Sunday, February 2, 2020

Never Forget History


This is Iwan Rebalka, born on February 6, 1925, to Nastasja and Maksym Rybałka. At the time, his family lived in Syrowatka, Kreis Krasnopilla, Russland - an area which is now the sovereign territory of Ukraine. Iwan and 56 other individuals were deported to a concentration camp on August 20, 1942 by the Germans. Once there, he was registered as a Russian political prisoner and assigned the number 60308. According to documents recovered from Auschwitz, Iwan belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church and was a milkman by trade when he was arrested in Bielowody, Kreis Myropilla, Russland. He died on March 1, 1943; his death certificate attributes the cause of death to a perinephric abscess, however, this information was likely fabricated.  Iwan was actually murdered with a phenol injection into his heart. On March 1, 1943, Rapportführer Gerhard Palitzsch took at least 82 boys aged 13 to 17 (Poles, Jews, and Russians) from Birkenau to the main camp. They were placed in a room in Block 20 (one of the camp infirmary blocks) and in the evening were all killed with phenol injections by SS-Unterscharführer Scherpe.  Iwan was likely among them, one of the estimated 1.1 million people murdered at Auschwitz.

We live in a time in which extremism is taking advantage of eroding historical  memory, thanks in large part to our politicized academe. In America’s Northeast, anti-semitic attacks are on the rise less than a century after the Holocaust in Europe. A recent poll found that support for communism, an ideology that is responsible for the deaths of over 100 million people and counting in the past century, is on the rise among America’s youth. 

Just how much is at stake when we forget our shared human history?

A 2019 poll showed an increase of 36 percent support for communism among Millennials compared to 2018. The percentage of Millennials who say they are "extremely likely" to vote for a socialist candidate this November has doubled from 2018 to 2019 (20% vs. 10%). correspondingly, the opinions of capitalism took a steep decline from 2018 to 2019, with only one-in-two among Millennials (ages 23-38) and Generation Z (ages 16-22) having a favorable opinion of capitalism. Socialism’s favorability decreased markedly from 2018, among all generations except for Millennials and the Silent Generation (ages 74+). Even about a quarter of Americans see Donald Trump as the biggest threat to world peace (across every generation) over figures like Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin.

"The historical amnesia about the dangers of communism and socialism is on full display in this year’s report," said Marion Smith, Executive Director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. "When we don’t educate our youngest generations about the historical truth of 100 million victims murdered at the hands of totalitarian regimes over the past century, we shouldn’t be surprised at their willingness to embrace Marxist ideas. We need to redouble our efforts to educate America’s youth about the history of communist regimes and the dangers of socialism today.”

Find a place in your mind's eye and in your heart for Iwan. And hold it there. Remember Iwan. And NEVER FORGET.

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