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Staal essay: Fighting evil with Week of Kindness

Elizabeth Staal (North Central High School courtesy)
Elizabeth Staal (North Central High School courtesy)

Genocide is, by definition, the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group. Acts that could be categorized under genocide have plagued our world periodically throughout its history, but the Holocaust is the one act remembered most. This massive, terribly brutal genocide violently shook the world, and has since motivated humanity to realize the importance of taking action against such deeds.

These horrors continue to riddle our world today, which can be seen when one compares the Holocaust and the genocide in Darfur.

When Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany, he took advantage of the mistrust toward Jews and other groups to sow even more hate and discord against them. Yet they never ceased to resist his oppression.

On November 9, 1938, the Night of Broken Glass, violence against the Jews broke out in Germany through a carefully organized pogrom by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other Nazis. Within two days, over 7,000 Jewish businesses were trashed and looted, many Jews were killed, and over 250 synagogues were burned as police and fire brigades passively stood by. After this, the persecution of Jews, and other groups deemed unfit for German society, escalated into an outright genocide. Throughout World War II, millions of Jews, as well as homosexuals, gypsies, Jehovah’s witnesses, and other groups, were displaced and sent to ghettos or concentration camps. Between 5 and 6 million Jews died during the Holocaust, and this does not include the millions of other peoples also killed. In resistance to these injustices, underground libraries, religious and cultural meetings, partisan activities, and desperate uprisings rose up in an attempt to fight back, despite having hopelessly slim chances of victory. German firepower and numbers were infinitely superior, and often the only weapons available to those defying their abject situations were rocks or broken bottles. Despite the odds, stubborn resistance persevered.

Today, genocide is rampaging in Sudan against the Muslim farmers of the Sudanese region of Darfur. In 2003 two Darfur rebel movements arose to oppose the government, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement. In response, the Sudanese government unleashed Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, on the villages throughout Darfur. Systematically they razed more than 400 villages to the ground and displaced over two and a half million people. Just as the Holocaust threw millions into turmoil, millions of Darfurians were also robbed of their homes or lives. The Sudanese government denied any connection with the Janjaweed, refused to cooperate with the investigations launched by the International Criminal Court in June 2005, and so far has not taken any steps to end the activities of the Janjaweed in Darfur. As Hitler acted during his persecution of Jews and other groups, Sudan’s government has also attempted to suppress any information concerning its actions by jailing and killing witnesses of the genocide since 2004, obstructing and arresting journalists, and tampering with evidence, such as the location of mass graves. The International Criminal Court, accusing the Sudanese President Omar al Bashir of directing a campaign of mass killing, rape, and pillage against civilians in Darfur, has taken action against the violence. Yet the genocide continues with little sign of ceasing.

After analyzing these troubling events and their alarming affinity with certain aspects of the Holocaust, one has to ask the question: Can a difference be made? What can a single person do in the face of such devastating events? Nothing I do could directly affects the people of Darfur, but perhaps by creating a project in my school, a Week of Kindness, something could be done in my own community.

During this week, while keeping genocide and evil in mind, people would carry out small acts of love. A food and necessities drive could be hosted in order to help the people being persecuted by genocide in Darfur and elsewhere. This project, drawing inspiration from passive resistance demonstrated in the Holocaust, particularly the White Rose Society, could serve as a peaceful way to fight genocide. The White Rose Society did not fight by starting revolts and bearing arms, but instead, by peacefully protesting the genocidal policies of its government, anonymously publishing pamphlets that criticized Hitler‘s actions, and distributing them to German citizens.

My Week of Kindness, with its necessities drive and its distribution of benevolence to those around oneself, would fulfill the same goal of peaceful opposition. This would hopefully boost the morale of the oppressed while also creating a sense of much needed contribution to the situation now afflicting Darfur. Nothing can be done to completely free the world, or Darfur, from the evils of genocide. However, if anything can be done against the destruction and hate it ensues, it is coming to terms with oneself, ensuring that, to the best of one’s ability, the community a person lives in is full of love and care. This creates an environment that, in itself, challenges genocide, which stands for destruction and hate, not kindness or love.

The Holocaust was a devastating act of genocide that affected over 10 million lives, and few events in history compare to the criminal horrors thrown onto the Jews and other groups tormented by Hitler’s maniacal schemes. Sadly, genocides of the Holocaust’s nature, even on a smaller scale, still happen around us, and the troubling events in Darfur are proof of such virulent atrocities. Those of us on the sidelines need to protest against this violence, and rightly regard it as a threat to the peace and welfare of every human being.

Elizabeth Staal is a sophomore at North Central High School.

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