As I began working on this article, I thought about WWII and my own mom and her introduction to the word, genocide. She was working in a factory when a Jewish girl whispered in her ear one day, “They are killing the Jews by the thousands in Europe.” My mother gasped in disbelief, as was the reaction of much of the world at the time when they first heard about Hitler and his plan to annihilate the Jews, “How can this be true?” my mother said as tears filled her eyes. Sadly, it was true. There was genocide in Europe under Hitler’s regime and it would be just the beginning.
Did you know that prior to 1943, the word Genocide didn’t even exist?
Now consider this:
Genocides and other mass murders killed more people in the twentieth century than all the wars combined.
Raphael Lemkin coined the word Genocide in 1943 from Genos (family, tribe, race) and the Latin – Caedes (massacre; pronounced kay-dees).
There is news in the papers recently about the United Nations delaying the release of a report detailing a decade of gruesome attacks against civilians in the Congo. It is being delayed based upon protests from Rwanda regarding the findings. Drafts of the report were leaked to the media last week.
Genocide, the killing of an innocent people for whatever reasons, happens all over the world today. Think about what I mentioned to you at the beginning of the article – “Genocide has killed more people in the twentieth century than all the wars combined.”
This word, this genocide, has become the deadliest word in the twentieth century vocabulary.
Please take a few minutes from your day today or sometime when you have the time to pause, reflect and watch this powerful trailer called ‘The Last Survivor’ as it explores the genocides of the twentieth century – from the lips of those who did survive the atrocities against their people. You can watch it here.
One of the survivors of the Holocaust, Hedi, said it this way:
“What is also important to remember is how democracy dies if you don’t work for it. When good people stop living up to the responsibilities that come with the privileges of democracy, the silence is filled by voices of intolerance and hate. Such a failure of democracy has happened many times throughout our history in every corner of our planet.”
If you think that genocide cannot happen in America, think again. Even here, even in America, anything is possible.