Friday, 20 April 2012

Reconciliation.

We are at the end of the travelling part of our journey and we were thinking a lot about moving forward. We have spoken at length about moving forward (not moving on as that implies forgetting the past) whilst learning something from the horrors of the Holocaust, but how do we do that? How can we ask people who lost parents, siblings, friends, grandparents, uncles, aunts, lovers to move on? How can we move on? 


The answer we feel is closure or reconciliation. We can only expect people to move forward under certain conditions that must (in our opinion) be fulfilled. These conditions are not easy to meet, however and sadly perhaps, the time has passed for some of them to be met. However, if we can learn from the past to ensure that these measures are continued to be used until there is no need for them: 


1. Justice.


This may be the hardest one to meet seeing the Holocaust ended sixty seven years ago, however, it is still vitally important to the dead, to the survivors and to us. People cannot be allowed to commit heinous crimes against humanity and get away with it. Of course, after the war there was chaos and massive political upheavals but that still doesn't justify (it may explain) why thousands of people across the world were allowed to get literally away with murder. The process of denazification (removing Nazis from society) totally failed in our opinion. In both Austria and Germany several Nazis ended up staying in the political system. How can people be expected to move on if their oppressors are still involved in the running of the country? Just because the men and women involved in the destruction of millions of families are old, they need to be brought to trial. Age means nothing to us. As much justice as possible has to be done before we can even begin to move forward.


2. Reconciliation.


This must be a specific, carefully planned process, not just something that naturally happens over time. In Rwanda, after the genocide, a process of reconciliation was undertaken and although it was difficult and at times messy, it was a massive step in the direction of moving forward. For prejudice to be defeated, what we must do is educate. Educate about people and cultures but also we have to come to terms with the past. The countries that were actively involved in the Holocaust that still show huge evidence of prejudice today, are generally those that did not deal with their crimes. Austria is an example of such a country. A disproportionately high number of Austrian's were actively involved in the process of death and a large number of its citizens were extremely supportive of Nazi measures. After the war (because of lots of politics) Austria completely evaded responsibility for its crimes. Did prejudice in Austria disappear? Did Austrian's repent for their crimes? On both counts, it did not. Anti-Semitism was extremely high after the war and in the 1980's its President Kurt Waldheim was accused of being a former SS man and was blacklisted from the United States. No one can move forward if those who are guilty do not recognise it and deal with it. 


3. Education.


This one is the one that we have been banging on about for six weeks but it is extremely important. Society (in our opinion) has naively thought that we will learn lessons from the Holocaust (and other tragedies) just by being shown terrible pictures and upsetting films. There seems to be no real education in terms of learning from the past for a better tomorrow. The Holocaust is taught as a historical subject and thus is viewed as such. We need to be teaching people that the Holocaust is part of a process, a process of prejudice that we are all apart of. We take part in it every day by making certain choices. We need to truly be taught the consequences of our actions. We need to understand that the Holocaust started somewhere. Its starting point is not that different from the ways in which society behaves towards certain groups today. We need to be educated to look to the future by learning the lessons from the past, otherwise we are consigned to repeat it. 


In our humble opinions, these three points would help us all move forward and committed to ensuring that today is a little better than yesterday. 

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