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During Yom HaShoah observance Tony Stewart speaks
ways to honor Holocaust victims and survivors

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart

Tony Stewart, who is among the founders and persistent leaders in the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, opened an address on “Ways to Honor the Victims of the Holocaust: Freeing the World of Hate and Genocide While Promoting Social Justice” with a definition of genocide.

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide’s definition of Genocide says genocide includes a series of acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Responding to the students’ essays on “Resistance to Genocide” for the 2013 Eva Lassman Memorial Writing Contest, Tony said that the winners Elizabeth Staales for the high school entries and Simon Nguyen for the middle school entries both clearly identified and condemned “the Nazis’ nefarious plans that led to the Holocaust, as well as their
condemning of the genocide in Rwanda and Darfur.

“Elizabeth and Simon shared with us the essential message that we must never remain silent in the face of evil,” he said, lauding their proposed school projects for social justice.  “Our future will be bright when led by such
outstanding individuals.”

Essays of eighth graders Christine Chen (third place), Clara Coyote (second place) and Simon Nguyen (first place) are at

Tony also recognized the 70th observance of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising “when 750 brave individuals made a courageous stand against the evil Nazi Regime.  We must never forget the 6 million Jews—who were two-thirds of all the European Jewish population—or the more than 5 million other victims of the Holocaust.”

He encouraged students who participated in this observance of the Holocaust and those in the audience “to join together to never forget the millions who were murdered, those who survived, and commit ourselves to never remain silent or be a bystander in the face of evil.”

Essay winners
Essays of high school students Sydney Pfarr (third place), Alexis Butler (second place) and Elizabeth Staal (first place) are at

Tony offered a three-part inquiry addressing 1) the Holocaust, 2) current atrocities and 3) a suggested path forward in advancing freedom and social justice.

“First, how can we succeed in creating a world free of genocide if we forget the lessons of the past or fail to honor those victims of the Holocaust?

• “It would be to dishonor the millions of victims of the Holocaust and worldwide Genocide not to teach present and future generations about this horrific period of history and how we can honor those victims by pledging today to never remain silent in the face of hate.  

• “We must honor, love and learn from the survivors of the past atrocities.

• “If we fail to remember the past, we are most surely doomed to repeat the horrors.

• “The lessons we teach and learn through this meaningful annual Holocaust Remembrance, including the students’ essays, advance the mission of creating a better world.

Second, Tony asked:  “Is it not necessary to analyze what hate is in order to counter this destructive force with love and social justice for all humanity?”

The “Encyclopedia of Human Behavior” in an attempt to answer this question describes hate as a “state of arousal or exhortation in humans in which anger and negative judgments and impulses of destruction predominate the person involved,” he quoted.

George Yancey, a professor of sociology specializing in race, ethnicity and bi-racial studies at the University of North Texas wrote: “When you are completely obsessed and consumed by Hate, the addiction of hatred controls every action and feeling that you have as a human being.”

Tony said that the emotion and feeling of hate causes the person or even a mass of people to dislike intensely or passionately another person, persons, a whole ethnic or national group, race, religion, creed or even an entire culture. The emotion hate can cause the hater to loathe, despise and detest those persons to whom or culture to which the hate is directed.

In fact, numerous academic studies including the work of professor James Waller, formerly of Whitworth University, have shown that extreme hate can cause an individual or mass of people to consider those to whom the hate is directed to be less than human and thus violence or genocide becomes acceptable behavior for the   perpetrators.

“This understanding of hate is essential to finding ways to change or counter this dangerous thinking and irrational beliefs or ideology as exemplified by Nazism during the Fascist Third Reich and that we faced here for more than 30 years in our work to oppose the doctrine of the Aryan Nations,” Tony said.

His third question is: “Are there voices of wisdom from both the past and present that can guide our path to action for a world that embraces equality, freedom and social justice?”

Tony suggests that social justice encompasses the historical idea of creating a society based upon the principles of freedom, equality, justice and fairness for all the human race, or based on love, which “is profoundly tender.  It is affection and it is passionate for another human being.”

He then shared some words of wisdom “that can inspire us to never remain on the sideline when confronted with a threat to our freedom.”

• During the height of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln stated: “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.”

Martin Luther King Jr. said: “There is one thing I will never do.  That is I will not hate. Hate is to die.”

Elie Wiesel, a goodwill ambassador to the world who called everyone to action, said:  “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

He went on to say: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustices, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Eva Lassman, Holocaust survivor and educator in the Inland Northwest, once said: “When we are able to instill in people a desire to respect and be tolerant of all humanity, we may eventually have peace. If not, we will continue to experience the inhumanity of war and terrorism, and the deaths of children and other innocent victims of violence.”

Tony closed by expressing gratitude to those gathered for remembering the millions of victims, as well as the survivors, “who remind us each day to speak out and act for justice.”

It only takes the silence of the just to allow evil to prevail, he pointed out, thanking organizers Mary Noble and Hershel Zellman for the many years they have coordinated this observance “to encourage all of us to unite against the messages and actions of injustice.” God be with each of you. Shalom.

Copyright © April 2013 - The Fig Tree