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Learn from the Holocaust and stop the massacre in Syria

Our people suffered mass atrocities in different places and times, but we are united in our shared humanity -- and ou...

Posted: Mar. 28, 2018 11:07 AM
Updated: Mar. 28, 2018 11:07 AM

Our people suffered mass atrocities in different places and times, but we are united in our shared humanity -- and our desire for action to stop ongoing atrocities in Syria. Ms. Kor is a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp during the Holocaust, in which German dictator Adolf Hitler launched a systematic campaign to annihilate the Jewish people. Mr. Ghanem lived almost all his life in the Syrian capital Damascus, where some of the worst atrocities in the world today are ongoing.

The Ghouta suburbs of Damascus have been particularly devastated recently by the ongoing crisis in Syria. It may not compare in death toll to the vastness of the slaughter that took place in the Holocaust, but there are a number of hallmarks that bear striking resemblance.

Like Hitler, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad uses poison gas against civilians, most famously in the 2013 Sarin massacre in Ghouta and most recently, it's suspected, in a strike in the same area. Like Hitler, Assad uses starvation as a weapon against civilians, having placed over 400,000 people in Ghouta under siege. Assad also uses Blitzkrieg-style scorched earth tactics, along with his brutal partner, Russian President Vladimir Putin, to target hospitals, bakeries and schools.

Assad has even learned torture tactics from Alois Brunner, Hitler's right-hand man who gained shelter and escaped justice by joining his fellow war criminals in the Syrian capital. International humanitarian and legal experts who surveyed photos of regime prisoners tortured to death compared them to scenes from the Nazi death camps. Assad has even taken to burning murdered detainees in crematoria; we may never know how many bodies were disposed of in this way, but we know that tens of thousands of civilians have been forcibly disappeared and never heard from since.

Such chilling details of torture hit home for us. Ms. Kor herself was tortured as a child and experimented on by the maniacal Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, after being walled in and starved for nine months in one of the most infamous Nazi death camps.

Mr. Ghanem nearly became one of Assad's torture victims when he was arrested by the Syrian military police for protesting the beating of an orphan, only escaping indefinite detention after a last-minute intervention by family members prevented his transfer to the infamous Adra Prison.

Hitler's murder of millions of Jews, Gypsies and other groups deemed "undesirable" was all the more chilling because deaths were recorded using industrial-style precision, as would be seen on a well-oiled factory floor.

Yet all the horrors in Syria today are also available for viewing on the prized products of Silicon Valley: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other social media channels are sources of fun and pleasure for children across the Western World, but in Syria, the internet is used by children to cry for help. They pray someone in the outside world will hear.

Ms. Kor spent many hours at Auschwitz only wishing she could send a message beyond the electrified barbed wires of the concentration camp. Social media allows ordinary Syrians to document their suffering for the world -- yet we do nothing.

The Nazis' precise records were self-incriminating; they showed the perpetrators knew they were committing genocide. The videos from Syria incriminate all of humanity; they prove beyond a doubt that policymakers across the world are aware of the killing that is happening there. Why does the world continue to allow mass atrocities to occur? Why have declarations of "Never Again" turned into "Never Mind"?

We implore the public not to allow their senses to be dulled and to reject the idea that the torture and killing of children is an inevitable fact of life. The starvation, the torture, the siege and the chemical attacks in Syria can be stopped. Assad's military is far from invincible; the Israeli strikes on Syrian air defenses last month showed that. After years of appeasement-style diplomacy have yielded only more body bags by an emboldened Assad, grounding Assad's air force is the last option left to stop the slaughter.

History does not look kindly on world inaction during the atrocities of the Holocaust even though the Nazi war machine was far stronger and the evidence less readily available. Surely, we do not want to be remembered as the generation that allowed such atrocities to continue and become normalized.

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