I always hoped that the destructive bombings of cities during World War II would never be repeated. After all, the massive attacks on Rotterdam, Warsaw, London, Hamburg, Hiroshima, Dresden and of other cities and towns (such as of Stuttgart, where I survived several major raids) should have sent a clear and humanitarian message to future generations: use airplanes for transportation only, not for killing people on the ground. However, we know the grim facts. Countless other places have been targeted since 1945. And today we must add to this long list the historic Syrian city of Aleppo.
Every day bombs and artillery shells are dropped on some 300,000 starving and terrified people in eastern Aleppo. In addition, more than 1 million residents in western Aleppo are subjected to daily acts of violence. How soon will this city resemble Stalingrad in 1943 or Breslau in 1945? Human rights organizations now claim “Russian bombs have struck markets, living quarters and hospitals.” The International Committee of the Red Cross made a dramatic appeal to all warring parties to end the tragic bloodshed. “Constantly houses, schools and hospitals are being fired upon. Civilians live in a climate of fear. Children have been traumatized. The extent of human suffering is immense.”
On Aug. 19, newspapers published the picture of 5-year-old Omran Doqneesh, covered with blood and dust, sitting in an ambulance. Fortunately, Omran survived, having suffered head wounds but no brain damage. He was removed from a building hit by an air strike.
Some three months ago, on April 29, a Dr. Hatem made an urgent plea for immediate intervention. He reported that his friend, Dr. Muhammed Waseem Maaz, the last pediatrician in Aleppo, working in the al-Quds Hospital, was struck by a bomb and killed, as were some 50 other medical staff members and patients, among them children.
Dr. Hatem wrote that Aleppo is the “most dangerous city in the world,” where Dr. Maaz “was killed for saving lives. Today we remember him for his humanity and his bravery. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts.” On June 8 two more hospitals were hit, al-Bayan and al-Hakeem. One witness reported that this constitutes “a new low in the savagery of war. Hospitals should be sanctuaries, not targets.” Despite the fact that all hospitals are clearly marked and identifiable, they appear to have become favorite and defenseless targets.
The following contrast is rather thought-provoking. The world is cheering for the athletes at the Olympics, and rightly so, while the world also appears to be mostly insensitive and apathetic to the daily human destruction in Aleppo. “Action is the only remedy to indifference,” as Elie Wiesel reminded us. But the only actions taken in Aleppo are those that needlessly prolong and radically intensify these vicious hostilities. The general response by the international community appears to be one of indifference, inaction, indecision and mostly silence. Thus the relentless daily savagery and cruelty continue as does the suffering and painful death of thousands of innocent victims.
Hans M. Wuerth lives in Chapel Hill.