Horrific reports that the Assad regime has murdered thousands of prisoners and burned their bodies in a crematorium near Syria’s capital of Damascus is evoking imagery of the Holocaust, a chapter in history the world has vowed would never repeat itself.
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A U.S. State Department official said on Monday that a crematorium has been built at the Saydnaya prison complex in order to burn the bodies of prisoners who have been executed inside the facility on a daily basis.
Immediate and numerous comparisons were made on social media between the actions of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and those of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. Reactions to the reports bemoaned the fact that the world, again, has failed to react effectively to the ultimate atrocity of mass murder, despite undeniable evidence that it has been taking place for years in Syria.
Both in the Jewish community and beyond it, responses to the news on Twitter and Facebook quickly moved into the political arena, with many pinning the blame for the current situation in Syria on inaction by the Obama administration.
Others slammed the current Trump White House for its refusal to accept Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict into the United States.
And some saw the news as an increased imperative for U.S. intervention.
According to the U.S. State Department statement, about 50 detainees are being hanged daily at Saydnaya (Said-nay-ah) military prison, about 45 minutes from Damascus. The crematorium is reportedly being used to hide evidence of the extent of the killings.
The department released newly declassified photographs showing what it says is a building in the prison complex that has been modified to support the crematorium.
U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, Stu Jones, said in his briefing that the Assad regime “has sunk to a new level of depravity” with the support of Russia and Iran.
Comparisons between the situation in Syria and the Holocaust have been made before. In April, former Israeli Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, who survived the Nazi era, declared after the release of images of Syrian children struck by a chemical attack that “This is a ‘shoah’ of the Syrian people,” adding that “it did not start today. For the past six years since they have been living in a Holocaust.”
The chairman of Yad Vashem, Avner Shalev, called on the international community to "end the human suffering and provide humanitarian aid to the victims."
Shalev, the head of the Holocaust Memorial that U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit on his trip to Israel next week, has advocated for intervention by the international community in the Syrian conflict to stop the atrocities, noting that that after World War II, world leaders enacted universal principles and instituted organizations aimed at preventing future crimes against humanity. He has said those tools should be utilized now to stop atrocities in Syria.