Opinion | FDR failed the Jews during the Holocaust. Today, we are failing the Uighurs in China.
PICTURE SOURCE: Reuters; VOA
In early August, 1942, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration willfully turned their backs on the Jews of Europe as they were rounded up and sent on trains to their slaughter. FDR’s administration covered up the atrocities — keeping information, which was courageously smuggled to them, under wraps for over three months — allowing two million Jews to die before making their knowledge public in mid-November, 1942.
Once they announced what they knew to the public, the media had no interest in the story. Tablet Magazine writes, “The country’s two leading newspapers [the New York Times and the Washington Post] ran a few paragraphs from the wire services, burying [the] announcement deep inside the next day’s papers. Time and Newsweek ignored the news entirely.”
It was Arthur Schlesinger Jr. who said that “Righteousness is easy in retrospect.” This is true. What is also true is that righteousness is hardest when it is needed most. The supposedly moral betters of today can look back at 1942 and say that if they were around, then they would be passionately standing up for, and raising awareness on behalf of, the defenseless Jews of Europe.
This is, of course, nonsense.
We look back at the failure of FDR’s administration today with horror. However, the truth is that we, in 2020, are no better. Today, in America, we are allowing the Uighur Muslims in China to be rounded up and sent to concentration camps to be interned, tortured and killed — much like we did with the Jews during the Holocaust.
Genocide in China
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which China signed, outlines five acts that are considered genocide if carried out by a country against a national, ethnic, racial or religious group:
2) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
3) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
4) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
5) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
There is no question that China has engaged in several, if not all, of the transgressions listed above.
According to The Spectator, “There are more than 1,000 [camps] in the western region of Xinjiang in which roughly a million Muslims have been detained with the official aim of eradicating ‘the virus in their thinking’.” The way that these concentration camps — operated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — can be understood is through two words: Total control.
In these highly secretive camps, torture is an every day occurrence. The Daily Mail highlights, in excruciating detail, the horrors of China’s concentration camps. Cameras and microphones are ubiquitous — meaning that every movement, conversation and action can be monitored. Forced to listen to lectures about the evils of religion for hours each day, the Uighurs are coerced into renouncing their faith. Each day starts with the singing of songs celebrating the CCP. Nakedness is used as a tactic of humiliation. Others are forced to watch as people are tortured. Women are raped on a routine basis.
Even more disturbing is the Daily Mail’s report that “Prisoners assigned [orange tabards] soon disappear, never to be seen again. Rumour has it that they are murdered for their organs — kidneys, corneas, hearts and livers are looted from their bodies, to fund the lucrative international black market, or serve the needs of the Communist Party elite.”
The Associated Press has reported on the victimization of Uighur women both in the camps and the general population. They write, “The state regularly subjects [Uighur] women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands, the interviews and data show. Even while the use of IUDs and sterilization has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang.The population control measures are backed by mass detention both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply.”
Recently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted a 13 ton — which is equivalent to 26,000 pounds — shipment of human hair that was forcibly taken off of the Uighur prisoners. Chad Gibbs writes, in the Forward, that the forced cutting and selling of human hair “shows how officials of the Chinese Communist Party view their victims not as fellow humans but as problems to be dealt with and as a source for commodities to be extracted from.”
Videos have also surfaced of Uighur prisoners being led off of trains in blindfolds and with their heads shaved. If all of this sounds eerily similar to atrocities of the past, it is because it is.
Another Holocaust, 75 Years After the Liberation of Auschwitz
Today, the developments in China fit hand-in-glove with the events of Germany in the mid-20th-Century. The CCP is comparable to the Nazi Party. The military personnel manning the brutal Chinese concentration camps are comparable to SS officers.
Considering our post-Holocaust-era rallying cry of “never again”, we should all be ashamed about what we have done, or more accurately what we have not done, in response to the ongoing ethnic cleansing in China.
With that said, we now have an opportunity to do better than those who came before us. Raising awareness, engaging with the issues — and with the political process — in order to ensure that when we say “never again,” we mean it, is what we can do going forward. We cannot change the past — but we can try to pave a better future for those in the United States and around the world.
Moreover, the second Holocaust, in China, 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, should reinforce to us, here in America, how lucky we are to live where we do. In America, human flourishing, economic prosperity and certain baseline freedoms are the rule — but in the context of human history, they are the exception. With that said, just because we benefit from the privileges that America provides does not mean we can somehow exempt ourselves from standing up for those who do not share those same privileges. In fact, it means that we must appeal to our moral senses to look back at the lessons of history and ensure we do not allow ourselves to forget them. After all, those who forget the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them.
Even as we continue to fight here in America for us to live up to our founding ideals — espoused in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Constitution — we can, we must, have the ability to look at the rest of the world and recognize that history is repeating itself right before our eyes. Now is our opportunity to ensure that our grandchildren’s textbooks on the genocide of Uighurs in China, 75 years from now, do not look the same as our textbooks do today — 75 years after we failed the Jews of Europe.
Author: Jack Elbaum
The views expressed are the author's alone and are not an official statement of GWCRs