February 18, 2005, The Halifax Herald Limited

Truth about barbarism must be taught

ON JAN. 27, the 60th anniversary of the discovery by Allied forces of the horrors committed by the Nazis at Auschwitz, I read a Chronicle Herald story about Philip Riteman's horrific memories of his internment there. I have read lots of very credible information about the inhuman horrors committed by men who termed themselves "civilized" during the Second World War, and heard many first-hand accounts by survivors. I can picture the starving, naked people, stripped of all dignity, hair and even gold teeth removed, being marched into gas chambers for execution. I can see vividly their skeletal remains being hauled in wheelbarrows, by other doomed people, to the ovens for incineration. Inhuman, revolting barbarism!

"2008 - Sixty three years after"
"May the baby's arm never be marred by the evils of barbarians!"

That Mr. Riteman survived three years in such a hell-hole is testament to the strength of his awesome will to survive. In fact, that there were any survivors of such an insidious assault on a helpless population is remarkable in the extreme.

However, a positive did emerge from the Nazi horror: It has moved humanity to be a little less barbaric. This stems from the fact that well-educated Jewish survivors chronicled the horrific experiences of Europe's Jews at Nazi hands, and that the Nazis themselves recorded in minute detail the unspeakable crimes against humanity they committed. (They were following the example of representatives of colonial European nations who recorded the horrendous crimes they committed against "inferior," helpless non-Europeans around the world.) The record provides irrefutable evidence of man's inhumanity to man for future generations to learn from. But even with this, Holocaust deniers are not scarce.

This brings us to exploring the unthinkable: Nazi victory. If this had been the outcome, there wouldn't have been any universal condemnation of the barbarities they committed. Instead, the barbarians would be held in esteem as heroes, and their victims vilified.

A hideous example of such a thing occurring is the invasion and theft of the Americas by Europeans. Today, there is very little genuine remorse for the horrendous crimes committed against mostly helpless populations, and the crimes are mostly kept under wraps. In fact, the victims are still to a large extent portrayed as the aggressors - heathen, uncivilized, bloodthirsty savages.

Indefensibly, the truth is not taught in schools! One is hard-pressed to find in curricula anywhere in the world a mention of the fact that well-armed European nations destroyed the civilizations of two continents, slaughtering in the process millions of innocent people - some estimates place the number as high as 98 million.

And although their ghastly crimes are well recorded, many of the most inhuman of the colonial murderers are honoured as heroes by the invaders. On a daily basis, First Nations peoples across the Americas have to swallow hard and watch in dismay as the interlopers honour the murderers of their revered ancestors. For instance, statues and other entities abound glorifying the likes of Columbus, Cortez, Custer, Cornwallis, etc. And unforgivably, in contempt of our humanity, our people are forced to attend and utilize many things, including schools, named in their honour. Thankfully, Jewish people don't suffer this kind of insulting indignity.

Related to such contempt, I included the following when responding to a letter from a Caucasian university student who was lamenting the racist attitudes among his "liberal-minded" peers towards First Nations peoples: "What you encountered . . . was caused by systemic racism, a sickness instilled in the minds of generation after generation of Caucasians by the imaginative evil propaganda used by their colonial ancestors to demonize First Nations peoples. A situation, I might emphasize, that illustrates the colossal failure of supposedly 'enlightened' modern governments and universities to develop and implement education systems designed to eradicate the ignorance . . . and teach the truth."

Such ignorance abounds; it's even evident in the highest levels of Canada's justice system. This is what Beverly McLachlin, the country's first female Supreme Court chief justice, stated at a lecture she delivered in Halifax on Jan. 12, 2003: "The Charter manifests an ethic of respect and inclusion that has been part of Canada's fabric from its beginnings. . . ." I wonder if McLachlin thinks it is inclusive that until very recent times, Canada's First Nations peoples were designated "wards of the Crown," with the same legal status as insane persons and drunks. Her education, obviously, is sorely lacking.

I recently reviewed a book by Neil Rolde entitled Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians. He makes these comments about a Nov. 5, 1755, British proclamation that offered bounties for the scalps of Penobscot men, women and children: ". . . a document that has become infamous through the ages, still displayed and cited today as an ultra-symbolic relic of white cruelty, if not barbarism, toward the indigenous people of North America . . ." The historical record shows that such barbaric proclamations were the rule, not the exception. They were used liberally by British and American officials during the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries across North America. Governors William Shirley, Jean Paul Mascarene, Edward Cornwallis and Charles Lawrence used them in Nova Scotia. Moral decency demands that these acts of barbarism against First Nations people, as well as the Nazi genocide, be taught in schools - mandatory from Primary to Grade 12!

Daniel N. Paul


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