was kind enough to remind me the other day that today and Thursday represented the 68th anniversary of Kristallnacht
, the Nazi's " Night of Broken Glass
" where Stormtroopers, SS men and frenzied mobs vandalized Jewish-owned businesses, burned synagogues, beat and murdered German Jews. The blogosphere has been relatively quiet on this topic. No doubt in part due to the intense focus on the aftermath of the election but in part, I believe, that we are slowing starting to forget.
Despite recitations of "Never Again", the effort at memorials such as the National Holocaust Museum
and Yad Vashem
, the tireless witness of figures like Elie Wiesel
or successful forays into global culture with such films as Schindler's List
and The Pianist
, imminence of the Holocaust is fading in the public mind. Every year there are fewer survivors, every year more of the "Greatest Generation" that liberated the camps and brought home tales of unspeakable horror, pass away. Soon, the aged voices that strain with moral authority and remembered pain, voices that prick our conscience and discomfort our leaders, will be gone.
What then ? In the advent of the greatest industrialized mass-murder scheme in history, one carried out by the most modern of nation-states with the cooperation of hundreds of thousands and passive acquiescence of millions more, Hitler is reputed to have asked his nervous henchmen" And who today remembers the Armenians ?". Who indeed ?
When Pol Pot, the lunatic Maoist, turned Cambodia into a vast charnel house with his autogenocide
, only the Israeli representative at the UN called the international community to account on behalf of millions of innocent victims. When the Kurds were gassed by Saddam
, we looked away. When Slobodan Milosevic butchered 200,000 Muslims
and Hutu death squads were hacking nearly a million Tutsis to death
, the genteel Secretary of State Warren Christopher
contented himself with lawyerly instructions to State Department officials to draw ever finer semantic distinctions to avoid using the word "genocide" in public. Today in Dar Fur, the policy of the West follows in the tradition of calmly waiting for democide to wind down as the perpetrators start to run short of victims
, before contemplating some form of action.
Only in Kosovo, has America acted in time to prevent slaughter on a grand scale as the Genocide Convention obligates the international community. Our sole companion in this lonely club of leading by example is that paragon of human rights, Communist Vietnam - which toppled the Khmer Rouge only because Cambodia as a Chinese satellite was a security risk to Hanoi. All this reticence and dolorous inaction with the example of the Holocaust fresh and looming by historical standards.
What will happen when it ceases to loom ? Will the twenty-first century be a better one than the twentieth ?