Lejeune remembers Holocaust, teaches that inaction can be deadly

19 May 2011 | Lance Cpl. Miranda Blackburn

Service members and civilians aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune gathered together to remember the horrific massacre of the Holocaust at the Workforce Learning Center, May 19.

On Oct. 7, 1980, Congress created the “Days of Remembrance” as the nation’s annual commemoration of the mass genocide during World War II.

In the immediate aftermath of the massive death and destruction during WWII, revenge might have satisfied the shock and anger that resided in the hearts of survivors, but many believed that justice under the rule of law, rather than vengeance, would better serve humanity.  This led to this year’s theme “Justice and accountability in the face of genocide: What have we learned?”
The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of millions of people who did not meet Adolf Hitler’s description of the “pure” Aryan race.

While the word holocaust generally refers to the mass killing of Jewish people, Hitler also targeted homosexuals, communists and other political dissidents, including African people, gypsies and the mentally and physically disabled.

In the summer of 1941, the Nazis began the atrocity by killing thousands at a time via firing squads. Six months later, firing squads became too expensive, prompting the Nazis to look for other options. After a few trial runs the Nazis began using Zyklon B, a cyanide-based insecticide which the Nazis initially tested on Russian prisoners of war. The large communal shower-type room killed larger amounts of people for less money.

During the time when the Holocaust occurred, U.S. civilians and service members knew little to nothing about what was going on.
When the war ended in 1945, light finally shined upon the reality of what the Nazis did. Since then, the United States vowed to never let such a genocide take place again.

The observance held aboard the base focused on personal accountability and standing up for humanity.

“If we don’t learn from our history, we will continue to make the same mistakes in the future,” said Bill Chastain, the equal opportunity trainer for MCB Camp Lejeune. 

Since these events, a new understanding of international responsibility for human rights emerged, spurring on a process to create a new legal vehicle that criminalized attempts to destroy any entire group of people. But even so, genocides have still occurred in places like Sudan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda.

“As humans, it is our responsibility to take action and make sure these kinds of things don’t happen,” said Sharon Jackson, an office automations clerk for the Marine Corps Installations East civilian human resources office and Holocaust observance attendee. “We can honor those lost in the Holocaust by not being silent today.”

While accountability is necessary in the aftermath of genocide, early intervention is vital to saving lives. Whether it is prevention, response or accountability, the Holocaust teaches us that inaction can be deadly; actions, even small ones, can make all the difference for those whose lives are at risk.