The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same

June 23, 2010

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Yes, I know is quote is very cliché. However, I began to seriously think about it when I viewed the guest book in The Museum for the Murdered Jews of Europe. In this book an individual had written, “We must make sure that this never happens again.” Reading this I was just amazed, because, not only has mass murder happened again since the holocaust, but also it is happening today. I find it interesting that people always discuss the holocaust but never the massive amount of murders Stalin was responsible for in Russia and Eastern Europe, Mao’s great leap forward, Pol Pot in Cambodia, the slaughter between the Hutus and the Tutsi’s in Rwanda and Burundi, or the senseless death in the Sudan. Maybe that individual, when writing that message, was aware and had these other mass murders on their mind, however, I suspect that that is not the case. As with most who have very little sense of history, I think this individual fell pray to what I call one-track holocaust thinking. In other words, looking at genocide and seeing the holocaust as the horrific mass murder it was, but being unable to critically look at genocide and mass murder and see how such acts are able to take place, and where they have taken place post WWII.

I often wonder how it is that most people are unable to name acts of murder and mass genocide other than the Jewish holocaust.  After much thought, I have decided one of the main reasons is that because of nationalist issues, many countries, especially the United States, do a horrible job of teaching history. And, as a result, people are not able to critically look at genocides and mass murder and move beyond pinning the blame on single individuals through the use of good and evil rhetoric.

As our grouped toured around Berlin, this lack of historical and social understanding continued to reveal itself to me. I found it striking that everywhere around Berlin they’re where memorials commemorating the NAZI holocaust, yet there is such dislike for the Turkish. On the streets, on the trains, in the papers, the very people who have been living in Germany for so many years, who rebuilt the country with cheap labor after the war, still seemed to be reduced to second-class citizens. Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not arguing current Turkish racism in Germany comes close to Jewish persecution, it just strikes me that a society who spends so much time taking accounting of their role in the Jewish holocaust, could still be so unaccepting of people who “are not German enough.” It’s as if people are unable to draw causality between prejudices against the Jews in German society before the holocaust, to the actions leading up to Hitler carrying out his murderous policies. I sometimes wonder if the masses really are able to understand that the holocaust was so much more than just gas chambers and Hitler, it was the prejudice of a society as a whole.

Again, I repeat… “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”


One comment

  1. I have to agree with you. A country that has committed these unbelievable atrocities has a moral obligation to be an open and multicultural society. However, when considering the situation in the United States, China, and other countries around the world, you quickly realize that Germany is not alone.

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