I have only just caught up on all the good quality documentaries and films I recorded which were broadcast last week as part of Holocaust Memorial Day. I also went to my local cinema last week where Mid & East Antrim Council had put on a showing of ‘Denial’, a dramatisation of the libel action taken by David Irving against author Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin books. Without going into any great detail, it was about a Holocaust denier being brought to task – worth seeing, if you get the opportunity.
I have to admit that on reflection, my knowledge of the Holocaust was quite superficial. I understood that there was murder on a monumental scale carried out in an industrial fashion. However, acknowledging the number of deaths, understanding how trains, gas chambers and crematoria combined to consign innocent people to death, and being shocked at the casual way in which men, women and children were selected to die is not the full picture.
What hit me most over the last few days was the clinical disassembling of humanity, compassion, and hope by the Nazi regime. Removal of individuals’ names and replacing them with numbers tattooed onto their arm, stripping them of any possessions, transporting civilians in cattle trucks, cramming hundreds into buildings where hunger and disease was rife, and ending a life for the most minor of indiscretions.
Cruelty isn’t a strong enough description. ‘The Windermere Children’ on BBC was a terrifically emotional exposing of that. Families destroyed, survivors scarred psychologically and physically, and justice denied in so many cases.
How anyone can deny the Holocaust happened is beyond me.
It was expected that this level of inhumanity would never be repeated, such was the scale of terror exposed as the Second World War drew to a close. Unfortunately, the same was said about the Great War (1914-18), yet twenty-one years later Europe, and then the rest of the world, became engulfed in another global conflict.
We may not have seen genocide on the scale of the Holocaust since the War ended, but there have been a significant number of hate-driven murderous campaigns waged against innocent people purely based on their religious, political or ethnic backgrounds. The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia killed two million citizens in the early 1970s; Indonesia lost almost a million of its people to a political and ethnic purge in the 1960s; in just nine months of 1971 up to 3 million Bangladeshi civilians were murdered as Pakistan tore itself apart; and almost a million Rwandan Tutsis were massacred in three months of 1994.
These are only some of the large scale, organised, pre-meditated post-WW2 genocides.
Throughout the world, with monotonous regularity, innocents are slaughtered by hate-fuelled murderers who display a self-determined legitimacy. They believe, or have been made to believe, that their beliefs, values and general view of the world is so superior to another group that their inhumane treatment of their opponents is justified.
Lies, damned lies and Social Media
Often misinformation, misinterpretation or just plain lies are used to strengthen their cause. If repeated often enough, without challenge, these create new ‘truths’ or ‘facts’. Once information is controlled, managed and manipulated it can be used to control, manage and manipulate people.
Today, we are bombarded with information from unreliable, unregulated sources. Social media, in particular, is riven with nonsense dressed up as facts. Worse still, what arrives on your screen is often targeted so that it reinforces your prejudices.
We all have prejudices. There’s no way of denying it. It’s a “normal” human reaction. We make immediate judgements about people based on their age, gender, height, weight, hair colour, race, religion, nationality, political belief, sexual orientation, marital status, football team they support, job they have, car they drive, perceived wealth, disability, educational background, friends they keep……….
It’s a quantum leap, though, to go from that opinion (accurate or not), which may make you wary of someone or even dislike them, to deciding that their life is not worth preserving.
The strong should stand up to the wicked
Thankfully, most of us will never go that far. By not challenging those who peddle misinformation, though, are we even slightly culpable for some of the horrible stuff that happens?
We can start by not ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ comments on Social Media that are inaccurate, distorted or just a plain lie: ignore, block or report it. As I said earlier, a lie repeated often enough without challenge can become a ‘truth’.
Deborah Lipstadt had to go to court to challenge Irving and prove the Holocaust happened. In our own way, we can make a difference through careful selection of what we read and share online. Don’t benignly believe all you see. Read from a wide range of sources, be inquisitive, consider that your view may not be accurate, have an open mind.
I’m not having a dig at Social Media. It’s an ingrained part of our daily lives. Who doesn’t enjoy videos of happy dogs, silly cats and laughing babies? Just be a bit more considerate about how you make use of it.
Stifle the peddlers of division.
Stand up to the wicked.
Share love, not hate.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.