„We must remember, crush the fear...”

On 6th death anniversary of Marek Edelman, we are remembering this great man by publishing his speech from 1995.

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Mural poświęcony Markowi Edelmanowi na warszawskim Muranowie.

On 6th death anniversary of Marek Edelman, one of the commanders of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, fighter in the Warsaw Uprising, cardiologist who tirelessly praised life we are remembering this great man by publishing an excerpt from his speech which he gave during colloquium held in Cracow between 10th-11th June 1995.

"First and foremost we must remember one thing: what Holocaust was. It is not true that it was exclusively Jewish experience. It is not true that it was the matter of those few blackmailers. Or several. Or tens. Or hundreds of them. It is not true that it was the matter of a hundred or two hundreds thousand of Germans who directly participated in those murders. No, it was the matter of Europe and European civilization which created death factories. Holocaust is the failure of the civilization. And everybody must remember about it. […]

We always tend to turn our heads away from what is unpleasant. It was like this: a Jew was leaving the Ghetto, there was a crowd of people, and amongst them two blackmailers. There were only two of them, but those two did what they did while everybody else was turning their heads and didn’t want to see this. Because it was very upsetting. Nevertheless the others remained witnesses of it. And a passive witness becomes an accomplice. In extreme circumstances passivity is a crime.

In extreme circumstances even fear doesn’t justify the lack of action which truly becomes a crime. During WWII the whole world was passive. Not only Europe. Great Britain was passive, America was passive, although they didn’t have to fear. Roosevelt considered Holocaust as the cost of war that Jews had to bear. Same as the cost borne by the French or the Russians. He said that when the war will end murdering Jews will cease.

But it wasn’t the same. Those death factories in which mass murders were commited introduced contempt towards human life. And this contempt lives until today. The best students of French university did Cambodia. Same happened in Ruanda. However, luckily, this time France opposed murders and sent troops in order to protect half a million people in Ruanda. It happened for the first time ever. We have to call to mind that the first sin of omission was taking over the Saar by Hitler. It was the beginning of weakness, fear of fascism, of heavy-handed authority. If we don’t crush this fear today we will have to deal with terrorism, with genocide. 

We must remember about it”.

Marek Edelman

Source: Holocaust. Studies and Materials (Zagłada Żydów. Studia i materiały), issue: 5 / 2009, pages: 7–8.

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