Genocide Awareness Week in Scottsdale, Arizona

gaw-landing-page-banner-2015_0Scottsdale Community  College is hosting a Genocide Awareness Week: Not on our Watch this coming week, April 13 – 18, 2015. I’ve included the link below for the full conference agenda and list of speakers. I will be speaking on Wednesday April 15 on the topic of Poles as Victims and Heroes – a topic this non-Pole has learned is way under told and unjustifiably misunderstood.

History is Relevant and Interesting When we are touched by it
I became interested in Poland for one reason – I have a story to tell so I had to learn. I met my Polish friend Henry Zguda on an unexpected phone tip when I wrote for the newspaper. It was pure serendipity that came to me. I didn’t wake up one day, throw a dart at a map and say “I’m going to study Country X today.” I’ve learned that history becomes most relevant when we are touched by it. We meet a survivor. We have a grandparent who died in a ghetto. We knew someone who worked in the World Trade Center, and escaped, or didn’t, on 9/11. Or maybe we just read a great book that takes place in a certain era and our eyes are opened to a new world.

Why learn about Genocides?
Genocide is one of those unpleasant words, that it’s preferable to close the book, shut our eyes and tune it out. I mean, I can’t even keep up with the news in the Middle East and who’s bombing who today. For self-preservation I like to turn the noise off, or just skim the headlines on the BBC app on my IPhone. What can I really do about a bombing in Paris? Can’t we all just stay in our own worlds? Do we really have to deal with, and learn about horrible episodes in history? What can one person really do?  I think we need to look to those who have stood strong for examples and lessons.

Learning, and awareness also pays homage and respect to those who suffered, or fought, or both. Henry Zguda never received the respect in the United States for his three years in four concentration camps, that he had in Poland. Why? Besides having a thick accent, he encountered a total lack of awareness that Catholics, and Poles, were even in concentration camps, let alone the respect and awareness that six million Poles lost their lives in WWII.

Quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemöller
The German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated: Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. The Germans hung him near the end of World War II for working against Hitler.

Bonhoeffer’s good friend and colleague in the Confessing Church Leadership, Martin Niemöller, is famous for the following statement. Niemöller did live to be 92.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out –
because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out –
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
because I was not a Jew. 
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.
(scroll down for schedule and speaker bios)

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Thanks Katrina. I’m impressed and grateful that you’ve devoted yourself to
    this important work.
    I can surely relate to wanting to “skim” the news and live in my own little world. The poignant and moving poem tells me otherwise, surely an invitation to pay attention.



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