May 6, 2013
Rohingya Face Burmese Version Of The “Final Solution” (part of The Darkness Visible series)
In 1940 the German occupiers in Poland began to move the three million plus Polish Jews into overcrowded and unsanitary ghettos. One of which was the now infamous Warsaw ghetto. It was here that the Jews of Warsaw were first met with the face of the Nazi “final solution”. Their very existence in Poland had spawned a perverse question amongst the racially motivated extremist both in Poland and Germany alike. For the Nazis this question was often refereed to as the “Jewish question”. It quite simply could be summed up as “how to kill or expel all Jewish peoples within Europe”. However Warsaw showed us that had Hitler been more successful in his attempts to slaughter the Jewish people in Europe that his ambitions may very well had spread much further than Polish or European borders.
By 1942 the Germans had arrived at the conclusion Hitler had been leading them toward all along. The “final solution” as Hitler saw it was the total extermination of the Jewish race both in Europe and the rest of the world. It was then, and only then, that Hitler believed his mythical Aryan race could flourish. So between July 23rd and September 21st the Nazi SS began carried out deportations from Warsaw sending hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths in the Treblinka death camps. This was the first round of deportations. And it was the first hint the Jews of Warsaw had been given that they were not safe in their attempts to survive by cooperating with their oppressors.
During the time that passed after September of 1942 and April of 1943 the Jews of Warsaw experienced what it means to be “liquidated”. What was left of their lives was being taken away as they watched the SS approach the camp and count the remaining living. They were like lambs in the eyes of their tormentors. And yet in that short period of time they found the strength to become like lions.
Today the Rohingya of Myanmar are in a very similar situation as the Jews of Warsaw were in the winter of 1942. They are trapped in ghetto like camps that are monitored and surrounded by Burmese military. Angy mobs of Rakhine Buddhists are the Rohingyas’ version of the Nazi SS. And for the Rohingya still alive today, they are facing the very meaning of what it is to be liquidated.
In January of 1943 the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto arose like lions in the face of wolves. Outgunned, outnumbered, and barely able to organize themselves; the Jewish resistance fighters came out of the woodwork and attacked the SS as they attempted to restart deportations. Of the intended 8,000 Jews to be deported that day the Germans could only gather roughly 5,000. Yet the Jewish resistance didn’t give up. They continued to fight back.
This is where the story for the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Rohingya of Burma splits in parallels. The Rohingya of Burma have no way to fight back. There is no resistance movement in the Rakhine like their is in the Shan state. Unlike the Kachin people, the Rohingya have no paramilitary units to call upon. Life for the Rohingya is a life of facing death while the world watches. It is a story unlike that of past genocides in the fact that we are watching truly helpless people being butchered while we as a world community do nothing to stop it.
During the Armenian genocide the Armenian people were largely unable to stop the deportations and massacres they suffered under the Turks. Yet for the bravery of a small number of Armenian men and boys, the Armenians did offer up some form of resistance. They may have been badly beaten by Turkish military. Their families were all murdered or sent to die in the deserts of Arabia. But they were able to fight back.
In Rwanda the Tutsi who were mercilessly slaughtered in the streets and in their homes were unable to push back against Hutu militias who had prepared for the genocide. And yet again the Tutsi people found hope in the resistance of armed Tutsi militias that helped force the murderous regime to cease its campaign of ethnic cleansing. The wounds that were left may still be raw today. But for the fact that resistance was made there are still Tutsi people alive in Rwanda today.
The parallels that genocides of the past have with one another are unmistakable. This is a crime that follows patterns. It is a sin that repeats itself when the patterns it follows are not broken. And in cases like this of the Rohingya people, it is a crime that will reach completion if the chain of events is not altered.
Burma may be proceeding more cautiously now that the world is watching. The leaders that have given the green light to this campaign of genocide against the Rohingya may be trying to romance the West and China alike. But even with these hindrances in their plans to kill off or expel the Rohingya, the process is still happening. The stages of genocide are still occurring like clock work in Myanmar.
From the moment the first Rohingya community was burnt out of their homes and villages the process of creating ghettos began. From the establishment of the first IDP camp within Burma the process of creating ghettos was complete. This is the same path the Nazis used in Germany and the rest of occupied Europe. This is the same pattern that Hitler followed when pursuing his genocide of the Jewish people. So why is the world assuming that this will not lead to the same results that occurred in Poland?
Liquidation is a terrifying reality for those who are victims of genocide. It means that the world as you know it has ended. The people you lived amongst your entire life now want you gone… exterminated… killed off… however you put it, it is a permanent word. There is no place that is safe for you anymore. Anywhere you could even hope to flee to could never be home. Liquidation means to you what death means to others… finality.
For the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto life meant starvation, disease, and suffering. Yet liquidation was somehow worse. It was the end to the torment they had been living in. And yet it was the death of hope.
Can we not offer the Rohingya something other than the death of hope? Can we not offer the Rohingya some form of resistance to their seemingly final solution? Or will we stand idly by as the Rohingya become the next name on a long list of genocide victims?
Want to find out ways to fight back against the genocide of the Rohingya people? Follow the links and information below.
Partners Relief & Development
Twitter Activist for the Rohingya
+Jamila Hanan @JamilaHanan
Nay San Lwin @nslwin
Aung Aung @Aungaungsittwe