October 6, 2015 By Oswald Hanciles
In his Canada-based newspaper, Sierra Leonean publisher of the Patriotic Vanguard, Gibril Gbanabome Koroma, wrote that “….As expected, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone delivered a brilliant and thought-provoking speech at the 70th UN General Assembly in New York this morning…”. That was on the 29th, September, 2015.
In a serial, I am going to take tiny bits of the speech and put them in perspective – given the profundity of the President’s speech.
“In the beginning was the Word….”
This is an excerpt of the opening part of the President’s UN speech: “…..Seventy years ago, we committed ourselves ‘…to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.’ Today, this is still our task and common goal, and the very foundation upon which our shared and common values are firmly embedded and should therefore be respected….”
Read those sentences at least five times. Then, whether you are Christian or not, reach for the New Testament in the Bible, and reflect on these words in John 1:1: “…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being…” Whatever Christian theologians would make of the import of those words, what is obvious to most people is that ALL things that are man-made – of empires and genocide; or the invention of the wheel to making of space ships and mobile phones – have sprung from the WORD.
When our President from Sierra Leone with just 6 million people stood on the world’s greatest forum to speak to six billion people on planet earth he must have dug deep into his subconscious and kindled that Christian thought he imbibed from the cradle his late father, Papa Sylvanus, and late mother, Mama Alice, put him in Makeni, Bombali, in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone 61 years ago; as etched in his mind would be those daily morning and evening Christian prayers, those daily before-meals Biblical readings: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” – Luke 4:18, Bible
“Seventy years ago….”
When the President reminded the world body, especially the richest and most powerful nations of the world, of “seventy years ago….”. O, if only African youth know what really happened “seventy years ago”!!.
Almost as a build up to the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations, all the major global television stations – BBC T.V., CNN, Al Jazeera – have been showing over the past one year video documentaries that would dramatize the horrors of the Second World War. We need to popularize those video documentaries, and made sure that they are shown, and explained, to all African children and youth – for them to more forcefully understand the HISTORY of where the IDEA of the United Nations sprouted from, and the relevance of that world body.
The Second World War was the deadliest conflict in human history. Over 60 million people were killed, which was about 3% of the 1940 world population. About 19 million people died from starvation and war-related disease. About 25 million soldiers were killed. 5 million soldiers died as prisoners of war. All sides in the war – the Americans/British/French/Russians and the Germans/Japanese/Italians – committed horrific tortures and murders which are today generally classified as “War Crimes”. Let us focus a bit on the most demonic murderers during the Second World War – Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.
With a culture and history of efficiency, Nazi Germany used their vaunted technology, bureaucracy, and psychology of hate to efficiently murder about six million Jews. It was called the ‘Final Solution’.
Forced emigration was what the Nazis planned before the ‘Final Solution’. Jews were to be shipped to Madagascar, off the coast of east Africa – a “Territorial Final Solution” (territoriale Endlosung). Later, they decided on the “Final Solution” (Gesamtlosung). Genocide!!
Ghettoization (December 1939 to March 1942)
The Nazis isolated Jews – pushing them into ghettoes. The Nazis forced Jews to wear a ‘star of David stamp’ on their apparel. When Jews would walk along the streets of Germany, youths would heckle them, spit at them, throw stones and sticks at them, and sometimes simply tie up their hands and drag them on concrete streets until they die. The purpose of the Nazi ghetto was to create a total confinement for the Jewish population, turning entire neighborhoods into prisons. The Nazis hoped that the filthy ghetto conditions would slowly kill Jews through starvation, disease and cold. Thousands died. There was no medicine. There were starvation rations. The water supply was contaminated in many ghettos. Epidemics of tuberculosis, typhoid, and lice were common. Bodies of new victims piled up in the streets faster than they could be taken away to be buried. For those who didn’t die, Jews living in the ghettoes were forced to become slaves for German industry.
Upon arrival at Nazi concentration camp, the Jewish inmates were usually stripped of all their valuables and clothes. They were then shorn of body hair, disinfected, given a shower, and issued prison uniforms.
Each step of the process was designed to dehumanize the prisoners. Life in the camps was a living hell. Frequently three to four prisoners shared a single bunk, not permitting space enough for them to stretch out for normal sleep. The inmates were organized into groups to go to the toilets, marched to a distribution center for a breakfast consisting of some bread and a liquid substitute for tea or coffee, and then sent out to work for 10 to 14 hours – in mines, factories, and road or airfield building; often in weather during winter that would be below freezing point; or, during summer, under severe heat. They were subjected to constant physical and emotional harassment and beating – boys forced to have sex with their mothers in the open; couples forced to have sex in the freezing snow many times until they freeze to death.
The Nazi Germans used Jews to test all sort of weird chemicals and biological agents to see their effects on the human body – for examples, chemicals to see whether black eyes can be changed to blue eyes; biological agents that would get inmates to scratch their bodies until they reach their skeletons. Those who resisted orders of the guards were shot on the spot. Numerous roll calls were held to assure that no prisoners had escaped. If one did attempt an escape, all of the inmates suffered for it.
The Nazi planners of the Final Solution death camps told their Jewish victims that they were being resettled for labour. Food was also used to coax starving Jews onto the trains. Once the trains arrived at the death camps, trucks were available to transport those who were too weak to walk directly to the gas chambers. The others were told that they would have to be deloused and enter the baths. The victims were separated by sex and told to remove their clothes. The baths were in reality the gas chambers. The shower heads in the baths were actually the inlets for poison gas. At Auschwitz, the gas chambers held 2,000 people at a time. With the introduction of a cyanide-based gas called Zyklon B, all 2,000 occupants could be killed in five minutes. As a result of this technological “advancement,” Auschwitz was able to “process” the death of 12,000 victims daily. Before the bodies were removed by workers with gas masks and burned in crematoria, the teeth of the victims were stripped for gold, which was melted down and shipped back to Germany.
Einsatzgruppen or “Special Action Squads”
Specially trained units of the S.S. followed the first wave of German army troops as they would invade territories in Eastern Europe, especially the former Soviet. Their orders were to execute on the spot all Communists, Jews, and Gypsies. This Einsatzgruppen would follow the main troops and ‘comb’ every house, every bush – and, children and women that were not shot to death, would simply have their heads battered on concrete wall. (The RUF’s notorious General Maskita was a Catholic altar boy compared to the systematic atrocities of the Einsatzgruppen). It is estimated that by the end of 1942, they had killed more than a million Soviet Jews.
Look, I may get into details about the Second World War’s horrors by the Japanese on the Chinese in China, and other Asiatic nations like South Korea, and Thailand; the mass murders and rape of the Soviet Union’s troops as they advanced towards Germany in 1945; and the United States’ dropping of the hydrogen bomb. I May…. Putting the horrors of the Second World War into perspective, Foday Sankoh’s RUF was a boy’s scout movement; the Rwanda genocide of 1994, in spite of its concentrated intensity, lacked the scientific perversity of Adolf Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’; and as jarred as we are by ISIS beheadings being splattered on international media today, the scope of their deviltry still is just a pale shadow when compared to Adolf Hitler’s. Man is capable of Great Evil. And, Great Good. The United Nations stands to represent Great Good – that is what President Koroma sought to remind all humanity at the United Nations on September 29, 2015… “We”…. “our shared and common values..”
All too often, the five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council – United States; United Kingdom; France; China; and Russia – condescend to other countries, especially poor countries in Africa. As Climate Change specters slowly embraces the entire planet, we have to be reminded of, as President Koroma put it, “our common goal”… “…to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom..” Of course, President Koroma spoke at length on Sierra Leone – but, within the context of our global family. That was his political genius manifested at the United Nations on September 29, 2015.
TO BE CONTINUED