To Each Their Own Doesn’t Always Work – Harper Government Please Don’t Let it Happen Again by Craig Carter Edwards

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.  The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.  The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.  And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.

  • Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust Survivor

Jedem Das Seine.

Roughly translated from German, it means “To Each Their Own.”  It’s the message that greets visitors as they walk through the iron gate into what’s left of Buchenwald Concentration Camp.  For those who were inmates of Buchenwald, either under the Nazis or in its reincarnation as Special Camp No. 2 under the Soviets, the meaning was clear – expect nobody to help you.  You’re on your own.

The survival of the fittest notion was core to the divide-and-conquer strategy employed in Nazi Concentration Camps.  By keeping resources to a minimum, separating (and thereby labeling) communities, implementing strict penalties for infractions and by employing internal capos to dish out penalties on their behalf, the Nazis fostered a climate of internal competition that meant the inmates did most of the dirty work for them.

I emphasize the word “dirty” – the Nazi propaganda machine was fully-employed in the Camps.  Guards were encouraged to see inmates as vermin, filth that sullied their meticulously cared-for uniforms.  Buchenwald even had a zoo next to the Appelplatz where roll-call was taken; the families of SS officers and civilian workers could go look at the animals and inmates in tandem.  The inmates themselves were never allowed to forget where they sat on the Nazis’ social spectrum.  Naturally, the lack of proper clothes, shelter, food, hygiene and medicine meant the camps were ripe with disease.  Add to that brutal working conditions and the constant fear of abuse or death, it comes as no surprise Concentration Camp inmates frequently did act like rabid dogs, fighting over scraps of bread or walking over the corpses of their fellows, pausing only to pick up a pair of shoes or a utensil.

Buchenwald itself was built on the Ettersburg hill a short distance from Weimar, one of Europe’s greatest centres of culture and learning.  Despite the fact that the smell of burning bodies wafted over the city from Buchenwald’s crematorium; despite the fact that screams and gunshots echoing out from the Camp would have been audible in Weimar; despite the number of inmates that would have made their way through the city proper as the Camp and road leading to it were built, the people living in Weimar were in complete denial that anything inhumane was happening on their doorstep.  They didn’t want to see, they didn’t want to hear, because they didn’t want to be responsible.

They weren’t the only ones.  As warning signs of an emerging Holocaust were cropping up in civilized Europe and it was becoming clear that the persecution of minority groups like Jews and the Roma-Sinti was becoming policy, governments elsewhere in the world were equally in denial.  In Canada, Frederick Charles Blair, Director of the Immigration Branch of the Department of Mines and Resources, began tightening immigration policies in a way that was prejudiced against European Jews.  The amount of money immigrants had to have to gain entry increased; skill sets seen as immediately necessary to the Canadian economy were emphasized.  As for the legitimacy of refugee claims by European Jews, Blair had this to say:

“I suggested recently to three Jewish gentlemen with whom I am well acquainted, but it might be a very good thing if they would call a conference and have a day of humiliation and prayer, which might profitably be extended for a week or more, where they would honestly try to answer the question of why they are so unpopular almost everywhere.”

Under Blair’s watch, only 5,000 Jews were allowed into Canada.  Among those he turned away were the 907 German Jewish refugees fleeing Europe on board the M.S. St. Louis in May of 1939.  The Holocaust claimed the lives of some 11 million people; communists, political prisoners, homosexuals, Poles, Roma-Sinti and 6 million Jews.

You’ll note I mentioned political minorities along with ethnic and religious minorities.  It’s important to recognize that communists were targeted by the Nazis – the National Socialists – because far too many people on the political right today take the line that Nazism is a product of the political left; atrocities like the Holocaust would never occur under a Free Market system.  The implication is that a singular focus on wealth generation benefits everyone equally and would somehow negate bigotry.  In response to this, I would point out there were more than a few Nazi collaborators who were war profiteers driven solely by monetary gain.  War, after all, is an incredibly profitable venture.

It is disingenuous to look at bigotry strictly through a political lens.  Ignorance, hatred and fear-mongering are not the exclusive property of the political left or right; as Buchenwald demonstrates, atrocities have happened under both fascist and communist regimes.  Indifference isn’t the product of a political system; it’s what happens when we zero in on our own interests or ideologies so exclusively that we ignore the well-being of others.  When the water hole shrinks, as the saying goes, the animals look at each other differently.

Today, we are facing a global economic crisis.  Europe in particular has been hit hard.  As the crisis deepens, nations within Europe and beyond are circling the wagons.  “Your debt, your problem” is a meme that’s gaining traction.  These fiscal woes are fueling an increase in social tensions, much as they did in the early decades of the last century.  Political extremism and xenophobia are on the rise, accompanied by a swelling tide of ethnic violence.  In Greece, this alarming trend is represented by the growing influence of Golden Dawn, an anti-immigrant political party that has even incorporated the Swastika into its branding.

In Hungary, the systematic discrimination faced by Roma and Sinti is becoming increasingly violent.  Focused as they are on addressing the financial crisis, European leaders have been “too preoccupied… or unable or disinclined to deal with” this mounting social crisis.  In other words, they’ve labeled it someone else’s problem.

Nations like the US and Canada have been vocal in pushing for European leaders to implement tough austerity measures to tackle the Eurozone’s financial woes.  To his credit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an economist by training, has recognized that Europe’s economic challenges will not be solved through each nation working in isolation.  However, he hasn’t had much advice to offer in regards to the rise of ethnic violence in European countries like Greece and Hungary.  In fact, his government has gone to great lengths to tell Canadians there is no ethnic violence in Europe at all.

Jason Kenney, Canada’s current Minister of Immigration, has made a point of decrying refugee claims from Eastern European countries like Hungary (primarily coming from Sinti-Roma) as “bogus.”  Despite the evidence, Kenney keeps telling us Europe is a civilized place where atrocities like ethnic persecution don’t happen.  In fact, Kenney is so determined to shut out refugees from Eastern Europe that he has put forward Bill C-31 which will, among its measures, gives him the power to label what he feels are “designated countries” that are safe from ethnic persecution.  Under Bill C-31, the Minister of Immigration needs no justification other than his or her own beliefs to exclude refugees like Roma-Sinti from Canada.

Another component of this Bill is the move to cut funding for refugee healthcare.  Again, despite the evidence from healthcare professionals that doing so is dangerously irresponsible, Kenney has justified the move by saying it’s wrong for refugees to receive better health benefits than “ordinary Canadians” are getting.  Plus, it’ll save $20 million annually.  This has been the Harper government’s core message; in these financially strained times, all decisions have to be weighed based on their economic value.  If you disagree with them, it’s probably because you’ll be losing generous government funding as a result of their policies.  It’s a simple, circular argument, one of contextual indifference that sounds all too familiar.

Elie Wiesel, survivor of both Auschwitz and Buchenwald has joined with leaders of ethnic and religious communities persecuted during the Holocaust in denouncing Kenney’s reforms.  Across the Atlantic, Stéphane Hessel, another Buchenwald survivor, has published a “manifesto”.  This document, while largely socialist in its content, draws attention to the rise of both ethnic hatred and political indifference in Europe.  It’s a message being shared by the International Buchenwald-Dora Committee (full disclosure: I am a member) in their recently-released declaration pleading for governments to take action against intolerance.  And there are others.  These groups and individuals share one key concern – that as the economic crisis deepens, citizens and governments are focusing on financial math to the exclusion of our broader social context.

Responding to these criticisms, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have employed the same tactics that steered them to a majority government; by loudly supporting their own positions, attacking their detractors to the point of calling them unpatriotic and using every controversy as a way to engage their base and drive up fundraising.  While the Harper Conservatives can rightly be criticized for polarizing the country and narrowing the field of political debate, they don’t shoulder the blame exclusively.  Their strategy is simply a refinement of the divide-and-conquer politics that have become the norm in Canada under the brand of “micro-targeting.”

As inter-partisan good will dries up in Canada and as the economics screw tighten, Canadians are focusing on their own interests to the exclusion of others.  If it’s happening here, where we enjoy relative economic stability, does it not make sense that it would be happening to an even stronger degree in Europe, where national economies are teetering on collapse?  If we are collectively building firewalls around our own interest groups, however we define them, doesn’t it fit that those communities without large numbers or strong voices will fall through the cracks?  Stephen Harper has clearly indicated his belief that European nations cannot survive their crisis if they don’t work together.  He has recognized the need of national entities to do more for communities that don’t have a voice, like those suffering from mental illness.  Does this not apply to refugees here in Canada and persecuted minority groups in Europe as well?

Die-hards on the political left and right can provide ample evidence indicating the other guys are responsible for all our world’s woes and dismiss as irrelevant or biased any facts that disagree with them.  We can continue to narrow our focus to just those issues we feel impact us, however we define us, directly.  We can criticize as alarmist any argument that suggests we’re turning a blind eye to increasing and increasingly violent persecution of minorities in Europe.  When you line up the fluctuations in today’s markets and politics with the reality of the 1930s, however, it’s getting harder not to notice the similarities.  The real question is how far will those parallels extend.

Personally, I have no interest in blame.  I take no joy in pointing out the mistakes of others or justifying indifference on my part by providing examples of how I’m just doing the same thing as someone else.  Although I have worked for the Liberal Party both federally and provincially, I would rather congratulate political opponents on doing the right thing now rather than say “I told you so” after the harm’s been done.  Stephen Harper is bang on when he suggests the hour is late if we are to avoid catastrophe – just like we lived through in the 1930s.  He is also correct when he tells Europeans that “to each their own” isn’t going to work.  We simply can’t afford to be indifferent to the plight of others, both beyond our shores and within our own borders.

If history has taught us anything, it should be this; we can either live together, or die alone.

Craig Carter Edwards

Born and raised in Cornwall, Craig has lived in or travelled to nearly 30 countries and currently resides in North York with his wife and son.  A political veteran, Craig brings a wealth of government, private and not-for-profit sectors experience to his current role as strategy consultant for the social entrepreneurship sector.

(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of this site, their staff, or sponsors.)

I am the way


  1. Sweet XXXX! Another Copy/Paste/Personal Story/Copy/Paste/Hubris article. Well done! Great that you love the Gypsies. You pay for their stay while you write your next lowest common denominator platitudes.

  2. Herr Harper is already loading up the prisons faster than he can build them. According to Vic (family values) Toews, double bunking is a good thing.
    Just a heads up. Criticize Dear Leader and HIS government at your peril. Show respect and keep your head down, and you’ll be OK.

  3. Craig,

    Most of our problems in this country and abroad stem from each individual culture attempting to jostle for pole position in leadership standards be it by, our through, economic, political or through social means.

    History has taught us that this is the case, right? I cannot think of but a few cases in history where warfare is not so much concerned with the spreading of important social or political ideals that benefit the majority but by economics instead.

    Two cases in point. Both the French and American revolutions. Each sought out to dinstinguish themselves through will of the majority and a major revolution in terms of ideas and way of life.

    Some will say that either one or both were simply examples of military adventurism. No one can argue though that both examples produced amazing socio-political and scientific discoveries.

    Why is it that history focuses on the negativity and not so much on the positive? For instance, most have learned about Napoleon’s fall at Waterloo but how come we don’t hear so much about his discoveries and his scientific foray into Egypt? These types of actions by the French emperor were eventually sidelined (to paraphrase Trotsky) to the dustbin of history.

    The result of Revolutionary France had permitted the Code Napoleon to be created, still considered to this day to be an important piece of legality. And too, let’s not forget perhaps about Napoleon’s greatest contribution – that of emphasizing the idea of ‘merit’ instead of ‘birthright’. One’s own hard work should be considered as trump over where one is born, into what family or even to an extent language(s) spoken or ethnicity one belongs to.

    The American Constitution, one can argue, was also one of the most important documents created since the Magna Carta, Rousseau’s Social Contract, or even the Code Napoleon. All of this is to argue that sometimes, through warfare and carnage, amazing things can happen.

    However, war is never just, fair nor ethically right or correct. The taking of human lives should never attempt to be justified, no matter how noble the cause. The Nazis sought out to better the lives of the German people through the exploitation of all other peoples, including even some of their own. I believe most historians would agree that wherever or whenever ethnic cleansing is concerned, this is simply wrong, racist, dangerous, destructive and backwards. Unfortunately, the Nazi experience hasn’t been the end of these types of ideals, as we have experienced them again and again as recent examples have proven in Bosnia and many African countries. This concept of ethnic cleansing produces nothing of consequence for humanity.

    But sometimes, just sometimes, whenever the majority speak and rise up against intolerance, injustice and unfairness, we all win in the long run.

    The storming of the Bastille is one such example.

    With Kindest Regards,


  4. There are a number of truths in the article which suggest a similarity between a “then” and “now”. But to pin hope on a “politician” to keep history from repeating itself would just be ignoring history.

    Charity starts at home, and our personal acts count more than all these words — including worthless reactionary comments.

  5. @ Simon: When you say “worthless reactionary comments” I’m assuming you mean the first one on this thread?

    Excellent article.

  6. Cory,

    You make some excellent points. I look at the evolution of society as being like the refinement of the light bulb – with each iteration, we create a more efficient model, wasting less energy. There’s a positive trend in history away from brutally aggressive violence towards manipulation, collaboration and empowerment. Hopefully, this column provides a good example; the vast majority of the converation in these comments is constructive. That’s encouraging.

    Simon – I think we give too much power to politicians when we set them apart with quotation marks. At the end of the day, they’re just people; if any one of us was in the same position where our prospects were tied to a party and our personal or even family reputation was on the line, what would we do differently? You hit the mark when you suggest that it’s deeds, not words that matter; it’s a lesson that applies to each of us, whether we’re seeking votes or giving them.

    Wowsers – thanks for consistently helping me prove my points. Keep up the good work! :o)

  7. Definitely, thanks Craig. Your articles are always refreshing, informative and thought provoking. I miss university! We should start a debate club here 🙂

    I like your light bulb analogy. It’s nice to compare societal evolution that way.


  8. “There’s a positive trend in history away from brutally aggressive violence towards manipulation, collaboration and empowerment. ”

    I’m sure someone said the same thing in 1913.

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  9. Craig…..interesting that you should bring this topic up now. I am reading a book ” Anything your Litlle Heart Desires” by Patricia Bosworth which is about this era in history. It was shocking to me to read how the American and Brisith Govs played a major behind the scenes role in preventing the Jewish people in finding a place to call home and only allowing very few to enter other countries. It is unbelievable what the govs and the FBI were doing.

    Because the Jewish people were smart and frugal, thinking jealousy had much to do with how they were treated. Most countries felt they were a threat…..thus the killings.

  10. Stella let’s not forget what our government did to the boatload of German Jewish refugees just before WW11. We wouldn’t let them land because Mackenzie King didn’t want to anger his antisemitic Quebec MP’s.

  11. I see the anti pq propoganda machine is in full swing again!!! Pq antisemites!! really they were not he only anisemites.. the Roman Catholic Church looked the other way..the nations of England, and Canada and Us also looked the other way.. no one wanted to upset the madman HItler by accepting these unfortunates.. !!! canada evem interned its own japanese descent citizens during the WW2 in BC mainly.. read the former GG`s auto biography Adrienne Clarkson… no reg once again it was not just PQ!!!!

  12. The antisemitic reference came directly from Mackenzie King’s memoirs. He actually recorded his thoughts everyday of his life from the time he graduated from University to his death, over 5 million pages of info. There is no conspiracy here. It is a historical fact and yes antisemitism was rampant at the time.

  13. “Personally, I have no interest in blame.”

    Admirable sentiment. Apparently not shared or practised by Stephen Harper, whose habit of telling others what’s good for them is dividing Canadians and damaging Canada in the eyes of the world.

  14. Author

    It still is in many places…

  15. I can’t figure out if this Craig guy is a fan of David Icke or Alex Jones or a Reptillian Humanoid himself.

  16. And I love me the Jews. I keep three of them around me at all times. A wife and two daughters. Four if you count the dog. So is the dog a third generation holocaust survivor like the girls or not Craig? (3000 words or less please)

  17. What an interesting spot on the internet this is.

    Cory writes in praise of one of histories bloodiest men Napoleon and bloodiest periods the French Revolution. Please follow up with a comment on the benefits of Stalin, Mao and Hitler.

    Thank you Cory.

  18. BB, you forgot Dubya.

  19. Stalin, Hitler and Mao:

    Cults of the Personality, megalomaniacs, murderers on a mass scale.

    Now tell me, Billy Bob, do you see any difference between the above three and the Bush monarchy?

    I don’t other than sheer numbers of innocents killed…

    Now tell me Billy Bob, the benefits of one or all of the Kennedys; other than the alcoholic, Ted. Well, Joseph was okay too I guess.

    But let’s look at JFK. If not for Khrushchev backing down from Kennedy, you and I might not be here today. That wonderful little island 80 miles from Florida might not exist as well.

  20. Did wowsers suggest I’m a Reptilian Kitten Eater?

    Billy B, how do you feel about George W?

  21. Hilarious! Anyone remember Dan Rather? He’s the “super-star” American TV reporter who was fired and black-listed for exposing George Dubya Bush’s military record. He hasn’t worked since reporting the truth.

  22. Mao, Stalin, Napoleon and you think W belongs on that list? Now despite that Mao and Stalin mainly killed their own nationals, I’m assuming that you far-left freakoids are condemning W for Iraq?

    In 2001, snots, such as OBL tried to take the US on. Other snots such as Saddam (he and i are on a first name basis), either had, had the capability of producing or tried to make everyone believe that he had WMD. I suppose you feel Saddam should have received the benefit of the doubt (as opposed to W, who according to Ed, is guilty of black-listing Dan Rather and according to CC and CCE belongs in the same company as the greatest murders human kind has ever produced). So what if Sadam was shooting at US aircraft who were trying to enforce the no-fly zone over Kurdish territory.

    I suppose you also overlook that the Iraq war was a bi-partisan effort with heroes such as Al Gore speaking in support of taking Sadam on militarily (See Bush went to Congress before acting, not like BHO in Libya). England, Australia, many other countries joined the war in Iraq. Second, the Bush monarchy, was an elected official operating under a constitution. I’m not so sure there is a comparison to Mao or to Stalin, although in your minds anything may be possible.

    Truman sent the US to Korea, Eisenhower finished that war (if you think it’s over). Kennedy started the US involvement in Vietnam, Johnson continued it. Nixon bombed loas and combodia. Carter, well, he’s Carter. Reagan ramped up activities vs the USSR. Bush Sr. was Gulf War I, Clinton bombed Yugoslavia (illegally??) But in your minds, W belongs on the list with Mao and Stalin? (what, no Pol Pot?)

    You guys are real big thinkers aren’t you? I mean you really see history in context. You’re not just twits who spend too much time reading the HuffPo.

    Respectfully… BB

  23. Billy Bob, such a knowledge you have of these countries. Have you flown to them before?

    The Korean War is far from over – I’ve been to the DMZ. They’ve got a one-hole golf course there. Some day when the land mines are gone, there will be a lot of lost balls found.

    One interesting thing hinted at – how many of the world’s worst murders actually did their killing first-hand? Did Hitler pull any triggers in WWI or otherwise? To me, THAT’s the big conundrum of history; we wrap a select few in blame and label them monsters, but the web of accountability stretches much further.

    As does, thankfully, ethical behaviour. There are some great stories about SS guards who refused to shoot at inmates or missed easy targets. We all have the capacity to do terrible things, but we also also have the opportunity to act with conscience.

  24. And you having been to the DMZ, means …. what?

  25. It means I’ve seen first-hand the tensions that still exist between the two Koreas, reinforcing your point that the war isn’t yet over? Man; even when I support you, you’re not happy!

  26. Hey Billy Bob, have some respect for those who put there lives on the line for freedom.
    Learn by listening, what it is like to live in fear that any moment that this fragile peace treaty can be broken by a shot being fired and third world war has commenced.
    Did you know that during the cold war of yesteryears that Cornwall was earmarked to be “nuked” by the enemy?
    Have a nice day.

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