Nazi Death Camps and Conflict Resolution: Holocaust Memorial Day Reflections
This Thursday, May 5, 2016, is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. As has been the case every year since 1988, approximately sixteen thousand teen-agers and adults from around the planet will join together to participate in the International March of the Living, and this year I am with them. We landed earlier today in Warsaw and have already spent time in Warsaw and Lodz, listening to the echoes of the vast Polish Jewish community that is no more. Tomorrow we visit Kraków, and on Thursday we will step back through the wispy mists of time and walk in the footsteps of the Auschwitz inmates who were forced to take the "death march" from Auschwitz to Birkenau. Through this solemn Yom HaShoah parade of remembrance we will affirm the lives of the survivors who have traveled with us and those who could not join, as well as remember those who did not survive, the victims who never had a chance to tell their stories.
The Holocaust represents the worst of what can go wrong when nations do not peacefully resolve their conflicts. Inversely, the Holocaust also serves as an example of the immense potential of conflict resolution to avert human tragedy. Undoubtedly anti-semitism is a scourge that defies explanation. Notwithstanding, it does appear that absent the political and economic conflicts that Germany was caught up in at the turn of the 20th century the latent anti-Semitic beliefs that existed in continental Europe would not have mutated into a global force of destruction like Nazism. Put another way, had Europe's political and economic conflicts been constructively resolved at any point prior to the onset of World War Two, the Holocaust may never have happened. When we remember the Holocaust we must also resolve to improve dispute resolution opportunities around the world in a global effort to increase societal quality of life and avoid, to the extent possible, further tragedies. The Global Pound Conference, which I have been writing a great deal about, aims to do just that and deserves our support.
In discussing the question of conflict resolution and the Holocaust with Dr. Jack Arbiser, my seat-mate on our March of the Living Flight to Poland, we developed another, more profound, thought. A mediation or peace process can only gain traction when both sides recognize the core humanity of the other side. When we see the "image of God," in each other, we necessarily both feel and exhibit the respect that is a natural precursor to the mutual understanding, which in turn can lead to collaborative resolution of conflict.
Confronting the total dehumanization of the Holocaust and Nazi death camps will hopefully shock all of us marchers into seeing the humanity of each other member of our global community. By preserving and sharing that awareness of humanity, we will help foster a climate conducive to respectful conflict resolution through mediation and other collaborative methods.