August 20th 2022 marked 75 years since the codification of the Nuremberg Code in 1947, an invaluable and internationally recognised document outlining the core tenets of medical ethics (enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Canada is a signatory). To commemorate the event, Action Alliance, a German activist group, organised a line-up of speakers from across the world to discuss the importance of the Code.
The whole event was live streamed by Children’s Health Defence TV. Unsurprisingly, it was not covered by the legacy media.
One of the speakers was Holocaust survivor and founder of the Alliance for Human Research Protection (AHRP), Vera Sharav. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to her speak before, and her speech at this event was as moving and inspiring as you might imagine it to be.
What struck me most was her unwavering commitment to drawing parallels between what has been happening in the world over the last two years, and what happened in 1930s Germany. Many would – and do – hesitate to state any similarities between then and now, perhaps out of fear of reprisal, or for fear of comparing anything to what is rightly understood to be one of humanity’s darkest moments.
But not Vera. And shouldn’t she know? Who else but one who has lived through it?
As Vera states, the Holocaust didn’t start with the camps and the gas chambers. It didn’t happen overnight. It was preceded by 8 years of totalitarian tiptoe, of emergency measures and sweeping government powers that, bit by bit, removed the rights and freedoms of an identifiable group of citizens. Discrimination was written into policy, and a two-tier society engulfed most of Europe, with visible markers handed out to identify the in-group and the out-group. They lost their jobs, their businesses, their homes; and when there was nowhere else for them to go they were sent to camps. Sound familiar?
It seems, however, that most people have the idea that the Holocaust was the sudden massacre of 6 million Jews – and only Jews. They forget the German infants who suffered at the hands of Nazi doctors. And the mentally handicapped. And the Romani. And the elderly. And countless others. “Lest we Forget” has become an empty platitude for a large portion of the population.
Vera notes that people who are quick to dismiss the parallels of then and now are actually doing a disservice to those who died during the holocaust, as well as those who fought and died so that such an atrocity should never happen again. She states that in so doing they “[betray] the victims of the Holocaust by denying the relevance of the Holocaust”.
I’m inclined to agree. The Holocaust is always relevant, and should always be a reminder that we should never allow ourselves even the risk of following the same path that was followed then. Once a stone starts rolling downhill, it’s not likely to stop on its own. And that’s the point that I believe Vera was making: today’s events are not comparable to the tragic climax of the Holocaust, but to its initial stages. She sees the stone starting to roll.
Perhaps I feel this way because I’ve been to Auschwitz I and II (Birkenau). I’ve walked the halls. I’ve seen the mountains of shoes and suitcases. I’ve stood against the firing squad walls. I’ve been inside the gas chambers and the furnaces. These are experiences not easily forgotten.
When I’ve mentioned Vera Sharav to others, and repeated her comments about the similarities of 1930s Europe and current world events, I’m usually met with derision. People take offence at comparisons of the Holocaust and the hardships that people lived through with the events of today that are, in their words, “minor inconveniences”.
I’m always shocked that people are almost wilfully deaf to the words of someone who has survived the Holocaust, words that I merely echo. For if they won’t take her word for it, then whose?
– Aldous M. Cluverius