Approaching Srebrenica from the Perspective of the Holocaust: A Framework

John Weiss

I should explain what brought me a lifelong concern with actions that threaten the national, ethnical, racial and religious diversity of the human species, especially the crime of genocide. In early 1946 Gerard A. Weiss, my father, an American attorney employed by the Department of Justice, brought my mother, my younger brother and me to Berlin. We were the fi rst group of dependents permitted to join Government employees there. Dad was a ranking member of the team charged with the suit against the German chemical cartel I.G. Farben. As such, he interviewed key defendants at the Nuremberg Trials, including Albert Speer and Hermann Schmitz, the Farben CEO. When he came home in the evenings he would tell me, a five year-old, about Nazi crimes. He and my mother visited Dachau in late 1946, during the visit to which they learned more details about other places where the “Final Solution” – the term Holocaust was not in use until the 1960s – had been carried out.

Growing up in a liberal, civic-minded Protestant family in the northeastern United States at a time when many Americans felt a duty to bring democratic reform to a world engaged in a Cold War, I was convinced that the Nazi genocide represented the greatest moral challenge to the Western world, a kind of vortex of evil spinning at the center while our political and social actions struggled to improve things at its edge. In my adult life this conviction has had two consequences:

  1. The Holocaust has been a subject in part of fi fteen of the twenty different courses I have taught at Harvard and Cornell.
  2. I have pursued a parallel “career” as an antigenocide activist, often devoting as much time to such work as I do to my research and teaching.

Hence when the goal of Milošević and his radicalized Bosnian Serb allies seemed not just mass murder but the radical diminishment of the Bosnian people accomplished with killing, starvation, rape, expulsion, and the eradication of their cultural heritage by bombing mosques and libraries, I felt compelled to do what I could to help stop the process and bring aid to the victims.

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  1. Sluiter, A. (2016). Remembering the Bosnian genocide: justice, memory and denial. Institute for Islamic Tradition of Bosniaks.

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