The most important human rights story of the week seems to have been largely overshadowed by political headlines. The report that should consume the international community is the revelation that U.S. satellite photos have identified crematoria at Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Sednaya prison. Assad built these killing centers to destroy the evidence of his mass murder of innocent civilians and political opponents in Syria, amid a growing genocide.
Just over 70 years ago, the United States failed to bomb the Auschwitzextermination camp and other death camps, allowing the Nazis to continue to murder millions of Jews with impunity. If the phrase “Never again” is to have any meaning, the United States, Israel, or some other power that stands for morality and against the evils of genocide, must immediately bomb the Syrian crematoria.
On Sunday night, a tribute will be held in New York City in honor of Elie Wiesel at the World Values Network Gala, of which I am founder. After surviving the concentration camps, Wiesel devoted his life to doing everything in his power to ensure that nothing like the Holocaust would ever happen again. If he were alive, he would be demanding action from the world’s leaders. He would not be silent just because the rest of the world is mired today in moral ambiguity. He would be horrified that the pages of major newspapers around the world published pictures of crematoria taking place before our eyes and the world did nothing.
With Wiesel’s death last year, the responsibility to stop innocent Arab men, women, and children from being slaughtered in Syria falls to all of us.
I accompanied Elie’s son, Elisha, to his recent “March of the Living Speech” at Auschwitz, where he electrified the audience with a demand that we finally become our brother’s keeper. Twelve thousand young Jews walked down the same paths of those whose lives were extinguished, whose bodies and souls were burned in crematoria and remains floated to heaven.
Today, we know many of these Jews could have been saved had the president of the United States bombed the camp, or at least the train tracks leading to Auschwitz. It was not a complicated operation — the Allies were already bombing targets in the area. Nevertheless, for reasons that remain as unacceptable today as they were then, Franklin Roosevelt refused to act, knowing the deadly consequences of his inaction.
For many years the Roosevelt administration pretended not to be aware of the “Final Solution” to the “Jewish problem.” The president knew Hitler’s intent as early as 1939, and he knew the Nazis were engaged in mass murder, but saving the Jewish people was never his priority.
Roosevelt was one of our greatest presidents, and he ultimately defeated Hitler. But his legacy will forever be tarnished by his failure to do more to prevent the destruction of European Jewry. His failure on Auschwitz is Exhibit A.
Now there is no pretense, no question about what we know. We see pure evil before our eyes.
Hitler was emboldened by the world’s failure to act after the Nuremberg laws were enacted, after Kristallnacht foreshadowed the fate of European Jewry, after Hitler’s explicit declaration of his intent to exterminate the Jews, and after learning of the Final Solution.
Barack Obama did nothing while Assad terrorized and used chemical weapons on his people. Worse, Obama’s failure to enforce his “red line”emboldened Assad to gas his people again. Recently, the former president bizarrely and brazenly claimed that his inaction in Syria required “political courage,” as if a failure to punish the gassing of children is something merits applause.
Now, a failure to destroy the crematoria in Syria will give Assad an international license to continue to slaughter his people and destroy the evidence in puffs of smoke.
President Trump will be in Israel in a few days and visit Yad Vashem, the museum and memorial to the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. Just 150 miles away, Syria is running a killing center that is a reminder of the adage that those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.
To his credit, Donald Trump took decisive action in response to Assad’s last chemical attack. It was his proudest moment as president. Now, he must be equally decisive by sending cruise missiles or whatever munitions are required to reduce the crematoria to rubble.
It is unconscionable to allow Assad to get away with his continuing war crimes. He must be charged in the International Court of Justice with crimes against humanity.
Every nation must speak out against this evil. More important, each must contribute to putting a stop to Assad’s killing spree — starting with the destruction of his crematoria.