Dr. Dawg

Mass murder

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Roma in Belzec.jpg

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. What are we remembering?

The Canadian government recognizes five episodes of mass murder that occurred during the sorry history of the twentieth century, including the Shoah (six million Jews), the Armenian and Rwandan genocides, the Holodomor (Stalin’s forced famine in the Ukraine), and the bloody internecine slaughters in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995.

Today marks the official remembrance of the Shoah. It is also International Roma Day, which, as Bernie Farber and Gina Csanyi-Robah note in their National Post article today, is ironic indeed.

The Nazis attempted to exterminate the Roma as well as the Jews. But there is no Harper government recognition of the Porajmos, the “devouring” that wiped out as many as 1.5 million Roma. To be fair, however, Germany is alone among nations in doing so.

I asked at the beginning of this post what it was that we were remembering. That wasn’t a rhetorical question. Of course we remember the specific ethnicity of the millions of victims, although as yet we do not recognize all of them, as Farber and Csanyi-Robah point out. And we remember the perpetrators of these atrocities as well. But remembrance is about the living, not the dead. Remembrance is a moral act. We call to mind, as best we might, the why and the how. We resolve, Never Again.

And we fail if we do not recognize, and confront, the insidious tendencies, political, social, personal, that give rise to mass murder, in and by supposedly civilized societies. Sometimes the very impersonality of these unspeakable crimes numbs us to the core. The numbers are so impossibly high that they tend to remain just that—numbers. We need names, stories, personal connection. Like this one, cited by Farber and Csanyi-Robah:

Dr. Mengele had always been more interested in Tibi. I am not sure why — perhaps because he was the older twin. Mengele made several operations on Tibi. One surgery on his spine left my brother paralyzed. He could not walk anymore. Then they took out his sexual organs. After the fourth operation, I did not see Tibi anymore. I cannot tell you how I felt. It is impossible to put into words how I felt. They had taken away my father, my mother, my two older brothers — and now, my twin …

Tibi was a Roma.

Want to remember the Holocaust in an active and caring way? Sure, we can lobby the government to grant official recognition of the Porajmos. But in the end, by itself, that’s just more words, as abstract as the godawful numbers of dead. We give those words meaning only when we ourselves stand up against the organized hatred that can burst so easily into flame.

We are facing, as it happens, one of those tests at this very moment. Roma-hatred is far from extinct. As Hungary slides into dictatorship, fascist paramilitaries stalk the streets, hunting “Gypsies.” Anti-Semitism, too, is becoming “respectable” again. Hungarian Roma have been fleeing to Canada—and are being turned away.

Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, has made no secret of his distaste for Roma. He insists, against all of the evidence, that Hungary is a “safe country.”

An Ontario Crown prosecutor, former Progressive Conservative MPP Toni Skarica, referred to them as an “invasion of evil” before a parliamentary committee—and he was rewarded by being appointed a judge. A racist rant against Roma on national television has led to no charges under the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code—these have been nixed at the very highest level as “not in the public interest.” The Roma, it seems, are not part of the public, at least as far as the office of the Ontario Attorney General is concerned.

The long and the short of it is this. If we quietly accept this burgeoning hatred, we are complicit in it. We are, of course, “good Canadians” who would never dream of committing atrocities ourselves. But we are letting this sort of thing take root in another land—encouraging it, in fact, both here and there. Business as usual, as though the Holocaust and other similar horrors had never happened.

Just say no. That’s the real lesson of International Holocaust Day. Are we prepared to learn it?

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on April 8, 2013 10:51 AM.

Scientific heresy was the previous entry in this blog.

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