6 May 2003

Dear Editor,

Professor Ekert's letter is of great importance in drawing attention to the Jewish children killed by the Nazi holocaust. He is incorrect, however, in saying that I did not allude to this in the article, and it is inappropriate for him to say that one is selective in the interpretation of history. The article specifically mentions ‘studies of child survivors . . . of the Nazi holocaust and of children who were victims of the London blitz.’ (p. 168). As an example of the war-threatening world seen through the eyes of children, I used the specific example of ‘through the eyes of children in such work as the Diary of Anne Frank’ (p. 169). Anne Frank (1929−1945) was a Jewish girl who survived the Nazis by hiding in Amsterdam for 2 years. She was discovered, taken to Auschwitz and then incarcerated in Belsen where she died in March 1945. Her ‘Diary of a Young Girl’ stands as a testimony of the plight of millions of Jewish children who were murdered or were incarcerated to the point of death in the holocaust.

The Nuremberg Trials (1945−1946) stand as one of the datum points as an international condemnation of the unspeakable atrocities perpetuated by the Nazi regime on children and adults alike; and the Nuremberg Code (1946) which followed, is now one of the cornerstones of the informal ‘Laws of War’ and of the more formal codes of practice, which now relate to  the inviolability of one's body in the context of human research, irrespective of age. Such will be monitored by the International Court of Justice (convened in March 2003), and the principles of the Nuremberg Code adjudicated therein will be a living memorial of all victims of the holocaust.

The 20th century saw enormous carnage of children caught up in warfare and its aftermath. The Nazi holocaust was the most appalling of these. My experiences in Rwanda − where perhaps 250 000 of the 800 000 were children slaughtered by axe and machete over a period of 11 weeks − have also left a perspective not of the cold-blooded deliberative atrocities perpetrated against children by the Nazis, but by unspeakable, frenzied genocide perpetrated in a continuous bloodbath that lasted 11 weeks. Children who have died of AIDS, as a direct result of social destruction consequent upon war, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, now also number in millions. I totally agree with Professor Ekert that it is important not to be selective in any interpretation of history.