The Holocaust of World War II made it clear that there are several roles any individual can play in our society. If we are not to be victims, then our only choices are to be perpetrators of evil and injustice, indifferent bystanders who allow it to exist in our world or rescuers or upstanders who act to end it.
Holocaust Museum Houston’s lesson of the triangle illustrates the actions people took when confronted with the evils of Nazi Germany. Only a small percentage of the population was comprised of perpetrators; but an even smaller portion, less than 1 percent, made a decision to become rescuers or upstanders. Most people settled on the role of bystander. The result was catastrophic.
An upstander is someone who takes action on behalf of others. There are many examples of ordinary people taking extraordinary actions to help others – even those they do not personally know.
What can you do to make a difference?
- Learn the facts about the Holocaust and other genocides and talk with others about this history. These Web sites will help you do this.
- View films about genocides or host screenings. Some recommended films include “The Killing Fields” (Cambodia), “Sometimes in April” (Rwanda), “Hotel Rwanda” (Rwanda) and “Darfur Diaries” (Darfur).
- Keep informed about what is happening in places facing genocide threats. Many of the sites above include an opportunity to receive weekly updates via e-mail.
- Read the “Report of the Genocide Prevention Task Force,” which sets out a blueprint for U.S. policymakers on genocide and mass atrocity prevention.
- Write to your representatives in Congress about what you want them to do in terms of preventing genocide. Many of the Web sites listed above provide advocacy advice you may want to read and use.
- Write an op-ed article or letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
- Raise funds for an organization providing relief for those facing humanitarian crises in the face of genocide. Some ideas could include hosting a “Dinner for Darfur,” sell T-shirts, set up a donation box at your school or place of worship or ask your school to host a “Battle of the Bands” contest and donate the admission fee.
- Start a STAND: Students Against Genocide Chapter at your school.
- Encourage your school to adopt anti-genocide curricular materials for both its library and its classrooms.
- Ask your local bookseller and library to display books about genocide and mass atrocities.