Friday, July 12, 2013
Act of Recognition as Professor Honoris Causa
Granted by Universidad Autónoma Gabriel René Moreno
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
Good evening, esteemed audience:
Distinguished Rector of Universidad Autónoma Gabriel René Moreno, Saúl Rosas Ferrufino; Dean Ezequiel Paniagua Banegas; Assistant Dean Carlos Paz; Registrar of the Faculty, Miguel Sorich; Honorary Consul of Israel in Bolivia, Francisco Hubsch; Prosecutor before the Superior Tribunal of Bogota, Colombia, Camilo Montoya; Representative of the Embassy of Activists for Peace in Bolivia, Joel Lara Medrano; Director of the Embassy of Activists for Peace, Gabriela Lara; Chief Financial Officer of the Embassy of Activists for Peace, Ruth Soto; distinguished professors and students present, kind viewers.
I want to thank the authorities of Universidad Autónoma Gabriel René Moreno for taking the initiative of incorporating into their curriculum a case study of the Holocaust from a historical, psychological, sociological, political, and investigative perspective, which will allow professors and students to reflect on the nature of this crime against humanity and its consequences for the human family, thus preventing such acts from happening again.
The subject of “The History of the Holocaust” has 6 thematic units which will allow one to gain knowledge about the following:
UNIT I. Genocide.
UNIT II. The Origin and History of the Holocaust.
UNIT III. The Historical, Political, Economic, and Social Context of this Human Massacre.
UNIT IV. Comparison of the Holocaust with other Genocides, and their Repercussions.
UNIT V. The Principles, Rights, and Values Compromised by the Holocaust.
UNIT VI. Formulation of the Action Plan.
Given the time constraint, on this occasion I will only explain UNIT II, called “The Origin and History of the Holocaust”, which includes the following topics:
1. The Organizational Issue and the Role of Hitler
By studying the Holocaust, one can conclude that this genocide, as well as all genocides, was a premeditated crime, deliberately organized after weighing the political advantages supposedly gained by exterminating a people. These will also be established through studying the role of Hitler in the planning and commission of the Holocaust, and whether he intervened as what was previously referred to as the “mastermind” and is now known according to the International Criminal Court as the “determiner” or “man behind the scenes”, or as the “perpetrator by means” of organized structures of power.
2. Historical and Ideological Foundations of the Holocaust
The article titled “Anti-Jewish Legislation in Prewar Germany,” published in the Holocaust Encyclopedia of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, establishes that antisemitism and the persecution of Jews were central tenets of the Nazi ideology. By studying the historical and ideological foundations of the Holocaust, one can evidence that this ideology became notorious in 1920, when the Nazis published the 25 point plan, which declared their intention to segregate Jews from the “Aryan” society while abolishing their political, legal, and civil rights. Once they were in power, the Nazis began to fulfill their promises of persecuting German Jews. That was how the first legislation restricting the rights of Jews was issued, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, issued on April 7, 1933. This law, known as the first formulation of the “Aryan Paragraph” excludes Jewish employees and officials from civil service; through another law, the admission of Jewish students into German schools and universities was also limited, until finally they were completely stripped of their right to education.
3. Antisemitism in Europe and Latin America
The seed of hate and antisemitic discrimination sowed by the Nazi regime sprouted not only in Germany, but also throughout Europe. This was due to the inaction of governments, organizations and the civil population, and today, antisemitism is sprouting around the world through the proliferation of Neo-Nazi groups, who are characterized by their extremist views.
4. Antisemitic Nazi Policies
This chapter includes the study of the circumstances of the time, manner, and place in which antisemitic government policies were implemented, and their manifestations and repercussions in marginalized populations as well as in other States.
5. The Holocaust
The study includes the Night of Broken Glass, the beginning of the deportations and ghettos, genocidal policies in Europe, antisemitic policies in occupied Poland, and other acts against human dignity.
6. The Final Solution
The objective is to understand the immediate context of the history of the Holocaust and the content of the Wannsee Conference held on January 20, 1942, in which 15 senior leaders of the Nazi Party and German government officials met including state secretaries from the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Justice, whose cooperation was needed to justify and legalize the methods of systematic and massive annihilation in concentration and extermination camps. Auschwitz will be studied as a prototype of such camps, as well as the circumstances under which science and technology were used for extermination.
Having reviewed the minimum content of Unit II of this case study, it is important to note that the seed of good and evil lies in education; we educate for peace or for war, for good or for evil. For that reason, universities are autonomous and must remain that way, independent of any political, ideological, or religious interference.
The Holocaust as the paradigm of genocide was the result of education based on antisemitism; it is the fruit of hatred, discrimination, and intolerance. Genocide was the greatest defeat of global education in universities and schools, the product of political irrationality and insensitivity. For that genocide to have taken place, there was a systematic preparation and indoctrination based on the mistaken belief in the existence of a superior race. Known by history as a capital crime, it was committed with unfair advantage, in a premeditated and malicious manner, taking advantage of the helplessness of a people.
Teachers are the sowers of the seed. That is why Hitler used teachers and available resources to spread his extremist ideology.
We must correct the evil within the seed. And how can we right this wrong? By preventing that seed of hatred and discrimination from spreading and germinating, and that is the responsibility of universities and professors.
Antisemitism, hate, and intolerance were the catalysts that brought about the explosion of the Holocaust as the paradigm of the act of genocide. Hitler spread antisemitic messages of discrimination and intolerance in schools and universities; therefore, it is in universities that we can spread a message of love and brotherhood to others, one that is based on respect for human dignity, tolerance, and recognition of fundamental rights.
The development of scientific and technological knowledge is not enough to prevent the recurrence of an act as horrific as this genocide, which took the lives of approximately 20 million people. Hitler carried out the Holocaust in one of the most advanced nations of its time; therefore, an education with values is one of the key instruments to prevent another genocide from happening.
If universities don’t do something to prevent the propagation of intolerant, discriminatory ideas and attitudes against any group (whether it be a minority or not), they will become accomplices of those who commit such crimes.
In France, the United Nations published a study through UNESCO in 2013 which stated that genocides occur because people and governments make decisions that allow for the perpetuation of discrimination and persecution. In this same study, UNESCO concluded that by studying these political decisions, students gain valuable insight on the course of history.
In examining the reasons why the governments of Europe and the Americas limited the immigration of foreigners to their countries, precisely when the oppression of Jews was at its peak, students will understand that political decisions taken in these circumstances can lead to terrible consequences. When students learn about other cases of genocide and crimes against humanity, they will then understand that disasters caused by humans are not accidents, and can therefore be avoided.
When the Holocaust is carefully studied, a profound sense of its complexity is acquired and one becomes aware that these events have no simple explanation, they are instead the result of the convergence of multiple historical, economic, religious, and political factors that must be studied. At the same time, this helps us understand that the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities can start by identifying the warning signs.
Honorable professors: Where did the Holocaust originate?
In the mind of Hitler and his collaborators. It is in the mind where ideas emerge that produce great inventions and scientific and technological developments; but it is also there, in the human mind, where genocidal acts have originated, which can be avoided through an education centered on respect for human dignity, and constitutional values and principles.
And, as a university professor, what are you doing to prevent another genocide?
In your hands is the honor of the answer to this question.
Thank you for your attention, and have a nice evening.
Thank you very much.
Dr. William Soto Santiago
Ambassador of the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace