History repeated: Aleppo, the new Auschwitz?

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“It is a fantastic commentary on the inhumanity of our times that for thousands and thousands of people a piece of paper with a stamp on it is the difference between life and death,” Mrs Josem said, quoting American journalist Dorothy Thompson in 1938.

“I wonder, is it just me or did that make any of you think about what’s going on in Europe right now with thousands of Syrian refugees clamouring to find a safe haven for themselves and for their families?”

“The news this past week has made me think a lot about Jews in Europe in the period 1938 to 1939, about the Evian Conference, and about the St Louis ‘voyage of the damned’ ” (Jayne Josem – Head of collections at Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre)

We promised it will never happen again and here we are, in the 21st century, repeating the history. Although there is no world war, no nation having the power over others, it seems that we are again in the same situation as during the Holocaust. When are we going to stop from taking someone’s life? According to United Nations, there are almost 500,000 people killed during Syria’s civil war. Are we trying to match the number of Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust, 6 million people?

History is full of events where someone did not stand up and act to make a difference as a matter of security for their nation. Sounds familiar? America’s security fears during World War II led to the rejection of Jews fleeing the Holocaust. Today, in the 21st century, Europe and America’s security fears are yet again put to a test by rejecting Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the United States has admitted almost 7,000 and Europe over one million of Syria’s nine million refugees, not counting Turkey admitting almost 3 million refugees. Millions of refugees crossed Europe and America’s borders over several decades, including thousands from the Middle East, but none successfully completed an act of terrorism. Yet we have chosen to let people starve, drown, or be murdered in the name of security. Our insecurity has led inhumanity. The anxiety over refugees is not totally unfounded. Just as there were bad people in Germany in the World War II, there are bad people in Syria and Middle-East today, as everywhere else in the world, but we do not need to generalise and sentence to death innocent people for the mistakes other have made.

In the words of one Libyan woman: “My 10-year-old daughter asked me: ‘Why did everyone forget about Syria when Gaza started?’ I sadly replied: ‘They forgot about Syria a long time ago.’”( The Guardian, Ian Black, Middle-East editor, 25 July 2014)

Did we really had forgotten? Sadly, yes we did and we continue to close our eyes, every day, either being indifferent to the entire situation so we will not suffer or just not caring about it. We are not so different as in how America behaved with the ship full of Jewish refugees. Although the situation regarding refugees when comparing the two is different , it is also very similar. Escaping the Holocaust, just 500,000 people managed to cross Europe; the same amount of lives lost in the civil war in Syria. On the other hand, nine million people escaped from Syria in all corners of the world; a bit over the number of Jewish deaths during Holocaust. However, a refugee today will not have the same fate as a Jewish one. Look at all the Jewish communities across the world! Any of them starving? Being forgotten by fellow human kinds? Let to die because we cannot come to an agreement on how to deal with the situation? While I do agree that life for a Jewish refugee during the war was not easy, at least they had an opportunity after the war ended to survival and a better life. In Syria, there is no hope as I do not see an end to the entire situation.

A leader of the Blue Star Mothers represented the extreme fringe of popular anti-Semitism when she warned of “200,000 Communist Jews at the Mexican border waiting to get into this country. If they are admitted they will rape every woman and child that is left unprotected.” ( Politico, Josh Zeitz, 22 November 2015)

The same conception lays on Muslim people coming from Syria. At a campaign rally, in Ohio, Trump said: “We have no idea who these people are, where they come from; they can be rapists, terrorists, a serious threat to our national security”(Sky News, 27 October 2016). It is fair to say that Jews and Muslims are all the same? I have no doubt that, probably, there are some of them as described, but again, are not among us similar people? Why are they not judged in the same way as the above mentioned?

America’s involvement in Syria’s civil war is just a matter of politic interests. As they have failed to ‘save the world’ during Holocaust, they are hoping to succeed now by ending terrorism. It is their chance to show the world they are living up to motto “Never again” and prevent a genocide from happening. It is their chance of making history and be remembered forever as the ‘nation that saved the world’. Will that happen? It is very hard to believe that with a ‘future’ president as Donald Trump they will succeed when he is just as bad as Assad is or maybe worse.

Gigi xoxo

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