What humans can do to other humans

I am not Jewish, not Muslim, not Christian, nor am I religious or spiritual in the vaguest sense of the words, yet the last few weeks have moved me profoundly.

I was pounding the pavements in Budapest on a week’s holiday when we came across three memorials. One was a recent addition to the streetscape, a modern version of heroic sculpture, think Doric columns, a flying eagle, representing Nazi Germany, swooping down on the Archangel Gabriel, representing Hungary. There are words written in Hungarian across the sweeping marble lintel. It has caused controversy in Budapest since it conveniently absolves the State from its complicity in World War II when 450,000 Jewish people were rounded up in 1944 and either killed outright, their bodies dumped in the river Danube, or were sent off to concentration camps to die.

The second is a memorial on the banks of the Danube. It consists of many pairs of bronze shoes – men’s, women’s and children’s – all faithfully old-fashioned, realistic to the time and representing the Jewish people who were slaughtered by that riverbank. Tourists milled around, mostly silent. Despite the heat of the day and the warmth of the sun, the site was chilling and distressing. It seemed a violation somehow to take photographs.

The third was a series of photographs and stories placed on the outside wall of the main Jewish synagogue in Budapest. The stories gave information about the occupations and lives of the many people who are buried in the grounds – all victims of the Nazi holocaust. Again, my reaction was one of tears, an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss.

As travellers, we visit these sites and tut tut about things that have happened in the past and try to hope they will never happen again. We tell ourselves that we would never behave that way to other human beings, that somehow, we would be more moral or more courageous. Or at least less savage.

Yet as the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy unfolds, the same brutality is happening, the same horror is evolving, the same sense of helplessness evoked. For some there is fear, for some there is anger, for some there is a powerful need for retribution and blame. For some, too, there is glee that their terrorist raids have succeeded in denting the morale of a nation. There is suffering of innocent civilians on both sides of this conflict and no doubt will be more.

What is the world doing about this suffering? I despair about being human, about being a part of this species.

Please send donations to UNHCF or whatever organisation you favour for humanitarian relief. It is the least we can do as we sit in our safe houses.

Do you share Dianne’s grief? Is it sometimes inconceivable what humans can do to other humans? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also read: ‘I heard their voices, their love of country and their desire for respect’


  1. Dianne, you are not alone in your despair. I too watch as, collectively, the world does seem to have lost its humanity. What is unfolding in Gaza, as Israel prepares to exact revenge for the Hamas attack is going to be tragedy on an epic scale, yet no western leader, including our own, is prepared to stand up and call for peace. What happened to the Jews during world war 2 was horrific, yet, isn’t what they are preparing to do to the Palestinians going to have the same result? Mass slaughter of innocent men, women and children? Despair indeed.

  2. Looks like you have a heart of Gold. I will tell you what i am puzzled at. I would have thought the descendants of the Holocaust will have your sentiments. But the leaders of Israel particularly those from the Right Wing of politics have not shown any compassion to the occupied Palestinians. They are frequently humiliated, harassing them in the middle of the night in their homes, incarcerating and shooting them at will. Then when the helpless Palestinian are their tether’s end and explode the Israel military and police forces double down on their brutality. No human beings be they Jew, Arab or pagan will take Injustice lying down. Most of the Western media unfortunately sanitised the frequent brutality towards the Palestinian. Examples: Palestinian/s died and Israeli are killed/murdered. Palestinian terrorises and the Settlers are angry.
    Like you i wish for a world where a lion and a lamb can drink from a running stream side by side. Disclaimer: I am neither an Arab nor a Palestinian.

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