Eric Tretter - Revere
What Have We Learned?
"As freedom-loving people across the globe hope for an end to tyranny, we will
never forget the enormous suffering of the holocaust."
Gen-o-cide (jÚn?-s?d), n. the deliberate
and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group. Genocide
is a historical and pervading reality. But to the survivors of these mass murders, it was
so much more. To these people genocide isn't just a mass murder; it's an extermination of
their hopes, dreams, and futures. Two incidents during which people were discriminated
against and humiliated until there was nothing left of them but their souls were the
Holocaust and Cambodian genocide. Now we look upon the survivors, the people who suffered
just so to fulfill their hope that the world will never forget.
In January 1933, after a bitter ten-year struggle in Germany, Hitler came to power. He
seemed like the only way out of economic hardship for Germany, and attracted many
followers. His plan to "rebuild" Germany was simple; he planned to exterminate
the Jewish race to improve the situation of another; the Master Race. .
Hitler's beliefs were cruel and unjust, and he had no problem sharing them with the
public. But after such a long struggle, the people of Germany were willing to turn to
anyone who promised them a better future.
Hitler started with simple speeches, blaming the Jewish people for Germany's defeat in
World War I and the subsequent economic hardships. Hitler promoted Germans with fair skin,
blonde hair and blue eyes; he called them the Master Race. (United Human Rights, I) Hitler
and his other Nazi followers viewed the Jewish people not as a religious group, but as a
poisonous race, which lived off the other races and weakened them. (Bachrach, 12) Jews, at
that time, accounted for only about one percent of German's population of fifty-five
million people, but it wasn't good enough , for Hitler; he wanted all of them gone.
(United Human Rights, 1)
After Hitler took power in Germany, the Nazi teachers began to apply the
"principals" of racial science. They measured the skull size, nose length, and
recorded hair and eye color of their pupils to determine if they belonged in Hitler's
On April 1st, 1933, Nazis performed a boycott of Jewish businesses, still with
hopes to exterminate all the Jewish people. But the Jews stayed strong. (Bachrach, 14)
Nazis even went to the lengths of excluding the Jewish population from society by removing
them from schools, banning them from jobs, and excluding them from military service.
Jewish people were even forbidden to share a park bench with a non-Jew. (United Human
Rights, 1) During this time, German physicians could even perform forced sterilizations on
anyone who was Jewish. (Bachrach, 12) Lists were made that told which books shouldn't be
read by Nazis, and made new books that tried to instill hatred of Jews to children. (16)
In the end, the Jewish people lost everything. (United Human Rights, 2)
Nazis began forcing Jewish people to perform public acts of humiliation. Then, on November
9th and 10th, the Night of Broken Glass occurred when seventeen-year-old Herschel
Grynszpan shot and killed Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official in Paris, retaliation
for the harsh treatment his parents had received from the Nazis. During this event, ninety
Jewish people were killed, five-hundred synagogues were burned, and over twenty-five
thousand men were removed to concentration camps. Then, as a cynical joke, Nazis fined the
Jewish people one billion Reich marks for the damage they had caused.
"When I came to power, I did not want the concentration camps to be old age
pensioners' homes, but [instead] instruments of terror."
While inside the concentration camps, Jewish people and many other races who didn't fit
into the "Master Race" were faced with hunger, thirst, and unspeakable torture;
the worst of all the tortures for some was knowing that they were the only one left of
World War II began September of 1939 as German troops stormed into Poland, a country home
to over three million Jews; these Jews were forced into "ghettos", where tens of
thousands died. (3)
"All that is needed for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
As the war progressed; the United States departed from neutrality and rendered greater and
greater aid to the beleaguered Allies. Blocked in negotiations with the United States,
Japan attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and forced the United
States into the War.
(World War II Commemoration, 5-6)
"There were ways of not burdening one's conscience, of shunning responsibility,
looking away...When the unspeakable truth of the Holocaust then became known at the end of
the war, all too many...claimed that they had not known [or suspected] anything."
-Richard von Weizsaecker
In May of 1948, the state of Israel officially came into existence and opened its borders
to receive the Jews. (Holocaust: The camps and Holocaust: A Jewish Homeland, 296b) It was
the end of the war.
Cambodia is a country in South East Asia. Their monarch joined forces with a communist
guerrilla organization and became known as the KInner Rouge. The Khmer Rouge's leader was
known as Pol Pot. In 1975 Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge came to power in an extremist
program to reconstruct Cambodia. They began by renaming it Kampuchea (Talking about
Genocide: Genocides, 3)
At short notice, and under threat of death, the inhabitants of towns and cities in
Cambodia were forced to leave them. Eventually, all political and civil rights were
abolished. Professional people in every field were murdered, along with their extended
families. Children were taken from their homes and placed in forced labor camps. During
this period, civilian deaths from executions, disease, exhaustion, and starvation have
been estimated to exceed well over two million.
In 1978 Vietnam invaded Kampuchea and overthrew the Khmer Rouge. (4) In retreat, the Khmer
Rouge had some help from the American relief agencies. Under pressure internationally,
Vietnam finally withdrew its occupying army from Cambodia. Obviously under pressure also,
Pol Pot ordered the execution of his life-long right-hand man and eleven members of his
family on June 10, 1997. (Pol Pot, 6) The last troops left Cambodia in 1989, and its name
was officially restored. (Talking about Genocide: Genocides, 4)
"There must [always] be people who [know enough about] World War II and the Holocaust
[to help us] get out of this rut."
There will always be hatred and discrimination in the world. How we go about handling and
getting over it will determine if we really have understood the lessons we've learned from
the past and taken them into the future to help our future man.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere...Whatever affects one
directly, affects all indirectly"
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Works Cited Page
Bachrach, Susan D. Tell Them We Remember: The Story of
the Holocaust. Canada: Little, Brown & Co., 1994.
Burenbaum, Michael. "Holocaust: The Camps and
Holocaust: A Jewish Homeland." World Book Encyclopedia. 1998 ed. 1998.
Esposito, Vincent J. "World War II Commenoration." Grolier Online. 09
Nov. 2005 http://gi.grolier.com/wwii/wwii_1.html
"Genocides." Talking About Genocide. Peace Pledge Union Info. 10 Oct.
Herring, George C. "Vietnam War: Background to the War. "World Book
Encyclopedia. 1998 Edition ed. 1998
"History of the Holocaust." 1938-1945. 2004. United Human Right. 26
Pol Pot. Wikipedia. 15 Nov. 2005