COLUMN: Will history repeat itself?

Berlin, 1936.

The world watched as the top athletes competed for reigning championships. The Germans were waiting to show  spectators what real Aryan blood could do.

During the time of the Nazi-Germany hosting of the Olympics, anti-Semitic signs were removed, propaganda was limited, and people were so easily fooled. For them, Germany looked like heaven, yet in reality, it was hell.

A number of Jewish athletes boycotted the 1936 Olympics, yet the games still went on. Sports complexes were erected, swastikas were enshrined on monuments, and the bloody secrets of the Nazi regime were hidden.

Nazi officials made it clear that foreign visitors would not be subjected to German laws, including the criminal penalties against homosexuality. In years to come, however, more than 10 million deaths would occur because of Hitler’s search for absolute power.

When looking back on history, we like to ask ourselves, “how did this happen?” and vow to prevent such atrocities in the future. The Nuremberg Trials brought Nazi officials to justice and the world slowly moved on, seemingly forgetful of how easy it is to create a powerful path of destruction.

Sochi, 2014.

Olympians all over the world are traveling to Sochi, a city in Russia, to compete for the glory of an Olympic medal. However, similarly to 1930s Hitler, Russian president Vladimir Putin is also attempting to hide his tyrannical efforts to erode human rights.

In June 2013, Putin signed legislation into law that “prescribes fines for anyone providing information about pedophilia and homosexuality to people under 18.” Gay rights activists worry that the amendment criminalizes any public event in support of gay rights. Even national leaders from other countries have boycotted the games in response to such laws.

In this case, these human rights abuses are not historical or theoretical, but are very real.

The Holocaust happened in silence when the world closed its eyes and covered its ears. I think it is vital to our history and to our morality that we as students, citizens and human beings take notice of what is happening in Russia and how the Sochi Olympics will impact the citizens.

In J.R.R. Tolkein’s second installment of The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Merry was compelling Treebeard the Ent to come out of isolation and help fight against the darkness covering Middle Earth. When met with resistance by Treebeard, thinking the Ents had no role in the war, Merry challenged Treebeard by asking him –

“But you’re a part of this world, aren’t you? ... you must help.”

As students, we have a responsibility to engage in discourse against these abuses. It is our duty to ensure the basic human rights of all of the world’s people. As idle observers, can we really look into the future without fear of being judged just as harshly as we judge those involved in the Holocaust of Nazi Germany?

What can we as students of this school do to make sure that we do not participate in the passerby effect of this human rights abuse?

To start, we can tell Putin that the whole world is watching Russia, and not just for the pair figure-skating.


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