Wiesenthal’s death reminds us of our pledge: ‘Never again’ | SummitDaily.com

Wiesenthal’s death reminds us of our pledge: ‘Never again’

Summit Daily file photoRich Mayfield

The death of Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal this week served as a telling reminder of the evil humans are capable of perpetrating.Wiesenthal, after being liberated from a concentration camp in 1945, spent the remainder of his long life in pursuit of Nazis who had managed to evade arrest following the war. A controversial figure, his exploits, both real and imagined, served as a source for numerous movies and television dramas.His commitment was unparalleled. Once, when asked why he devoted his entire life to this vocation, he replied: “You are a religious man. You believe in God and life after death. I also believe. When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, ‘What have you done?’ there will be many answers. You will say, ‘I became a jeweler.’ Another will say, ‘I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.’ Still another will say, ‘I built houses.’ But I will say, ‘I didn’t forget you.”Today, some 2 million Sudanese are being forgotten. More than 300,000 have been killed, and more than a 1.5 million fester in refugee camps after being driven from their homes and having their villages destroyed.

Almost exactly a year ago, then Secretary of State Colin Powell declared the Sudanese situation a systematic attempt at genocide. Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Powell said: “We concluded – I concluded – that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility – and genocide may still be occurring.”In spite of that dramatic declaration, the horror continues. The Sudanese Government, using Arab “Janjaweed” militias, its air force and organized starvation, is systematically killing the black Sudanese of Darfur. On the very day of Wiesenthal’s death, a petition, sponsored by the American Jewish World Service and signed by hundreds of rabbis and others, appeared in the New York Times. It called on President Bush to remember his administration’s commitment to the people of the Sudan: “Sixty years ago, after the Holocaust, the world vowed “never again.” That pledge was repeated after the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. We cannot wait any longer to make good on our promises.”

We have been waiting a long time. During President Clinton’s administration little was done to address the growing reality of genocide in the Sudan. Our present administration, initially ready to put significant pressure on the Sudanese government, seems to have lost much of its initiative. As we dawdle, the killing, looting and raping continue unabated.The gifted author, Elie Wiesel, who himself was subjected to the horrors of Nazism, has committed himself to fighting the genocidal efforts of the Sudanese government. In July of last year, at a conference called by the American Jewish World Service and the United States Holocaust Museum, he alluded to a sobering parallel: “How can a citizen of a free country not pay attention? How can anyone, anywhere not feel outraged? How can a person, whether religious or secular, not be moved by compassion? And above all, how can anyone who remembers remain silent?”As a Jew who does not compare any event to the Holocaust, I feel concerned and challenged by the Sudanese tragedy. We must be involved. How can we reproach the indifference of non-Jews to Jewish suffering if we remain indifferent to another people’s plight?”

Even in the midst of our own calamities, Americans need to remember the commitment we made in the wake of the horrifying realities of Nazi Germany. As they enter into their most holy days, our Jewish sisters and brothers remind us of our collective promise to do all within our power to prevent the genocide of any people.”Never again,” we boldly pledged. It is time we honor our vow. Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. He can be reached at richmayfield@comcast.net.

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