𝗡𝗘𝗩𝗘𝗥 𝗔𝗚𝗔𝗜𝗡? 𝗜𝗧’𝗦 𝗛𝗔𝗣𝗣𝗘𝗡𝗜𝗡𝗚 𝗔𝗚𝗔𝗜𝗡
𝗔𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗦𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗹𝗱 𝗪𝗮𝗿, 𝗱𝘂𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝘀𝘆𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆, 𝗶𝗻𝗱𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆, 𝗴𝗿𝘂𝗲𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗹𝘆 𝗺𝘂𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗮𝗹 𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘁, 𝗴𝗹𝗼𝗯𝗮𝗹, 𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗰𝗿𝘆 𝘄𝗮𝘀, ‘𝙉𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣’.
Those two words summed up the sincere, solemn feeling and resolve of a world shocked, numbed and reeling from the discovery that so many had been so callously rounded up and brutally murdered.
Not for anything they had done. But simply for who they were.
Mostly Jews, but also gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled…and others, many others.
𝗠𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀. 𝗠𝘂𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗱. 𝗪𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗼𝗮𝗹 𝘁𝗼 𝘄𝗶𝗽𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺 𝗼𝘂𝘁. 𝗠𝗲𝗻, 𝘄𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗻, 𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗿𝗲𝗻, 𝗯𝗮𝗯𝗶𝗲𝘀. 𝗠𝗮𝘀𝘀 𝗺𝘂𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗱. 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗼𝘆𝗲𝗱. 𝗗𝗲𝗹𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗱.
Never again. That was the response. Never again. Never again.
The means to achieve this noble intention was set in motion immediately.
𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗨𝗡𝗜𝗧𝗘𝗗 𝗡𝗔𝗧𝗜𝗢𝗡𝗦
The United Nations came into existence just 51 days after the World War came to an end – 24 October 1945.
Its goal? To maintain international peace and security and to promote respect for human rights, aided by the jurisdiction of the newly formed International Court of Justice.
One of the United Nation’s first tasks was to create the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ – described as the “international Magna Carta for all mankind.” It came into existence on 10 December 1948.
The Declaration unequivocally proclaimed the inherent rights of all human beings – all of them, all of us; every human; you, me, everyone; universally, and without exception.
The Declaration has been translated into more languages than any other document and ratified by 130 countries.
𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗘𝗨𝗥𝗢𝗣𝗘𝗔𝗡 𝗖𝗢𝗡𝗩𝗘𝗡𝗧𝗜𝗢𝗡 𝗢𝗡 𝗛𝗨𝗠𝗔𝗡 𝗥𝗜𝗚𝗛𝗧𝗦
Alongside this international declaration of principle, Britain’s war time leader, Winston Churchill, passionately promoted the ‘European Charter of Human Rights’ – the world’s first international treaty to legally protect human rights on the continent of Europe.
In May 1948 Churchill said in the opening speech to the Congress of Europe in Holland:
“𝗪𝗲 𝗮𝗶𝗺 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘂𝗮𝗹 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗶𝗽𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘄𝗵𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝘀𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗲𝘁𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘄𝗮𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲 𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗶𝗻 𝗮𝗰𝗰𝗼𝗿𝗱 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗖𝗵𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗼𝗳 𝗛𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗥𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀.”
British lawyers drafted what was later to become the ‘European Convention on Human Rights’. The UK was the first country to sign up to it on 4 November 1950, and the Convention came into force on 3 September 1953.
Including Britain, 47 European countries agreed to the Convention, which provides civil and political rights for all citizens, enshrined in law and overseen by the European Court of Human Rights.
𝗔 𝗨𝗡𝗜𝗧𝗘𝗗 𝗘𝗨𝗥𝗢𝗣𝗘
Europe, in particular, had to change its ways. That’s where the planet’s two world wars originated.
Right here, in Europe.
𝗜𝗻 𝗱𝗶𝗿𝗲𝗰𝘁 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗲, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗱𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗱. 𝗡𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝘂𝗻𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗘𝘂𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗲 𝗴𝗼 𝘁𝗼 𝘄𝗮𝗿 𝘁𝗼𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗼𝗹𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗱𝗶𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀. 𝗡𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻.
Churchill, in his new role as ‘peace monger’ proposed a union of the countries of Europe as the antidote to war on our continent. He said, in the same 1948 speech in which he had also promoted the new Charter of Human Rights:
“𝗪𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗮𝗶𝗺 𝗮𝘁 𝗮𝗻𝘆𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗹𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗘𝘂𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗲 𝗮𝘀 𝗮 𝘄𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗲, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘄𝗲 𝗹𝗼𝗼𝗸 𝗳𝗼𝗿𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗳𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝘄𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗯𝗲 𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗱.”
The European Coal and Steel Community – later to be become the European Economic Community and then later to be called the European Union – was established in 1951 with the express intent of avoiding wars in Europe again.
Trade was to be the means; peace was to be the ends.
𝗡𝗘𝗩𝗘𝗥 𝗔𝗚𝗔𝗜𝗡. 𝗡𝗘𝗩𝗘𝗥 𝗔𝗚𝗔𝗜𝗡. 𝗡𝗘𝗩𝗘𝗥 𝗔𝗚𝗔𝗜𝗡.
In direct response to the most horrific war and genocide the planet had ever known, the world rallied to find a way forward so that such wicked crimes against humanity could never happen again.
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗡𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗜𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗝𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗲. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗹 𝗗𝗲𝗰𝗹𝗮𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗛𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗥𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗘𝘂𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗮𝗻𝗖𝗼𝗻𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗻 𝗛𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗥𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗘𝘂𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗮𝗻 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝗼𝗻.
All established in direct reply to the war, and all to achieve the same aim: peace.
This was the resolve of those who endured and survived the terrible atrocities of the fascist regimes that blighted the planet during the long years of war and madness.
Never again. Those were the words of our parents, our grandparents, our great grandparents. That was the intent of the planet’s leaders following the eventual crushing of the world’s barbarous enemies. Never again.
𝙁𝙞𝙣𝙚 𝙬𝙤𝙧𝙙𝙨. 𝘽𝙪𝙩 𝙪𝙩𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙡𝙮 𝙢𝙚𝙖𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙡𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙪𝙣𝙡𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙚𝙣𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙘𝙚𝙙.
Since the end of the Second World War, the words ‘never again’ have been cast in stone and stamped on our memories. But the atrocities that the post-war generation so sincerely wanted to prevent happening again, have happened again. And again.
𝗖𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗯𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗮𝘀𝘀 𝗺𝘂𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗡𝗮𝘇𝗶 𝗱𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗵 𝗰𝗮𝗺𝗽𝘀 𝗮𝘀 ‘𝗮 𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗮 𝗻𝗮𝗺𝗲’. 𝗕𝘂𝘁 𝗶𝘁 𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝗵𝗮𝘀 𝗮 𝗻𝗮𝗺𝗲. 𝗜𝘁’𝘀 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲.
And it’s a name that’s in frequent use because it’s a crime that’s frequently committed. Too many to list them all.
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗕𝗿𝗮𝘇𝗶𝗹 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗮𝗻𝗱𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗕𝗿𝗮𝘇𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗮𝗻 𝗜𝗻𝗱𝗶𝗮𝗻𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝘁𝘄𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝟭𝟵𝟱𝟳 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝟭𝟵𝟲𝟴
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗮𝗹𝗳-𝗮-𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗜𝗻𝗱𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗮 𝗺𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗮𝗰𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗯𝗲𝘁𝘄𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝟭𝟵𝟲𝟱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝟭𝟵𝟲𝟳
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝘂𝗽 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗯𝗹𝘆 𝟯 𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗺𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗹𝘆 𝗛𝗶𝗻𝗱𝘂 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗕𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗹𝗮𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗵 𝗶𝗻 𝟭𝟵𝟳𝟭
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝟮𝟬𝟬,𝟬𝟬𝟬 𝗠𝗮𝘆𝗮𝗻 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗚𝘂𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗹𝗮 𝗯𝗲𝘁𝘄𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝟭𝟵𝟴𝟭 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝟭𝟵𝟴𝟯
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝟮.𝟮 𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗶𝗻 𝗖𝗮𝗺𝗯𝗼𝗱𝗶𝗮 𝗯𝗲𝘁𝘄𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝟭𝟵𝟳𝟱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝟭𝟵𝟳𝟵
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗻𝗼𝗻-𝗔𝗿𝗮𝗯𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝗦𝘂𝗱𝗮𝗻’𝘀 𝗼𝗻-𝗼𝗳𝗳 𝗰𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗹 𝘄𝗮𝗿𝘀 𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝟭𝟵𝟱𝟱
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗥𝘄𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗮 𝗶𝗻 𝟭𝟵𝟵𝟰 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝟴𝟬𝟬,𝟬𝟬𝟬 𝗺𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗼𝗿𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗧𝘂𝘁𝘀𝗶 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗺𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗯𝘆 𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗻𝗶𝗰 𝗛𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗲𝘅𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗶𝘀𝘁𝘀.
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗲𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗿𝗲𝗰𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀 𝗯𝘆 𝗜𝘀𝗹𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗰 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲, 𝗮𝗹𝘀𝗼 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗮𝘀 𝗗𝗮𝗲𝘀𝗵, 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗮𝗻𝗱𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗬𝗮𝘇𝗶𝗱𝗶𝘀, 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗮𝗻𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗦𝗵𝗶𝗶𝘁𝗲 𝗠𝘂𝘀𝗹𝗶𝗺𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗠𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗹𝗲 𝗘𝗮𝘀𝘁…
𝗔𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝗼 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗲𝘅𝗮𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲𝘀…
The photo accompanying this article shows the memorial stone at the site of the Nazi extermination camp based in Treblinka, Poland – one of over 40,000 death camps and incarceration centres purposely built to mass-murder or enslave millions of people during Hitler’s regime.
I drove to Treblinka in 1991. It was one of the most desolate, moving experiences of my life. It was dusk and I was there all alone.
I wanted to write ‘not another soul’.
But all around me I could feel hanging in the air and deep in the ground the souls of the estimated 900,000 innocent people, who had been methodically and efficiently slaughtered in the camp’s six gas chambers.
There was a sinister silence all around. This was a most evil, awful place, and always will be.
The Nazis, in an attempt to avoid responsibility for their crimes, hastily destroyed much of the camp as they retreated from the advance of the ‘liberating’ Russian Red Army.
𝗧𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘆, 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗶𝘁𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗺𝗽, 𝗶𝗻 𝗮 𝗯𝗮𝗿𝗲, 𝗯𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗸, 𝗰𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗹𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 𝗵𝘂𝗴𝗲, 𝗺𝗲𝗻𝗮𝗰𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘄𝗼𝗼𝗱, 𝗶𝘀 𝗽𝘂𝗻𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗵𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗿𝗲𝗱𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝘀𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗱𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗿𝗼𝗰𝗸, 𝗰𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗳𝘂𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗲𝗱 𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗲𝗺𝗼𝗿𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘃𝗶𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗺𝘀.
I prayed for them all before driving away. All the souls, but especially my grandparents, who it had been understood from patchy family history, were murdered there.
As darkness began to fall, I got completely lost trying to navigate the road leading from the camp, in the middle of the never-ending dense woods, through which light could barely penetrate, and it seemed didn’t want to either.
There were no other cars on the road, no street lighting, no signs, no satnav. For a long while I thought I’d never find a way out of there, and if I did, I never, ever wanted to go back.
But at least I can live to say that.
𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗲𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗮𝗹 𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗮𝘁 𝗧𝗿𝗲𝗯𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗸𝗮 𝗽𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗱𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝗻 𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗴𝘂𝗮𝗴𝗲, ‘𝗡𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻’.
Because of my family history, hearing the name ‘Treblinka’ always created a deep spasm in the pit of my stomach.
In recent years, however, I have learnt from new research that I am still checking out, that my grandparents – Bertold and Helena Danzig – were not sent to the Treblinka extermination camp.
As a result of meticulous documentation left behind by the Nazi regime, and carefully pieced together by compassionate researchers, I now understand they were sent by train to the Sobibór camp, in Nazi-occupied Poland.
𝗦𝗼𝗯𝗶𝗯𝗼́𝗿 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝘅𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗰𝗮𝗺𝗽, 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗮 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗰𝗮𝗺𝗽. 𝗜𝘁𝘀 𝘀𝗼𝗹𝗲 𝗽𝘂𝗿𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗺𝗮𝘀𝘀 𝗺𝘂𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿, 𝗮𝗹𝗺𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗲𝘅𝗰𝗹𝘂𝘀𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗹𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗝𝗲𝘄𝗶𝘀𝗵 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲.
According to a recently published database of victims, Bertold was despatched to Sobibór on Transport Ax, no. 709 from Terezín in Czechoslovakia on 9 May 1942.
Helena was despatched on Transport Ax, no. 710 on the same day.
The train journey itself would have been unbearable.
Sobibór had only just been made fully operational as a place of mass extermination in the middle of May 1942.
So, if the train record is correct, my grandparents would have been among the first to perish there.
Soon after they arrived at the camp – separated even before the train journey began – my grandparents would have been told that they were in a transit camp.
𝗤𝘂𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁 𝗯𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗺𝗽 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗵𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗲𝗻 𝗶𝘁𝘀 𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗲, 𝗱𝗲𝗰𝗲𝗶𝘁𝗳𝘂𝗹, 𝗻𝗼𝘁𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗼𝘂𝘀 𝗽𝘂𝗿𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗲.
Assembled with all the other condemned passengers on the railway siding, SS-Oberscharführer Hermann Michel made a speech to them.
He wore a white coat to give the impression he was a doctor.
Michel announced that they would be sent to work. But before this they would have to take baths and undergo disinfection, to prevent the spread of diseases.
We know this from the testimony given in the trials that followed the war.
The men and women were all separated. Everyone, including my grandparents, would be told to completely undress.
All the women had their hair unceremoniously shaven off with brutal and speedy efficiency.
Then, the train passengers of that day would be led through the “Tube” into chambers, where Bertold and Helena would have been gruesomely gassed.
𝗜𝗻 𝘁𝗼𝘁𝗮𝗹, 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝟭𝟳𝟬,𝟬𝟬𝟬 𝘁𝗼 𝟮𝟱𝟬,𝟬𝟬𝟬 𝗶𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗰𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗺𝘂𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗦𝗼𝗯𝗶𝗯𝗼́𝗿 𝗱𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗵 𝗰𝗮𝗺𝗽.
One year after my 1991 trip to Treblinka, civil war started in Bosnia, in the former Yugoslavia.
In just one town of Srebrenica during just one month, in July 1995, over 7,000 Muslim men and boys along with 25,000-30,000 refugees were ruthlessly killed.
This happened, despite the town being officially declared by the United Nations as a “safe haven” and patrolled by 400 Dutch peacekeepers.
The Srebrenica massacre is considered to be one of the greatest failures of the United Nations. It has been ruled to be genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
And today? Yes, today it’s happening again. Today.
𝗧𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘆, the International Court of Justice has found prima facie evidence that the Myanmar regime committed systematic violence against its Rohingya Muslim minority, tens of thousands of whom have been killed in brutal army crackdowns.
𝗧𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘆, there are genocide mass killings of Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic.
𝗧𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘆, China has locked up in “camps” a million or more Uighur Muslims in what’s been described as the worst human rights crisis in the world, referred to as ‘genocidal’ by the USA.
𝗧𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘆, Russia has invaded Ukraine and is systematically killing Ukrainian citizens in what USA President, Joe Biden, has described as “genocide”.
𝗧𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘆, the Conservative government wants to wash their hands of refugees arriving here and instead send them to Rwanda.
𝗧𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘆, members of the Tory government want to scrap the Human Rights Act and leave the European Convention on Human Rights.
(Despite a commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights forming part of the Brexit trade agreement, it’s been a long-term goal of successive Tory governments to water down our human rights legislation.)
𝗧𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘆, sections of our press describe stateless, desperate refugees as “cockroaches” and “illegals”.
𝗧𝗼𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗿𝗼𝘄, with all good intentions, politicians will no doubt pontificate on today’s horrendous crimes against humanity and declare, ‘𝙉𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣’.
𝗬𝗲𝘀, 𝗻𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻. 𝗬𝗲𝘀, 𝘄𝗲 𝗺𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝘀𝗮𝘆 𝗶𝘁. 𝙉𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣. 𝗕𝘂𝘁 𝗶𝘀𝗻’𝘁 𝗶𝘁 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝘄𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗺𝗲𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝗶𝘁?
𝗝𝗼𝗻 𝗗𝗮𝗻𝘇𝗶𝗴 is an independent campaigning journalist and filmmaker who specialises in writing about health, human rights, and Europe. He is also founder of the information campaign, Reasons2Rejoin