Commemorating the Holocaust
January 27 is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the day the United Nations General Assembly designated by a resolution passed in 2005 for commemorating the Holocaust. I, along with many others, will be going to Auschwitz tomorrow to remember that liberation in the place where it happened.
Today, I want to say a few words about best we can commemorate that horror. What should we remember when we remember the Holocaust? I suggest two things. We should remember what about the Holocaust was distinctive. And we should remember the lessons we can learn from the Holocaust to apply to other atrocities.
In talking about other atrocities, we have, regrettably, a wealth of examples from which to choose. I will focus on only one, as a case study, the compelling evidence that practitioners of Falun Gong have been killed in China in the tens of thousands for their organs which are sold to transplant patients. This is, I believe, an instructive example because the Nazis in Germany then were—and the Communists in China now are—in government in a country of global force.
The Holocaust was an experience unique in human annals. We must beware of false analogies, equating other atrocities with the Holocaust. Yet, we must not isolate the Holocaust from the rest of human experience.
The Holocaust was unique in its disconnection from reality. Other genocides grow out of political and ethnic conflicts. While the killing of innocents is always irrational, one can see, with other genocides, the politics that led to the genocide. In contrast, with Nazi Germany, there was no such context or explanation. Historian Yehuda Bauer writes:
“For the first time in history, the motivation [of the genocide] had little, if anything, to do with economic or social factors, but was purely ideological, and the ideology was totally removed from any realistic situations.”
The genocide of the Jews was unprecedented in its scope, in the attempt to kill every single Jew, no matter how old or young, no matter how distant from Judaism and the Jewish community. Conversion to Christianity or even to Nazism, inter marriage, friends in Nazi high places, adoption of Jewish children by non Jewish parents did not stop the Nazi killing machines. Nothing could.
The Auschwitz exhibit of children’s shoes is striking not just because of the sheer number of shoes, but also because it is a visible reminder of the Nazi determination to kill children. Of the six million killed in the Holocaust, an estimated two million were children. Nazi field reports of the Jews they murdered made a point of listing the children killed to show that they were completing the task assigned to them.
In several other genocides, many children were killed. But in no prior genocide were children targeted for the sole reason that they were born. Historian Yehuda Bauer writes:
“For the first time in history, every single person who was considered by the perpetrators to be a member of the target group, that is the Jews, was to be killed for the crime of having been born.”
Other mass killings both before and after World War II were local, territorial, national. The Holocaust was unprecedented not only in its unlimited scope, but also in its unlimited reach.
Never before or since has a group of people attempted to conquer the world so that they could kill all and every member of another group. The Holocaust was a crime in which virtually every country in the globe was complicit either by participating in the killings or by denying refuge to those attempting to escape or by granting safe haven to Nazi mass murderers. The planet-wide nature of the genocide, the hatred of a people that seeped into every nook and cranny of the globe, was unprecedented before the Holocaust and has not been replicated since. The Holocaust was not just a crime against humanity. It was a crime of humanity. The Holocaust was an act of insanity in which the whole world went mad.
What can the Holocaust experience tell us about the killing of Falun Gong for their organs? Unlike the Nazi perpetrators and their Jewish victims, the Communist Party of China is not attempting to conquer the world through force of arms to kill practitioners of Falun Gong wherever they may be found. Yet, the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese state organs, through their embassies, consulates, state-owned multinational conglomerate businesses, and Confucius Institutes project incitement to hatred and discrimination against practitioners of Falun Gong worldwide.
Unlike the Nazi perpetrators and their Jewish victims, the Chinese Communist Party and state will accept conversion. If a practitioner abandons Falun Gong, renounces it in writing, stops practicing, praises the Communist Party and denounces fellow practitioners, the practitioner can avoid Communist Party inflicted torture, detention and arbitrary execution through the harvesting of organs.
Unlike the Nazi killing of the Jews, the killing of Falun Gong of their organs has a connection with reality, however perverse. Falun Gong is set of exercises with a spiritual foundation begun in 1992 with the teachings of Li Hongzhi. It is a blending and updating of the Chinese exercise traditions, Buddhism and Taoism. It was initially encouraged by the Communist Party as beneficial to health, but banned in 1999.
The spirituality of Falun Gong stood in contrast to the atheism of the Communist Party. The connection of Falun Gong with Chinese traditions contrasted with the Westernism and modernism of Communism. Above all the rapidly expanding popularity of Falun Gong made the Communist Party jealous and fearful of its ability to maintain its own ideological supremacy.
The Party began a campaign of vilification against Falun Gong to justify the banning. This campaign of vilification led to depersonalization and dehumanization that made the killing of Falun Gong easier for their jailors to inflict. The withdrawal by the Communist Party of state funds from the health system as a result of its shift from socialism to capitalism meant hospitals and doctors were badly in need of funds, which the sale of organs from Falun Gong prisoners supplied.
Despite these differences between the Holocaust and the killing of Falun Gong for their organs, there are similarities. The Holocaust happened not just because there were racists in power in Germany, but because ordinary people around the world either collaborated or did nothing. It is misleading to think of the Holocaust as a tale of devils and angels, of monsters and heroes. It is above all a tale of ordinary people. It was ordinary Germans who were primarily responsible for the Holocaust.  However, they were far from solely responsible.
Of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust only 210,000 were Germans and Austrians. In the other places the Nazis went, they did not know the languages, the places or the people. Wherever they went, they relied heavily on local police, administrative personnel and homegrown fascists organized into militias to round up Jews for the death camps. Without the active collaboration of tens of thousands, and the passive indifference of millions, the Nazis could not have accomplished their mission of death.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.