Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What can I do?

I listened to a podcast today of Hillary Clinton's speech at the Holocaust Museum in D.C.   It was a sober reminder of  how far we've come and how far we have to go.    "....human nature did not dramatically and profoundly change in 1945. We still struggle with evil and the terrible impulses and actions that all too often result in atrocities and violence and genocide".

Did you know that each day 1,000 women and girls are raped in Eastern Congo as part of a conscious and planned strategy to break down the population?

It's easy to watch what's happening around the world, in Syria, Southern Sudan, Congo and other places, then  flick the channel to The Big Bang Theory or whatever.  Alternatively, some of us feel so overwhelmed by what we see and wonder what little-bitty-me could possibly do that would make a difference? 
So what can we do given how busy our lives have become?

Here are few simple ideas, that don't take up much time:

  1. The US Holocaust Museum makes some great suggestions here:  Take Action
  2.  Join Amnesty International online.   Sign up for their action alerts and when you feel moved, you can add your name to a petition, or, send your own custom message.  For example, here's a link to a petition to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in Egypt to end Army abuses  
  3. Join Avaaz.org - They describe themselves as "a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere".  You can find information on their success and impact here and here .
  4. Support with your wallet.  Pick a cause you are passionate about and plonk down your dollars.  It doesn't have to be much.  If a few hundred thousand people donate $50, we can make a big difference. 
Do you know of any other easy high impact ways to make a difference?  Please tell us in the comment section on the blog.

In a recent poll undertaken by Penn Schoen Berland, it was found that the majority of Americans believe that the US has a major role to play in preventing genocide. 

  • 69% think the US should prevent or stop genocide or mass atrocities from occurring in another part of the world.
  • 78% support the US taking military action to stop genocide or mass atrocities.
Here's Secretary Clinton's perspective on what we are doing based on her speech given at the Holocaust Museum today :

Keynote Address by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
July 24, 2012
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, and it’s a tremendous honor for me to be here on this occasion for such an important conference. I want to start by thanking Sara for that introduction, but much more than that, for her life’s work. She’s been involved with the Holocaust Memorial Museum since it was just a plan on paper. And she’s been here every step of the way shepherding it to the extraordinary heights it has assumed as a learning, teaching experience for 1.7 million people every single year, the vast majority of whom are young people.
And I also want to thank Dr. James Lindsay, senior vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Mr. Michael Abramowitz, the director of the Committee on Conscience here at the museum. And as a point of personal privilege, let me also thank my longtime friend Mark Penn for doing this important research, and also Dr. David Hamburg, who – I don’t know if David is here, but David and I have been talking about these issues for longer than either of us care to remember, and much of his work and his thinking has been incredibly important.
Now, this gathering is yet another example of what the museum does so well. It brings us face to face with a terrible chapter in human history and it invites us to reflect on what that history tells us and how that history should guide us on our path forward. As Sara said when we were walking in this morning, human nature did not dramatically and profoundly change in 1945. We still struggle with evil and the terrible impulses and actions that all too often result in atrocities and violence and genocide. But I want to thank the Committee on Conscience for bringing attention to contemporary cases of extreme violence against civilians.
Let me begin by acknowledging that here in this museum, it’s important to note that every generation produces extremist voices denying that the Holocaust ever happened. And we must remain vigilant against those deniers and against anti-Semitism, because when heads of state and religious leaders deny the Holocaust from their bully pulpits, we cannot let their lies go unanswered. When we hear Holocaust glorification and public calls to, quote, “finish the job,” we need to make clear that violence, bigotry will not be tolerated. And, yes, when criticism of Israeli Government policies crosses over into demonization of Israel and Jews, we must push back.
Here at this museum and in the work that many of you do every day, we are countering hatred with truth. Thanks to the museum and institutions like it and scholars and academics and activists around the world, we have accurate histories. We have memorials and archives that record the stories of those who survived and those who did not. And because we know what happened, our call to action is that much clearer and compelling. Bringing that dark chapter into light helps clarify and sharpen what we mean when we say “never again.”
But despite all we have learned and accomplished in the last 70 years, “never again” remains an unmet, urgent goal. At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, we have seen campaigns of harassment and violence against groups of people because of their ethnic, racial, religious, or political backgrounds, and even some which aimed at the destruction of a particular group of people, fitting the definition of genocide. The Khmer Rouge slaughtered those suspected of having a high school education or other supposed enemies. Saddam Hussein massacred Kurdish communities in northern Iraq. Entire villages in Sudan were wiped out by government-supported militias.
So in April, President Obama came to this place right here to underscore this Administration’s commitment to stopping the mass slaughter of civilians. He laid out a broad vision, declaring that fighting atrocities “must be the work of our nation and all nations.”
So today, I want to talk about our strategy for preventing and responding to these crimes and the specific steps we are taking, because we have seen the cost of inaction. In Rwanda, 800,000 people in a country of 7 million died in the 1994 genocide. I remember being in Rwanda with my husband when I was First Lady, listening to story after story from survivors about the loved ones they had lost and the horrors they had endured.
The world waited until the massacre at Srebrenica before acting in Bosnia. It took the stories of men and boys summarily executed by the hundreds in refugee camps, of women and girls dragged into fields and gang-raped by soldiers, of infants murdered because they would not stop crying. And yet we’ve also seen how decisive action can make all the difference.
Two years ago, I visited Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. When I arrived, throngs of men and women were lining the streets, clapping and waving flags and holding signs that said “Thank you America.” What the United States and our NATO allies did there more than a decade ago may not be fresh in the minds of every American, but I can assure you they certain – those memories are certainly fresh in the minds of the people of Kosovo. During that time, families lived in fear that they would be dragged from their homes, loaded onto trains and trucks to ethnically cleanse communities. If we had failed to intervene when we did, who knows how many faces would have been missing from those crowds?
So we do have a moral obligation to confront threats such as these, because they are violations of our common humanity. And as the poll you’ve just heard about shows, the American people share this commitment and believe we do have a responsibility to act. But it isn’t just the morally right thing to do. These crimes undermine stability in countries and across regions. They spark humanitarian crises and send refugees streaming across borders. They reverse economic progress and stymie growth for generations. They create bitter cycles of vengeance and retribution that can scar communities for decades.
See the rest of the speech here>>

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Dear Sir/Madam,
I am searching for an article published sometime in 1946 or 1947 about my mother.
The article was published with the attached photo and was a story about recovering this young girl from Poland after the holocaust and bringing her safely to Germany to live in Dachau.
It’s possible names mentioned in the article may have included:
Joasia or Joanna P_____ (my mother and the girl in the picture)
Zdislaw P______
Mietek D____
I would appreciate it if you were able to help me find this article, or suggest where I might find it.
Thank you in advance,
Karen K...

That was the  email (translated) I sent to the newspaper that was in print in southern Germany during and after the war.  I received their response this morning and admittedly reacted poorly to what I saw as elements of  ignorance.  Of course it was not the fault of the respondent, however since bringing myself closer emotionally to the background of my family, I find myself  often uncomfortable and dismayed.  As my goal for this project is to promote understanding between races and nations and to  eliminate hatred and intolerance, I had to do some deep breathing and think carefully before I sent  my response vs my initial reaction below.     Rest assured, I did not respond in such a fashion, but sent back  a polite thank you. I'm learning that it's easier to state my goal and much harder to feel it. 

Dear Mrs K...,
Thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately we do not do research articles of this nature.  The option to use the online archive does not cover articles of this period.  I assume that your relative lives in Poland.
 Well...no....Perhaps you didn't read my email properly - she was rescued from Poland as she had no family left there.   Of the surviving Jews, few wanted to return to the hell hole they left.
In Warsaw there  is the German Historical Institute, where you can research online from 1992 through  today. Whether the newspaper however has the volumes back to 1945 , I do not know. 
Mmmmm...let me think about that. ...Warsaw was completely destroyed - I wonder why he might think Warsaw might have a deep collection of German newspapers from that period?
Maybe there is the option that your relative could  come to Munich and browse in the Bavarian State Library or the Institute for Contemporary History and could even search for the article. Our archive is no public archive.

Sure, no problem.  I'll just have my mother jet on over from Australia.....  

I was truly grateful for the the addresses and phone number of the state library that he provided me.   Perhaps  I shall have more luck there.