Auschwitz wasn’t built in a day

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During these days, where decision-making is one of the most relevant issues worldwide due to the pandemic, we are remembering the 80th anniversary from the “fateful choices”, as Ian Kershaw defined it.

The sequence of choices Hitler made in order to develop the genocide must be understood as a cyclical chronology characterized by secrecy and erraticity. That is why when we speak about genocide we can establish a very important starting point in 1941. During May Jewish migration was banned. In June Operation Barbarossa started which meant not only a war, if not the opposition of two ideological worlds.

The Einsatzgruppen, paramilitary death squads that took action actively during Aktion T4, the massive murder of disabled people, were recomposed and their new mission was to follow the Wehrmacht and perfect the extermination.

In July, duties of these 3,000 men were extended including the execution of Jewish members of the Party and the State. This allowed the beginning of one of the most violent local antisemitic movements. More than one million people were murdered due to the death squads.

Probably one of the most significant contributions Hitler made to a political speech during XX Century might be the “biologization” of politics, modifying the classical anti-Semitic discourse based on prejudices by a genetic determination that transformed extermination into the only reasonable possibility. This is why during August 1941 the “Holocaust by bullets” was expanded to women and children. The biological conception of the enemy made necessary the exteriorization of the internal: in September the usage of the yellow Maguen David was mandatory. The Nazism took even the victims’ symbology.

The failure of the territorial solution the Jewish question –Nisko, Madagascar- made reasonable the idea of deporting all the Jews to Siberia, but the unsuccess during the war changed the Nazi plans. These difficulties were essential to make visible the decision of a direct extermination, being the crystallization of this the attack on Pearl Harbor which meant the real beginning of a World War.

The truth is that the genocidal experience developed during Aktion T4 was applied to the actions in Chelmno Camp from December, when the genocidal praxis started.

In this particular context we are living, a new anniversary from January 27th 1945 is here, dominated by virtuality. Remembering during this day is focused on the genocidal plan, taking the “end” of Auschwitz as a milestone, but we have to think also that all this couldn’t be possible without the previous decisions we mentioned. This was the beginning of the darkest era of that long winter in humanity.

This year question us with permanent challenges, a year without certainties that must assure an essential commitment with life and memory, particularly when we lost many Holocaust survivors due to Covid-19. We must make 2021 the year of meaningful decisions instead of fateful: our commitment with future generations, our people’s legacy and Holocaust memory must be our only certain.

About the Author
Tomas is a lawyer specialized in constitutional law and a professor specialized in human rights and Holocaust studies. He is a member of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps (World Jewish Congress) and Nuevas Generaciones (Latin American Jewish Congress).
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