On this the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in Poland, we should perhaps take time to reflect on humanity's potential for inhumanity.
History testifies time and again to the fact that whilst we, as a race, are capable of reaching the noblest heights, we also have the potential to plumb the lowest depths. We forget this at our peril.
My own generation, the once ubiquitous baby boomers, have never known war on the scale of the two bloody conflagrations that engulfed much of the globe in the first half of the twentieth century.
We grew up knowing a different kind of global conflict, a so-called Cold War.
The very name reflects an underlying sense of tension, an awareness that this insidious ideological quarrel might actually heat up at any time, its latent energy bubbling to the surface, fuelled by uncontained nuclear fission.
For my father's and grandfather's generations, however, WW2 represented a much more present and existential threat.
For them, the liberation of Auschwitz and the discovery of the full horror of the Nazi death camps brought a reminder of just how thin a veneer is human civilization.
If it is possible to explain the unique horror of the Nazi death-camps – and Auschwitz in particular – the pseudo-science of eugenics must be a factor for discussion.
All of the Nazi death camps were set up to support Hitler's murderous eugenics – of which anti-Semitism was the most blatant and vicious expression.
Among those deported to Auschwitz, which consisted of three camps, were 150,000 Poles and 23,000 Romani and Sinti, plus thousands from other ethnic groups. They were joined by 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and 400 Jehovah's Witnesses.
Also consigned to this complex were homosexuals and those battling epilepsy and other physical or mental challenges. In short, anyone considered to be subnormal was deported and many of these were killed.
All would have been allowed and encouraged to lead fruitful lives today.
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