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What can we learn from Auschwitz?

November 2, 2017

Nazism, Fascism, and militarism all started with a little grievance here and a little hatred there, and coupled with a false sense of confidence and extreme jingoism, they soon became toxic.

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AuschwitzBy TK Chua

I have always wanted to visit Auschwitz in Poland – the infamous Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War. My opportunity came late last month. There I was, standing on the ground where 1.1 million people were exterminated.

Today, only the prison cells, fences, walls, execution yards, eerie gas chambers, belongings of prisoners and timeless old photographs stand as reminder.

In Auschwitz alone, according to the records I read there, 1.1 million died, 90% of whom were Jews rounded up from around Europe – from Poland and Hungary in the East to Holland, Belgium and France in the West.

My motivation for visiting was not governed by racial, religious or parochial reasons. I was merely looking at how we humans are most capable of inflicting unimaginable harm on others if we allow unfettered extremism to take root and grow.

More than 70 long years have since passed. I got an inkling that perhaps the world is about to forget its own past. People experiencing or have memories of the war have faded away.

Nazism, Fascism, and militarism all started with a little grievance here and a little hatred there. Coupled with a false sense of confidence and extreme jingoism, they soon became toxic.

Nazi Germany and militarist Japan have caused tremendous carnage on others, but eventually they too brought massive suffering upon their own people.

In recent times, rightwing jingoism and nationalism are starting to rear their ugly head again – in Europe, America and Asia. So also are bigotry and extreme religious ideologies which preach hatred and exclusivity. Each thinks it is “my way or the highway”. Besides, the emergence of new powers on the world stage, such as China, could also have caused adverse reactions from existing powers.

To countries whose power has waned, I urge graceful exit and peaceful coexistence. To the new powers, I urge humility and benevolence to others. New powers must learn from the follies of Germany and Japan.

It is dangerous to be arrogant, jingoistic and thoughtless. We know, ultimately, all countries, big or small, strong or weak, must be on the right side of history.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.


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