John Boyne’s novel, The boy in the striped pajamas (2007) is about the slaughter in the gas chamber in the Nazi concentration camps. The book ends thus:
Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again.
Not in this day and age.
Is this true? Those things can never happen again?
I think this ending is not right. First, it’s not true that it all happened a long time ago. Seventy years is not a long time for historic events. Second, it’s not true that those things could never happen again. Have we forgotten the Ruanda massacres in the nineties?
But perhaps the author meant that those things can never happen again in Europe. Have we forgotten the Srebrenica massacre and the Sarajevo tragedy, also in the nineties?
Or perhaps he means that these things cannot happen in a democratic country. Has he forgotten that Hitler reached power after a democratic election? Has he forgotten that the Athenian democracy was discredited for millennia by their death sentence against Socrates, the result of a secret vote that took place just after the restoration of democracy, which followed the oligarchy imposed by Sparta after the Peloponnesian war?