Holocaust and Darfur: Why Must Children Die?

by the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center with the theme "Remember the Children." The local program will be held starting at 4 p.m., Sunday, April 15 at Congregation Shaare Emeth, and is intended to pay special tribute to the 1.5 million Jewish children who were among the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust (see Lois Caplan's column, page 10 for details).

Yom HaShoah, the Day of Remembrance for the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, will be observed with a solemn program sponsored by the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center with the theme “Remember the Children.” The local program will be held starting at 4 p.m., Sunday, April 15 at Congregation Shaare Emeth, and is intended to pay special tribute to the 1.5 million Jewish children who were among the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust (see Lois Caplan’s column, page 10 for details).

At the original Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum and Research Center in Jerusalem, after visitors would wind through the numerous grim exhibits depicting the horrors inflicted during the Holocaust and the stark numbers of victims from each nation, a single display case featured only a pair of baby booties, with the poignant and eloquent simple caption: “1.5 million children.” One can recall the achingly moving scene in Steven Spielberg’s powerful film Schindler’s List of the little girl in the red coat being led away to her death — the color of her coat being the only frame in the movie that was not in black and white. Of course we realize that the death of that little girl and of all of the one and a-half million children murdered were more than just powerful “special effects” for films; they were real kids, just like our own, whose lives were snatched away along with those of their siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends — and only because they were Jews!

We can also recall the continued impact of the diary kept by Anne Frank in the “secret annex” where she and her family and others were hidden in Amsterdam, until the “Green Police” were tipped off and they were sent to the death camps. Anne and her sister Margo died at Bergen-Belsen, but the immortal words of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl continue to inspire and move generations of children and adults from all religious, ethnic and national backgrounds.

The Holocaust was a singular event in world and Jewish history, and there is considerable sensitivity that the Shoah not be casually or thoughtlessly likened to other situations that do not rise — or sink — to its level of sheer evil. As horrible as the mistreatment of animals is, it is certainly not appropriate, as some have done, to equate cruelty and needless killing of animals to the systematic and technologically efficient murder of six million Jews — two-thirds of the Jews of Europe and one-third of the world Jewish population at the time. It is not inappropriate, however, to try to make the slogan “Never Again” more than empty words when confronting other humanitarian catastrophes, such as the mass murders and expulsions taking place at this very moment in the Darfur region of Sudan. For the past three years, Sudan-government-backed militias and marauders called the Janjaweed have brutally murdered at least 200,000 Darfurians and expelled 1.5 to 2 million people from their homes, in addition to a “scorched earth” campaign to assure that survivors could not return to their original villages.

In St. Louis, the Jewish Community Relations Council is a founding and active member of the St. Louis Save Darfur Coalition, and has participated and helped plan local and national rallies and letter-writing campaigns to demand that the international community stop the killings in Darfur, which have been officially labeled a “genocide” by both houses of Congress, the White House and the State Department. To date, any meaningful resolution to stop the killings in Darfur has either been vetoed or watered down by the threats of vetoes by China and Russia, who have bowed to Sudanese pressure not to vote for any resolution with real “teeth.” To make matters worse, on his recent trip to Africa, Chinese President Hu Jintao presented a gift of funds for a new presidential palace to Sudanese dictator, President Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashar, who presides over the very government responsible for backing the Janjaweed carrying out the genocide! Such an action is as unthinkable as it would have been for a so-called “responsible” government to bankroll a Chancellor’s Palace for Adolf Hitler after Kristallnacht!

As we prepare to “Remember the Children” who were murdered during the Holocaust, let us redouble our efforts to demand immediate action by our government, in cooperation with the United Nations, NATO, and the African Union to totally stop the murders and forced evacuations going on in Darfur. In this manner, we can honor both the memory of the 1.5 million children we lost during the Holocaust, by saving countless children and adults who are dying in Darfur even as we repeat the slogan, “Never Again!”

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