viernes, 25 de agosto de 2017

Auschwitz Remains A Memorial To The Horrors Of Nazi Genocide. The main gate entering the German Nazi death camp in Auschwitz in the then occupied Poland.

The main gate entering the German Nazi death camp
in Auschwitz in the then occupied Poland. 

On August 8, 2017, together with Philos Project, Ewelina U. Ochab -a Forbes Contributor- went to the Konzentrationslager Auschwitz (KL Auschwitz) outside of Krakow. KL Auschwitz was the German Nazi camp in the then occupied Poland. I avoided going to Auschwitz for many years. However, visiting the camp was unavoidable because of the work that I do.

KL Auschwitz was the biggest Nazi camp. The camp was founded in early 1940 in response to the growing number of arrests and the overcrowding of prisons and other institutions across Europe. The first prisoners were Poles. However, since 1942, KL Auschwitz was turned from a concentration camp into a death camp (extermination camp) for the purposes of ‘Endlösung der Judenfrage’ (the final solution to the Jewish question). Over the years of its existence, the camp significantly expanded to become a complex consisting of three parts: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau and Auschwitz III-Monowitz. Ultimately, over 1.1 million people lost their lives in the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex before Soviet troops liberated the few survivors on January 27, 1945.

Life in the camp: Inside each barrack, there were 60 brick partitions with
three tiers, a total of 180 sleeping places '
buks'. Each 'buks' waw designed to
accommodate four prisoners. (Photo credit: Ewelina Ochab)
While I have avoided going to the camp for many years, the study of the WWII, the atrocities in the camps (including the illegal human experimentation without consent) and the Nuremberg Trials was a crucial part of my legal education. However, the study of WWII is starting to lose its importance. People know less and less about what happened during WWII, what happened in KL Auschwitz and other camps.
Despite my own reluctance to go to the camp, visiting KL Auschwitz is important. It is important as an educational trip to have a better understanding of the historical events. However, there are more lessons that can be learned.
No.1.: Forced Labor and Slavery 
The sign at the entry gate to the camp says ‘Arbeit macht frei’ (work makes free). Ironic. The forced labor in the camp did not make anyone free. To the contrary, it was an extreme form of slavery and forced labor. Only death made the prisoners free.
Slavery and forced labor continue until this day.  It was not abolished with the liberation of the camp on January 27, 1945. It existed before KL Auschwitz and continue to exist even now. One modern example would be the girls and women abducted and trafficked by terrorist groups and forced into labor or sex slavery - the practice used by Daesh against Yazidi and Christian girls and women, and by Boko Haram against girls and women in Nigeria and neighboring countries. However, to find examples of human trafficking for labor and sexual slavery, one does not have to exclusively rely upon examples of such crimes being committed in a far away country. Indeed, modern day slavery (and the often associated human trafficking) are crimes committed under our nose. 
The victims are less visible. They are not in camps. They do not wear striped pajamas. They do not wear chains - at least not visible chains. But the chains are there. These chains may be fear for their lives or lives of their loved ones, fear of humiliation, fear of repercussions (criminal charges, especially in cases of forced prostitution) and many more. 
As during the Nazi reign, work did not make them free, similarly, modern forms of slavery and forced labor are endless and freedom becomes an empty word. When the victims come to a GP or hospital (if they are ever able), we miss the signs that should trigger the red flags. 
Lesson No.2.: Die Freigabe der Vernichtung Lebensunwerten Lebens (Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life) 
The phrase ‘Lebensunwertes Leben’ was a phrase used by the Nazis to describe life unworthy of living. Jews were designated by Nazis as such. Similarly, and long before WWII, physically and mentally disabled people received such classification. Lives classified as unworthy of living were dehumanized not only with the general classification. The groups or individuals, especially Jews, were compared to animals to deprive them of their humanity. As a result of the ‘life unworthy of living’ designation, Jews were ill-fated for extermination, physically and mentally disabled people were ill-fated for euthanasia (also extermination but under a different name). Despite the fact that over the years any such narrative was being strongly combated by international and domestic institutions, the narrative degrading life or dehumanizing individuals is still preserved. 

Over the years post WWII, the narrative has been re-introduced occasionally. In accordance with this dehumanizing narrative, Christians minorities in Syria and Iraq are called ‘cross-worshipers’ and ‘infidels’ by Daesh. Similarly, Daesh calls Yazidis the ‘devil-worshipers.’ They are then targeted by Daesh for destruction, in whole or in part. In America in August 2017, white supremacists and KKK supporters marched through Charlottesville wearing swastikas and chanting 'Jew will not replace us'. In Belgium and the Netherlands, adults (including elderly suffering from dementia) and children suffering from incurable illnesses can be euthanized on request. The examples of more or less visible cases of human lives being dehumanized are out there. We are just afraid to see the signs as seeing would place a moral obligation to act. 
Visiting Auschwitz is important to remind ourselves about the dark history that hunted Europe in the first part of the 20th century. Remembering the victims and the atrocities that led to the death of millions of people is an important element of prevention. However, commemorating the victims is not enough. We must not forget the lessons of the past and we should learn to read current events through the prism of these lessons. 
Instead of soliloquizing what we would have done if we were living in the Nazi Germany or the occupied territories, we can make a change now. We need to remember the history and to be vigilant in recognizing the attitudes and behaviors that have led to annihilation, of millions of people during Nazi reign. The signs are there. It is up to us to see them. It is up to us to act. And act we must.
Learn more about Nazism and Holocaust by reading: 

"The Nazis and Evil: the Annihilation of the Human Being" 
5 Stars 
in 6 languages
English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian, and French

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jueves, 24 de agosto de 2017

Heroic secret life of teenage British WWII spy who was sent to live in Nazi-occupied France and flown back to report directly to Churchill is revealed following his death aged 93

John Potter (pictured) was smuggled into France
by submarine in 1942, taking on t
he identity of a dead Frenchman

    • As a teenager, John Potter was smuggled into France via a submarine in 1942
    • He took on identity of a dead Frenchman to set up resistance groups in Europe
    • Mr. Potter was regularly flown back to Britain to meet with Sir Winston Churchill
    • He kept his spy career hidden from his family for 50 years before telling his wife

    The heroics of a Second World War spy who went undercover in Nazi-controlled Europe have finally emerged following his death at the age of 93.
    As a teenager, John Potter was smuggled into France by submarine in 1942, taking on the identity of a dead Frenchman to set up resistance groups.

    Mr. Potter, who kept his spy career secret from his family for 50 years, was regularly flown back to Britain to meet with Winston Churchill.

    The Prime Minister would then give him a glass of brandy before sending him back to Saint-Flour in France, where his mission was to protect several villages.
    Following the war, he witnessed the horrific scenes of the Dachau concentration camp, near Munich in Germany.

    He also assisted during the Nuremberg Trials, becoming a confidant for chemists responsible for the production of lethal gas.

    His wife, Mildred, said her husband had to keep horrifying experiences secret for 50 years before he was finally able to tell her about it.

    Mrs Potter, 79, of Worthing, West Sussex, said: 'I met John in Vienna, Austria, in 1973 and we got married three years later.

    'I said to him one day that, because of his age, he must have been involved in the war in some way.

    John Potter and his wife, Mildred, in Paris during 1972.
    The spy was regularly flown back to Britain during the war to meet with Winston Churchill

    'He told me he was and that he was part of the army, but that he couldn't tell me any more than that at the moment because he had signed the Official Secrets Act.

    'He said to me that one day he would be able to tell me all about his experiences.
    'I forgot about it over time, but then we were on holiday in Spain when he said to me one day that the 50 years was now up.

    'Initially, I wasn't sure what he meant, but then I realised he meant he was able to talk about what he had done in the war.

    'He told me he had been unable to join up with the army properly because he had a club foot when he was younger.

    'John had been privately educated and wanted to defer any military service so he could continue studying maths and chemistry at London University.

    'He was asked to attend a meeting one day, during which he told about his desire to defer but when he got there he was asked to sign part of the Official Secrets Act.

    'He was then asked if he would go to France and replace a teenager who had been killed and report back to Britain on what was happening.

    'He was just 18 when he was asked to do this and couldn't tell anyone about it, not even his family.'

    Mr. Potter was dispatched to France on a submarine, before being smuggled to Saint-Flour by the French Resistance, where he assumed his place in his new family.

    When Churchill decided the reports he was receiving from France were not good enough, he brought Mr. Potter into a select group of informants, whom he would meet with personally.
    Mrs. Potter said: 'John said Mr. Churchill was a real presence - he could really get things done.

    'John needed ammunition dropped into his village, not just for them but for others nearby as well, and no one was sorting it. When he told Winston about it, he was able to sort it within days.

    When the war ended, Mr Potter returned to Britain where he completed his studies at London University and spent the rest of his life working in chemistry
    When the war ended, Mr Potter returned to Britain where he completed his studies at London University and spent the rest of his life working in chemistry
    'Every time he went to see him, Winston always gave him a brandy before he went off again and wished him luck.

    'The last time he visited Winston it was before D-Day and he said: 'You have done so well for all this time.'

    During his time in France, Mrs. Potter said her husband was able to ensure he never lost a man until one of his force was shot by an American at the end of the war in 1945.

    After Mr. Potter demanded the US soldier face a court martial, General Omar Bradley of the US Army instead asked John to join them and assist them liberating towns and camps in France and Germany so that no further mishaps occurred.

    Mrs Potter said: 'He joined the Americans as they swept through France and Germany to help them identify SS soldiers - the Americans couldn't tell the uniforms apart.
    'The SS soldiers were obviously trying to hide and John knew how to tell them apart from others.

    'He was there when they liberated Dachau concentration camp and he said the smell and sights were just horrific.

    'In his later years, he suffered from dementia and one day I came home and he was just sat in tears.

    'I asked him what was wrong and he just said 'it is terrible, it is awful', he was remembering seeing those terrible scenes.


    Learn more about Nazism and Holocaust by reading: 

    "The Nazis and Evil: the Annihilation of the Human Being"