Editor’s note: After taking part in an event on July 8 in Singapore marking the launch of his book (with David Kilgour) “Bloody Harvest: The killing of Falun Gong for their organs,” David Matas met with the press. He was asked the following question: “Why should I care about the killing of Falun Gong for their organs? What does it have to do with me?” Matas gave an extemporaneous answer to the question, but then the next day wrote out a fuller response, which is this article.
What are you waiting for? Are you not going to protest until someone comes for you, to kill you for your organs? By then, it will be far too late.
Reverend Martin Niemoller, in 1938, wrote: “First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
The killing of Falun Gong for their organs is an abuse that did not start or end with Falun Gong. The killing of prisoners for their organs began in China with prisoners sentenced to death. As the research of Ethan Gutmann has shown, it spread to Uyghurs, Tibetans, and house Christians.
When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, many people asked a similar question: Why should we care about what the Nazis do to the Jews? What does it have to do with us?
By the Treaty of Munich in September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain agreed with Hitler, Mussolini, and French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier to give the part of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland to Germany. Czechoslovakia had no say in the matter.
In the House of Commons the same month, Chamberlain justified his appeasement of Hitler, saying about Hitler’s claims that Czechoslovakia was mistreating its ethnic German minority, that it was a “quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.”
By ignoring the plight of Falun Gong we erode our own humanity.
It would be all too easy to repeat the gist of this sentiment: that the people outside of China know nothing about Falun Gong, that the government of China’s repression of Falun Gong is not a quarrel in which outsiders have any interest or stake.
Yet, Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in a quarrel between people of whom Neville Chamberlain and many of his British colleagues knew nothing led less than 12 months later to World War II, with over 400,000 British deaths, a global conflagration, and the Holocaust.
The German Nazi ideology of eliminationist antisemitism, the determination of the Nazi regime to kill Jews everywhere, precipitated, continued, and prolonged World War II.
For the Jewish community, World War II was a loss beyond words. The Jewish community lost 6 million souls, one-third of its population. The Yiddish shtetl culture of Eastern Europe was obliterated.
The global community suffered that loss. Jews have made signal contributions to global science and arts, culture and learning. Albert Einstein himself would have been killed in the Holocaust had he not escaped and been a refugee.
The loss of Falun Gong practitioners through the killing for their organs is the loss to the global community of the contributions these individuals could have made if they had lived.
World War II was a disaster and a tragedy for the whole planet. Total casualties during World War II were 62 million—25 million military and 37 million civilian. Thirty-one million non-Jewish civilians died in that War.
The link between antisemitism and Nazi aggression was direct because Nazi Germany invaded foreign countries to kill their Jews. Lucy Dawidowicz, in her book “The War Against the Jews, 1933–1945,” writes that in the minds of the Nazi German leaders, World War II was a cover for its planned murder of the Jews.
Human rights oppression is a spreading, indelible stain.
There was even a link between antisemitism and Japanese aggression. The Japanese invasions in Asia were made possible by its Tripartite Pact with Italy and Germany and the power vacuum created in Asia by German attacks on the Asian colonial powers—France, the Netherlands, and Britain. Hatred of Jews dragged the whole world down.
After the war, the damage continued. The Nuremberg Tribunal established in 1945 was abolished in 1948 with half its docket unprosecuted, including Kurt Waldheim, who later went on to become secretary general of the United Nations and president of Austria.
Moreover, there were many thousands not yet identified, not yet charged, that would have been caught by a full-blown prosecution effort. The Allies were motivated by a desire to bring and keep West Germany onside in the Cold War.
For immunity against the Nazis to be effective, it had to be comprehensive. The creation of a general international criminal court, which had originally been part of the plans for postwar institutions, was scrapped. Similarly, local systems of justice had to avoid the prosecution of Nazi mass murderers in their midst.
That immunity became a license for one genocide after another. There is a direct link between the immunity given to Nazi mass murderers after World War II and the seemingly endless stream of post-World War II crimes against humanity—in Rwanda, in Cambodia, in Bosnia, in Sudan.