Last July 24, I was lucky to have attended one of Dr. Thomas Pegelow Kaplan’s lecture for our INTFILO alternative class. The discourse Dr. Kaplan, a fellow from Davidson College, shared with Lasallians was entitled, “’We Must Name Genocide Genocide’: Left-Wing Protest Movements, Transnational Imageries of Mass Murder, and the Remaking of Memory in West Germany and the United States, 1951-1983”.
To be frank, he gave a lengthy dialogue with minimal pauses and mentioned terms I have never encountered making the whole talk ‘heavy’ for me. However, I managed to understand at least some, if not all, points of his lecture. What captured my attention (and I’m sure this also captured yours) was the word “genocide”. Genocide is the deliberate killing of a specific ethnic group or nation, and according to most history books, this word spread like wildfire during the Hitler regime where Jews were facing mass extinction under Hitler. Dr. Kaplan succeeded in shedding a light on this point since what I know about the Holocaust, Nazis and in that field of matter was verified by his lecture. I would not go into deeper detail regarding the precise dates and proceedings as I would like to share with you my discernment on the speaker’s talk.
For one, Dr. Kaplan mentioned that scores of Jews were killed in gas chambers installed at extermination camps in Auschwitz. This made me feel uneasy since after having experience watching Holocaust documentaries, I know what he was talking about. It was repulsive. Gestapo, or the German police under the Nazi rule, would send Jews to concentrations camps. They would let the Jews labor and starve to death; survivors or remaining Jews would then be stripped off of their garments and be strained to go in these constricted chambers forced to inhale whatever gas is present. The fact that they were Jews separated them from being ‘human’. Gruesome as it may sound, this was a piece of the very dark history Jews met. Dr. Kaplan explored a great deal on this point and expounded that genocide should not only be referred to the Holocaust episode but also other events eradicating individuals.
Consequently, what I have absorbed is that genocide or mass murder had three main outlets: political protest, memory, and visual-non-visual languages. I am unsure of the latter but I would like to emphasize my argument on the former: political protest and memory. Genocide is a protest of sorts because it exhibits violence. Not only is it an instrument for political propaganda but it can also be a weapon used for mass destruction. Dr. Kaplan varied interpretations regarding this through citing SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) protests or resistance, the People Power Revolution under Marcos government, and massacres during the Vietnam War. Likewise, genocide correlates with memory since it becomes a tool for populaces to annihilate what is remaining of a race, and that is the memory. Through genocide, another race can integrate into another its culture, influences and such since the memory of the original no longer exists. Activism also coincided with genocide during the height of crimes involving this subject when the mass decided to oppose this kind of protest and violence which then lead to obstruction of the greater parts of Western Europe. As I deduce it to my own understanding, genocide is power. Once power falls into the wrong hands, the damage is irreversible.
I came into realization that genocide during the Holocaust stretch was beyond our own understanding. If we look deeper inside Hitler’s mind, we can never decipher why he started this mass murder. Whether it be political reasons or personal intentions, the truth now lies with him in his grave. I apologize for my opinions since I based genocide mainly on its most popular example. I do not intend to force you to believe what I do but this was what came out of my own grasp the moment Dr. Kaplan shared his research with us.
In summary, Dr. Kaplan’s talk last Thursday was heavy but very eye-opening and enlightening. I found a hard time understanding it at first but when he broke his research into parts, I started to regain consciousness.
This reaction post was stimulated by Dr. Thomas Pegelow Kaplan’s ‘We Must Name Genocide Genocide’: Left-Wing Protest Movements, Transnational Imageries of Mass Murder, and the Remaking of Memory in West Germany and the United States, 1951-1983′.