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Remember The Holocaust And Don't Forget About Aleppo

There's a lot we can do.

19/12/2016 11:04 AM AEDT | Updated 19/12/2016 11:04 AM AEDT
Omar Sanadiki / Reuters
"In whatever form, we fundamentally must act on what we know, and what history tells us happens next."

In November 1938, as the nauseating sound of crackling glass absorbed by roaring flames littered the streets of Germany, only one man in Australia -- in fact, many think the world -- spoke up.

William Cooper, an Indigenous man who was afforded little, if any, constitutional rights himself, marched to the German embassy in Canberra and delivered a petition which condemned the "cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany". This was a man who, despite his degraded status among a persecuted people, stood up.

If Cooper could do that then, we have no excuses now.

It's time to practice what we preach. We need to do more to help the citizens of Aleppo.

The late Elie Weisel said: "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

In Judaism, a word we closely associate with the Holocaust -- in which 6 million Jews, and 3 million others, including homosexuals, the disabled, gypsies and political opponents of Hitler's horrific regime -- is zachor. It directly translates from Hebrew to mean 'remember'.

But we are taught to do so much more than that. We are pleaded with not to be a bystander to genocide and hatred. The best way -- perhaps, even, the only way -- to truly honour the memory of those who were lost in the Holocaust is to stand up for those who face similar predicaments today.

My family endured the horrors of the Holocaust. I hear about it all the time. In fact, I find the lessons of humanity so powerful that I dedicate a great deal of time to guiding adolescents through learning about this horrific chapter of history. Imagine if, in 80 or so years, a young Syrian was the one writing of the same moral responsibility to do something for the persecuted minority of that context. He would have heard about the terrors of war from his grandparents, who were only children at the time, and how thankful they were to have gotten on that last Red Cross boat to Australia. He would have felt what many of us are experiencing now -- a brand of empathetic fatigue that makes us look away not out of ignorance, but out of hopelessness.

But if we don't do anything now, he won't exist. His grandparent is stuck among indiscriminate killing. The last Red Cross boat might have already set sail. And then the historical ripple effect takes over.

There's a lot we can do. You can donate to a number of highly-rated charities -- the 'White Helmets' of the team of Syrian rescue workers, the Syrian-American Medical Society, or UNICEF's Syria Crisis Appeal. You can sign this impassioned petition made by one of Aleppo's last remaining doctors, Dr Hamza Al Khatib.

In whatever form, we fundamentally must act on what we know, and what history tells us happens next. I would like to put out a particular call to Millennials -- it's time for us to step up.

In the social media era, we are watching this unfold in real time. But this could work both ways. If I could get a message to Aleppo, it would be this: I am with you. Young people are with you. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, and everyone else are with you. Australia is with you. Humanity is going to prevail.

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