The Holocaust Museum Is Making A Powerful Stand With The People Of Aleppo

"Half a century after the end of World War II, the world has still not learned the lessons of the Holocaust."

A ceasefire was declared in east Aleppo on Thursday, the second attempt for respite in two days from the sweeping violence as Bashar al-Assad loyalists recaptured opposition-held areas in the heart of Syria's humanitarian crisis. Meant to allow for the safe evacuation of civilians and rebels, the first ceasefire broke down less than a day after it was implemented. Thursday's has proved more successful thus far.

The Syrian civil war first shaped up as a peaceful struggle against Assad, who has held power for more than 16 years. Assad's violent crackdown on protestors quickly escalated to an armed conflict between government forces and Syrian rebels, and was made more convoluted by the rise of ISIS. Major international powers have been drawn in to the nearly seven-year war, including the U.S., Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. All have a hand in why the conflict — which has killed more than 400,000 people, displaced more than 6 million, and caused a refugee crisis in Europe that has in part given way to rising Islamophobia — has not yet ended. 

As the government forces' takeover of east Aleppo makes international headlines, the world's eyes are trained on the atrocities in Aleppo. Activists and journalists in the besieged city — if you can even call it that anymore — documented their last goodbyes in realtime and posted them on social media. 

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Reports coming out of Aleppo paint a sickening portrait of the disintegration of humanity. And while it strikes the international community with horror, for those who have lived through the systematic massacre of their own people, it has been particularly haunting.

For more than five years, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has been raising concerns about the human cost in Syria. Cameron Hudson, director of the museum's Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide told A Plus that the international community is failing Aleppo today like it did Jews in Germany decades ago. 

"Half a century after the end of World War II, the world has still not learned the lessons of the Holocaust. Syria today proves that the international community has failed to make atrocity prevention a factor in its policymaking in this crisis," Hudson said. "This week's fall of Aleppo has left the world weeping and asking ourselves why we have not done more to end the slaughter of children and civilians."

In fact, certain facets of the two calamities are eerily similar. In recent months, a 7-year-old Syrian girl, Bana Alabed, has become the face of the war. With help from her mother Fatemah, Bana tweets about her life in the war zone that is Aleppo, posting periodic updates about her family's situation and pleading for politicians to intervene. 

Bana has been called "our era's Anne Frank" by the likes of The Washington Post. And while they are both similar in age, in suffering, and seemingly in spirit, there's a marked difference between the two. A Plus' Cate Matthews wrote:

[C]alling Bana the Syrian Anne Frank obscures something all-the-more critical in light of Aleppo's fall to the Syrian government and its allies: as noted by a number of publications, we are receiving her updates in real-time. By the time Anne Frank's diary was published in 1947, it was too late to save Anne and her schoolmates. But it is not too late to save Syrian children like Bana. 

Margit Meisner, a Holocaust survivor, spoke up against the horrors in Aleppo last year at the Holocaust Memorial Museum last year. "I find it most disheartening that again, 80 years after the end of World War II, the world is faced with a regime that targets its own people for destruction," she said, adding that one of the major differences is that the humanitarian crisis in Syria has been laid bare for all to see — yet, still, it continues. 

More than a year later, as tragedy continues to unfold in Aleppo on another shocking scale, Meisner told A Plus, "All I can say when I look at the pictures of Aleppo, I am beyond shocked that this goes on and nobody seems to be able to halt it."

But social media has boosted the profiles of those continuing to speak out in Aleppo, giving rise to awareness about the atrocities taking place there. There is mounting public pressure for world leaders to act, and act swiftly, and donations to various charities aiding Syria continue to pour in as people in eastern Aleppo make the desperate flee to safety.

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Cover image via Shutterstock.com.

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