"What has been learned from the Holocaust"

Ms. Pamela Bone and Associate Professor Andrew Marcus Address

At the November meeting a panel of two speakers addressed us on "What has been learned from the Holocaust". Both are prominent in their field: "Age" journalist Ms. Pamela Bone and Associate Professor Andrew Marcus from the History Department at Monash University. Ms. Bone spoke first and her view was that humanity has learned something from the Holocaust, but cautioned us that we are in danger of forgetting the lessons.

Ms. Bone quoted David Ben Gurion's statement made in the 1950's "that the gas chambers and the soap factories are what anti-semitism may lead to". She went on to say that since the Holocaust, decent people not only had shied away from expressions of anti-semitism but also racism in general. It is a tragedy that racism has become respectable in Australia today. Pauline Hanson has not specified Jews in her diatribe against Asians, Aboriginals, foreign aid and the United Nations, but suggested that we should be concerned about the climate that is surfacing in our country. She quoted Thomas Keneally: "There has been an empowerment of the unspeakable. Some of the people speaking out now, even if they don't know it, are at the first station on the long road that leads to Auschwitz".

Ms. Bone spoke with compassion, conviction and authority. Six months ago she had been to Rwanda and witnessed the aftermath of the evil perpetrated there, she now has recurring dreams which are filled with blood. She empathizes with Holocaust survivors and the trauma they continuously relive.

Associate Professor Andrew Markus, who lectures on the Holocaust at Monash University, was the second speaker. He reminded us that we have learned little in the last 50 years. He reflected on the Holocaust, the arms race, Bosnia, Rwanda and the Hanson issue. He posed the question - "have views changed?" He reminded us of the vibrant Jewish culture of Poland which is now wiped out. This brings home to us the dark side of mankind.

There are groups today that talk of the destruction of Israel. Implicit in these comments is the annihilation of all its inhabitants. The United Nations, for example, are more concerned about Zionism as a racist force that the regime in Iraq which proliferates chemical warfare and other weapons of mass destruction. Professor Marcus asked: have bystanders, come to grips with, what it is to stand witness to the commitment of genocide in our commonly shared globe. Really, we haven't learned. Were we proactive to stop the human slaughter in Bosnia? Clearly we haven't learned.

The deeper you explore the topics, the more uncertainties they seem to create. Elie Wiesel said he could not understand why the Allies, who had the munitions to bomb the neighbouring factories of Auschwitz, did not bomb the factories of human suffering and the feeder rail network.

He asks us to look within and judge our reactions to the occurrences of the past 50 years. The audience was treated to two informed insights to issues that unfortunately are surfacing before our very eyes.

 

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