A question I have asked myself ever since learning about the Holocaust is why do events like this happen? What is it about the human condition that allows such hate to result in mass murder; in attempted extermination of a whole people?
Not too long ago, I was told by my late mother's childhood friend that she recalled going to visit my mom in their Brooklyn apartment one day in 1943, when they were about thirteen-years-old. My mother arrived downstairs to meet her friend with tears streaming down her face. She had just learned that my grandmother's family had been killed in a Nazi concentration camp.
Why? What made most people in Germany and so many in Europe stand behind such madness? It still remains impossible to fathom how six million Jews, and five million others including Roman Catholics, Slavs, Gays and Lesbians, people with disabilities, and many others were targeted for extinction by the Nazis. Shouldn't the end of this tragedy have marked the beginning of a new era of peaceful co-existence and tolerance?
Yet, with the genocides prior to the Holocaust, and after, the desire to destroy others perceived as enemies of the state, remains. Too many examples of this horror can be found: from Armenia to Cambodia; Rwanda to Bosnia; and Myanmar to China; only to name a handful. I will even venture to say that this country's treatment of African-Americans and Native people over the centuries can be perceived as an iteration of genocide.
My desire to enlighten those who may not know much about the genocide in Bosnia, or even for those who do, is to authentically represent those atrocities through my writing. The truth must be told in order to bring justice to all victims and survivors of this, and other genocides past and present. My goal is to share with you the very human side of what transpired in Bosnia from 1992-1995. It is through the stories I tell that you, the reader, will understand why we must all be advocates for justice.
I have been so fortunate to continue to speak with many survivors of the genocide, and they have taught me much about how the atrocities have affected them. Without question, they will ultimately say that it is critical for the world to know the truth, so that they can finally feel a sense of justice, and prevent others from happening. For them, that truth has been obfuscated by deniers and revisionists.
The genocide in Bosnia is considered the greatest tragedy in Europe since World War II. However, the war for survivors doesn't end until there is acknowledgement on the part of those who committed the atrocities: Bosnian Serbs now living in Republika Srpska (RS) that lies within Bosnia and Herzegovina created out of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, as well as the country of Serbia.
The revisionist nature of how the perpetrators were just victims defending themselves against Muslim extremists is absurd, of course. Just speak to some of the survivors, as I have. Make sense of the war criminals that freely roam the streets of Republika Srpska who participated in the genocide going unpunished. Try living in the entity as a Muslim or Croat, sipping a cup of coffee in a cafe in the city of Visegrad, for example, where hundreds were killed by the Serb Army, and spotting the man, your former neighbor, who tortured you in a concentration camp, now enjoying coffee while reading the local newspaper just two tables down.
Although the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) did convict many of the chief architects of the genocide, many other perpetrators were not. And even for those who served time, many are now free to live their lives.Thankfully, there is a growing contingent of activists in Bosnia, even in Serbia, and in the diaspora who are seeking justice via political, judicial, journalistic, and other peaceful actions.
With my writing, I want you to feel what it's like to survive a genocide. I want you to understand how it has motivated many to live good lives, which is the best revenge against perpetrators and deniers. I want you to be a part of those seeking justice for all oppressed people, and those who have survived atrocities like the one in Bosnia. And I want you to take action, big and small, to ensure that human rights are at the heart of what we all people want.
Concentration Camp in Omarska; Prijedor, Bosnia (1992)
(photo: N1 Sarajevo)