Tablet of Peace

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During our time in the Netherlands we visited the Peace Palace. There is so much history that took place at the Peace Palace before any governments established a court there or any governments fought a war of worldwide implications. At the beginning of the first great war, 30 delegates from many different countries met at the De Witte Brug Hotel in Scheveningen as the “Central Organisation for a Durable Peace.” These meetings would continue and flourished and by the end of the war many prominent people, groups, and religious organizations with 250 members from 40 countries assisted the body.

The news of this body of prominent men seeking universal peace spread far and wide. In fact, Baha’is in Tehran heard the news and wrote a letter to The Organisation for a Durable Peace explaining the Baha’i faith and its principles on peace and advised the members that the son of the prophet Bah’u’llah, Abdul Baha was in Haifa and that they should contact him. The body did, in fact, contact him. They wrote Abdul three times. The first two letters did not make it to him, although the last letter did. Abdul immediately wrote a letter to the organisation that is now displayed at the Peace Palace. The letter is written as the “Question of Universal Peace: The Tablet to The Hague.”

As a Baha’i I wish I had known about this display. I learned about the tablet from a Baha’i friend who works at the International Criminal Court as a translator. We met in Amsterdam and went shopping for cheese and chocolate. For a gift, he brought me a copy of the tablet. The original tablet was hand delivered by two Baha’is. For me these international organizations are sacred. The Baha’i faith also considers flowers to be sacred and often the early fathers of the faith would describe race relations in terms of a garden with many diverse and beautiful flowers.

Symbolically, while at the Peace Palace I was disheartened that the flowers had not bloomed outside the Peace Palace. The Peace Palace has a beautiful garden of roses and other flowers, but they were not yet in bloom. I can’t help but feel that this is symbolic for world peace. The ground has been tilled and the flowers have been planted but world peace has not yet been realized.

Substantively, Abdul Baha wrote that there were certain prerequisites to peace that will need to be accomplished in order for peace to be established. He wrote the letter July 17th 1920 at the end of the first great war. He starts the letter with this quote, “In the future yet another war is bound to break out, even fiercer than the last one. There is no doubt about this whatsoever. What can the organization in the Hague do about this? The fundamental principles relating to world peace as set out by Bah’u’llah will become more widespread every day.”

He goes on to write that certain principles must be established such as unity of the minds and men and conscience. People of different nations, religions, and sects must come together and bring with them their teachings of peace. Mankind must be universally educated and must be free to investigate reality independently. If religion is the cause of enmity then humankind should disregard religions altogether. Religion must be in conformity with science.

Religious, racial, political, economic, and patriotic prejudices should be disregarded as well because as long as they prevail humanity will not have rest. If the prejudice of religion, consider that religion should be a cause of fellowship. If the prejudice be of nationality or patriotism, consider that the whole earth is but one native land. Regarding economic prejudice, consider that when ties between countries strengthen then the acceleration of goods follows making both nations richer.

Eventually, the world must establish a universal language among humanity so that misunderstandings are less. Until then, learned men should strive to learn and study the different languages and make linguistic ties in order to establish better communication among people.

One of the most important prerequisites is that humanity must treat women and men equally and afforded the same privileges in society. He explains that women and men are two wings of one bird and if one wing remains weak then flight is impossible so both wings must be fully developed.

Humanity also must progress to a level of empathy whereby a person considers others before themselves. This creates a fiduciary duty toward all humanity for every person. Humanity must also be free before the world can establish a lasting peace because the struggle for existence is a great calamity for man and the supreme affliction.

Society must make education available and compulsory for every child. Universal education is necessary for a lasting peace. Also, a worldwide supreme tribunal consisting of elected representatives of the various member states must be established. All the countries must support the tribunal. A limited body such as the League of Nations cannot bring about the peace desired by men and women of conscience. Instead, the tribunal would govern over all international matters and have the power and might to carry out its decree.

– DL

Don’t Follow to Bowman

On March 10, 2015, our group, well minus two social butterflies, visited the Documentation Center in Nuremberg. This museum is in the north wing of the unfinished remains of the Congress Hall of the former Nazi party rallies. The museum concentrated mostly on the causes, connections, and consequences of Nazi Germany. Although it seems a bit weird, the documentation center had photos of those who had been hung as proof of death. This was fascinating to me because I would never have thought to request something of that nature. One part of the museum allows you walk out into the middle of the hall. This reminded me of a Roman structure where people gathered.

A few of us quickly browsed the items at the documentation to be able to visit the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. We, of course, ask for directions. The tour guide told Bowman specific directions, so we followed Bowman. We guessed that we had taken a few wrong turns when we ended up walking completely around the lake in order to get to the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. Luckily, it turned out for the best because it was a beautiful day for a two mile walk out that was completely out of our way.

Apart from the documentation center, the Nazi Party Rally grounds were originally created to demonstrate the power of the Nazi party and the increasing number of individuals who joined the group. Zeppelin Field and Grandstand were built on the Zeppelin meadow between 1934 and 1937. The field was designed to accommodate up to 100,000 people and the main stand providing seating for 60,000 spectators. The Zeppelin field originally had a swastika, but the US Army blew that up and the main grandstand has significantly deteriorated.

Once we finally made it to the Grounds, it was incredible to see how large and important the Nazi Party anticipated the area to be. The pictures at the documentation museum do not do the area justice. Several people mentioned that the area was allowed to deteriorate because the area should not be commemorated as this rally ground for the Nazi party. Others believe that it should have been used for something beneficial in the community to change the original intention of the area. You could definitely tell that the area was not being preserved. There were tons of garbage and broken bottles. There was also graffiti all over the walls expressing the artists’ distaste for the Nazi Party. It was eerie to be standing in the same place as Adolf Hitler as he commanded thousands of people. I got the chills several times as Bowman, Kathy and I sat to enjoy the nice day after our long walk around the lake.

I learned several things that day about the city of Nuremberg, the rally grounds and about my friends as we walked around the lake on our way. Despite the negativity surrounding the rally grounds, I felt honored to be able to witness such a spectacle.

JLT

The European Court of Justice

Our visit to the European Court of Justice was very interesting and informative. In my opinion, this was one of the most impressive and modern courts we saw. We toured many other, older courts that were very beautiful because of the age and architecture, but this court was beautiful and modern. First we were given a quick explanation of the case we were going to observe. I was surprised to learn that other countries, countries that are not actual parties to the suit, can actually intervene and become parties. They usually do this when they have a vested interest in the outcome, such as when they have similar questions of law in their own countries and the decision might affect them. One of the most interesting dynamics of this court is the language barrier. Every case is translated into the language of both parties, and French and English. The translators handle the real-time translation very well. Or seemed to, as I would not actually have known if the translations were accurate. The translators seemed to be translating to roughly the same speed as the actual speaker. The entire process did give me a little headache, though. I think it was because I was trying to pay attention to both the actual speakers and the translators, and it is just a lot to take in at once. I’m fairly certain most of my classmates had similar experiences, as well. It could have been a lack of sleep, or too much time spent in trains, or possibly the discombobulating effect of listening to a translator, but I think everyone was very tired after observing the court proceedings. I usually find court proceedings very interesting, and don’t often get tired, but I was very tired, as well.

In addition to the need to translate in real-time for court proceedings, all documents must also be translated and this takes a very long time. This is understandable considering some of the complex issues that the court deals with and the need to have all documents translated into so many languages. Again, even thinking about it was beginning to give me a small headache, so I can’t imagine the reality of working in a court with so much translating going on. Another interesting issue is considering, not just the real implications of translations, but the legal implications of the translations. In class, many cases sometimes hinge on the precise definitions of certain words and an entire case can be about the different definitions and ambiguity of a word. I can’t imagine how a lawyer would even begin to address the ambiguities of translated words. From what I have heard, a certain amount of translation is a discretionary call. For example, a word in English usually has several synonyms, but in Spanish, there may be only one word, and vice-versa. Another issue is that translators are human and sometimes make mistakes. This mistake can be compounded sometimes because, some documents are translated into French, for example, and then the French translation may be used to translate to Italian, and so on. A mistake can be carried over into many languages when this occurs. Despite all this, our guest speakers spoke very highly of the translators’ abilities and insisted that, though mistakes do happen, they don’t happen very often.

– KB

The Anne Frank House – One Left Turn

I, like most people, had read Anne Frank’s diary at some point in my life. It has been some time since I have read the book but I do remember it very well. One thing that I was immediately struck with, apparently like her father, was how deeply profound and expansive her writing was. Not only as an individual in general, but as a very young girl. I think the first time I read the book it did not seem real to me. I was but about 10 years old. I remember being fascinated by the story, but at that juncture in my life, it was just that, a story. I read the book again as a school requirement. I believe I was about 14 or 15 years of age. Then, I had more knowledge about the goings on of Europe in the 30’s and 40’s. Still, looking back on it, I do not think I could comprehend what was happening to Anne and millions of others.

As we arrived at the house, it was unremarkable from the outside. As we entered, it seemed like any other tourist attraction. People were being loud, boisterous, and the like. This and that were being offered for sale and there was a line stringing out the door for what seemed like forever going down the block. After a short delay, we were advised that we could enter.

One left turn from the shop, if you will, and I had arrived to a place 70 years ago. From the old flooring to the walls, I had just traveled in time. I looked up on the wall and the first thing I remember seeing was a quote. I believe it was “[i]n spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” I think that if that was all I had seen, that would be enough. I was immediately moved beyond anything that words could begin to describe. What a brave soul. What a tremendous person it takes to see the hope, the best in people, despite the horrendous circumstances. To me, it seems as if Anne was put in this position to do this one thing, to write; to convey to the world that we are better than this. We are better than the atrocities that are occurring around the world at any given time. We are better than to succumb to simplistic egotistical impulses. We are better than persecuting others. We are better than hurting others based upon fear and paranoia. We are better than we could ever imagine and we should not give in to an idea because it is easy, because it is convenient, or because it is what everyone is doing, but we, as individuals can and should triumph in doing what is right.

Anne symbolizes all that is great in this world; all that is great in not only us as humans, but also what we are capable of doing as a single individual. Yet, no matter what seems to be going on, how hard things are, how bad life seems, we will always have the same ultimate goal and an invisible thread will continually intertwine all of our stories together. Anne so eloquently captured this in that “[w]e all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.” All it takes is one left turn to see it.

– MJD

In the Shadow of Germany’s Legacy

Nuremberg rounded out the backdrop of Nazi history. Having previously watched the clips of the Nuremberg trial, sitting in the actual courtroom was bittersweet. Coming from Dachau, I was left with the “kill’em all” perspective. Then, the decorum of courtroom 600 reminded me of the need for the rule of law and that lawlessness and vigilantism is what allowed places like Dachau to prosper in the first place. It was bittersweet because no Nazi could convince me that they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong. Again, I found myself incensed with anger and hatred toward those who participated.

The number of the leadership that were actually sentenced to death didn’t even seem just. Even with the application of due process extended to such monsters and given the severest penalty, still did not compare to the absolute horrors that they directed. How could justice be applied? To be honest, if all participating Nazis who helped exterminate the innocent were hanged, I think justice would still fall short. I mean to say that even with death sentences, it can’t undo crimes.

When the allies initially began discussing how they should proceed with the Nazi leadership, I believe that Connecticut Senator Thomas J. Dodd’s plan on providing a fair and legal trial for the Nazi’s was the best route. What it symbolized was that the world community would not stoop to the level of the inhuman, evil policies of the Nazis. By providing a fair trial it demonstrated that regardless of who the defendants were, the necessity and submission to the rule of law was how the civilized world must act; even in the face of evil. I believe it set a tone as to how we, as world community, must conduct ourselves. This dark chapter in human history truly facilitated the construction of the international court systems. Understanding that atrocities like this can never be tolerated again and, at the very least, hold those accountable who may try, helps facilitate the continued establishment of the rule of law.

The Hague demonstrated the continued work to ensure a law abiding global community as well as a system to hold those accountable for engaging in international criminal activity. The ICC was evidently quite engaged in holding violators of war crimes accountable. Its mission is to ensure that mistakes of Germany’s past aren’t repeated. Although ICC’s mission statement may not highlight Germany’s dark history as the precedent for instituting an “ICC,” the cases that they undertake have a direct similarity of those we saw in Nazi Germany.

While analyzing the big picture, I was saddened at the reminder of how quickly the U.S. and NATO responded to places like Kosovo and Serbia but how the world community was slow in intervening in places like Rwanda. It’s a reminder that crimes against humanity continue to occur, but we don’t always jump to intervene.

In the 21st century, you would think that we have become more civilized. But looking at events like the attempt of the twin towers in 1994, 9/11, the Iraqi war, ISIS, etc. it’s unnerving to think that in the shadow of Germany’s legacy, we still have a long way to go.

– JMS

World War II German War Heroes

War heroes from Germany in WWII is not a term that you hear very often, if ever. Our day for the tour of the Palace of Justice in Munich started out in a rush. While we left the hotel with plenty of time our extra time was soon eaten up by confusing streets and un-educated citizens. Well, maybe un-educated citizens isn’t a fair term but out of the 7 people we asked only one had ever heard of the Palace of Justice and she was only willing to guess as to where it was located. Finally, we find the huge and architecturally amazing building that covers an entire city block. Unfortunately for us we were on the wrong side and it took us several minutes to walk all the way around to the correct entrance.

Walking into the building I was instantly in awe!

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The main atrium of the building was breathtaking. The corridors were all the same with the different placards denoting the different courtrooms. The first courtroom we saw had been updated and was very modern. The tables were set and were ready for that Monday mornings round of bar takers. We were told about the bar exam procedures in Germany and I think all of us left feeling very fortunate.

The next courtroom we saw was the courtroom where the students of the White Rose movement were tried.

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Here the historian explained the White Rose movement and the significance of the pictured individuals. The historian stated that these individuals were “lifted up” because Germany was is such a dire need for some heroes to come from this time in their history. It caught me off guard when he said German War Hero during WWII. I understand very much what he meant by saying that heroes were needed during that time. After seeing the movie, it was a very ominous feeling to be in the same courtroom where Sophie and her brother stood trial. Today it is hard to imagine how big of a deal it was for them to deliver the leaflets. Today I can speak my mind and broadcast my opinion through e-mail listservs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, websites on the internet, the list goes on. It is difficult to imagine the careful planning and the resources that went into the leaflets and their distribution.

The next bit that was hard for me to swallow was when the historian talked about the member who was a father to two with one on the way. I found myself seriously questioning whether I could take on such a dangerous position as a parent. I came to the conclusion that his belief in the movement had to have been very, very strong. I felt almost guilty as I don’t know that I would have came to the same conclusion.

The White Rose movement is a movement only on a small scale but it is one that is a big slice of a huge part of history.

CG

Concentrate

On March 8, 2015, our group went to Dachau Concentration Camp. This camp was the first of the Nazi Concentration camps opened in Germany in 1933. The purpose of this camp was to hold political prisoners to be used for forced labor. It was clear that the concentration camp was divided into two parts, the camp area and the crematorium. In the past, the camp area had a large open area where the prisoners lined up for attendance before the work day and then again in the evening. The tour guide explained that this was not only for attendance, but also to examine the prisoners to see which of them had made it through this hectic day. Most of the tasks were to build up a pile of rocks and then break down the pile of rocks each day. The original camp consisted of 32 barracks, but today there was only one barrack left standing. A simple ground framework marked the other barracks with numbers on them and there was also barracks for the clergy who were imprisoned for opposing the Nazi regime.

When we first entered the camp, it was relatively empty, which was not normal. The tour guide explained that many of the German school children are brought there to witness the past of their country. Also another surprising thing was that the sign from the door that used to read, “Arbeit macht frei”, or “Work will make you free.” I was very disappointed to hear this because it was an original part of the camp’s history that was stolen. The tour guide thought perhaps it was part of a Halloween prank. However, I felt it was important for our group to visit even more because none of us know just how long that these historical sites will last, so the pictures all guests take and their memories of the sites are incredibly important in my opinion. The sign reflected and supported Nazi propaganda that the prisoners’ work would in fact lead to their release. However, this was not the case and the forced labor was being used as torture.

While inside the remaining barrack, our tour guide explained to use the classification system of the prisoners. It was broken down by the nature of the crime for which each prisoner was accused. For example, political prisoners who were arrested by the Gestapo wore a red badge. The tour guide also informed us that no mass killings were done at Dachau, but that the crematorium was built to do just that. We were able to walk through the rooms just as though the prisoners, if they had been subjected to such. It was very confining and completely believable if I had been imprisoned and not heard the rumors of what was to come from being detained at Dachau or any other concentration camp. One part that hit me really hard was the photos of the prisoners. Not only were the prisoners in a devastating state, but also none of the pictures had the prisoner’s names.

JLT