I did some number crunching this morning on that 20th century casualty list. Of the 160,000,000 I subtracted the conflicts that could be defined at least loosely as country to country. I also subtracted the approximately 11,000,000 who died in the Nazi concentration camps. Most of these people were sent there either because of political beliefs or because of who they were. The Holocaust is horrific enough but others were targeted too. Gypsies, gays, Marxists, Slavs. I shocked, but not really surprised, to discover that Poland’s Slavic population was targeted for extinction once the war was over and their labor no longer needed. Basically anyone who didn’t fit in the Nazi vision of a purified Europe was slated for the Nazi death machine.
Sadly, their own neighbors targeted many of these people. With minimal Nazi supervision the Vichy French sent their Jewish neighbors to the camps. However, I also ran across a story of an area in France, mainly Protestant, that had its own history of religious persecution. These folks hid or transported many Jews. And as long as they didn’t have to notice what was going on the local Nazi’s turned a blind eye to what was going on.
There were other stories of heroism too. The Danes smuggled nearly all their Jewish neighbors across the straits to Sweden. Apparently with the tacit aid of the country’s SS governor. When his superiors were disappointed that only 400 or so Jews (mainly elderly people who couldn’t be gotten out in time) had been arrested out of several thousand, he let his superiors know that he had been told to make sure Denmark was free of Jews and it was. He probably didn’t tell them that he’d chosen to interpret his orders as liberally as possible. He’d even ordered his troops not to enter houses where no one answered the door. Wouldn’t want anyone accused of stealing anything if belongings came up missing.
Italy managed to save 80 percent of its Jews.
A papal nuncio in Hungary signed blank baptismal certificates and gave them to the underground. Angelo Roncalli helped save approximately 50,000 people. He’s better known as Pope John XXIII.
Actually, I’m constantly surprised that so many get saved in the face of determined efforts to kill. And the truth has a way of coming out. Chili and Argentina are proving that.
Anyway, I admit my criteria for selection of numbers is purely personal and probably open to other interpretations. I come up with approximately 98,000,000 people done to death or “disappeared’ by their own governments or neighbors. Sent out of this world by those they should have been able to trust or turn to for help.
We’re finally realizing that individuals have a greater chance of facing violence from a family member or someone they know. It appears that it’s true on a national scale too. When a national family starts to break apart or fails to make a coherent picture out of the ethnic puzzle pieces you’re in more danger from the people you know than the foreign boogey men the politicians keep threatening us with.
2 days ago