicating the museum, President Clinton called the Nazi genocide campaign against Jews “one of the darkest lessons in history.” But what value has a lesson if it is not learned?
That is the question voiced with increasing urgency as the world learns a new euphemism for mass murder. The Nazi regime called it the “Final Solution.” The phrase in the killing ground that was Yugoslavia is “Ethnic Cleansing.’
Of all the cries of protest, the most eloquent come from holocaust survivors.
Sharing the platform with Clinton was Elie Wiesel, who survived the Auschwitz death camp and dedicated his life to making the world remember what had taken place. His words are carved in stone at the entrance to the new museum:
“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”
In his speech at the dedication, Wiesel voiced the fear that the memory of the past would obscure the present.
“I have been in the former Yugoslavia,” he said, turning to the president, seated only a few feet away. “We must do something to stop the bloodshed in that country. People fight each other and children die.”
“Something, anything, must be done.”
Visitors to the museum see exhibits that document the rise of Adolph Hitler, his conquest of Europe, and his campaign to exterminate Jews.
The scenes are more than 50 years old. But the voices still cry out to governments, particularly the United States, to do “something, anything.” Then, as now, governments appeared unable or unwilling to confront evil.
Then, the United States was looking inward. It was the midst of the Depression, and millions of Americans were unemployed. The national mood was strongly opposed to easing immigration laws to admit thousands of refugees from Hitler. Even an attempts to make an exception for children was defeated in Congress.
The German dictator was Europe’s problem and Europe was an ocean away. Even many American Jews favored “quiet diplomacy” out of concern that too aggressive a stance would provoke Hitler to accelerate his brutality.
Once again, Americans are looking inward.
Americans no longer feel threatened by giant Soviet missiles. Once again they take comfort in the width of the world’s two great oceans, watery borders that keep the country isolated from the turbulence on distant continents.
When one million Cambodians died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, no one demanded that U.S. troops return to Southeast Asia to stop the slaughter.
When Saddam Hussein used poison gas on his country’s Kurds, there was no demand that the United States intervene.
Today, in what was once Yugoslavia, the horror persists. Voices are raised. “Do something. Do anything.”
The talk is of air strikes. Use U.S. air power to force the Serbs to halt their aggression. Somehow, air strikes sound like a way to avoid involvement on the ground.
“I haven’t ruled out any option for action,” Clinton said Friday.
The president was asked to make the inevitable comparison between the Holocaust and Bosnia.
“Ethnic cleansing is the kind of inhumanity that the Holocaust took to the nth degree,” he replied.
But how can inhumanity be quantified?
Perhaps it was time to recall the words of 17th Century English poet John Donne: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”