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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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Military Uses Holocaust to Prevent Genocide

November 10, 2010 - 12:53 PM | by: Becky Diamond

Major Ginnette Ruth studied the Holocaust in school but this Puerto Rican native never thought she would see Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp with her own eyes.

“Walking through the actual grounds of this mass atrocity was overwhelming,” she said.

It is estimated that around 1.1 million people were killed at Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp — more commonly known as Auschwitz.

“I am a mother myself so when they took me through [the barracks] where the mothers were …where the kids died, it took a personal toll on me,” she said.

The women at the camps were usually separated from their children who were often killed immediately. However, there were some instances when mothers and their children were in the same barracks –and literally saw their children die before their eyes.

“How could I be a mother in this barrack and look at the next barrack and see my kid crying for food [or dying].”

Ruth, 35, is a medical service corps officer currently in the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas. She is one of 24 mid level military officers participating in a ground breaking course designed to teach future military leaders how to spot the signs of genocide and ways to prevent mass atrocities from happening on their watch.

The Mass Atrocity Prevention in Military Practice course is the brainchild of Fred Schwartz, founder of the Auschwitz Institute and its director Tibi Galis who felt strongly that military officers would benefit from participating in a genocide prevention course.

They secured a congressional grant to develop this course, which they plan to offer for five years.

Working with retired U.S. Army Col Charles Heller, a professor at the General Staff and Command College, they developed a curriculum around a week long trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Colonel Heller explained to Fox News that he saw the need for a class like this one.

“[Military officers] are looking at the 21st century as a very different century for the military. [One that will] …redefine the mythos of the warrior. There will be more conflicts like Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda than conventional war.”

Heller strongly believes that there is a need for the U.S. military to more actively engage in genocide prevention. Heller said in Rwanda in 1994, Canadian forces needed only 5,000 “boots on the ground” and that according to him “a million people would have been saved.”

In Heller’s eyes, not only does genocide prevention affect national security, but helps the U.S. set a moral standard.

“We have moral obligations…We dilly dallied with Bosnia and the Kurds and the Shia being killed [in Iraq]… administration after administration, the military has pushed back [saying], it’s not in our national security interest.”

Retired Major General Spider Marks that U.S. troops must be aware of the signs of genocide so they could be in the position to see the beginning of a mass atrocity and help to stop it.

Marks was the senior intelligence officer for the Coalition Land Forces during the invasion of Iraq and is the Commanding General of the U.S. Army’s Intelligence Center and School at Ft. Huachuca, Ariz.

“If someone is killing someone…there is an absolute [and] …a legal mandate that has those soldiers…[stand] in between those potential belligerent parties,” says Marks. “Soldiers have forever and will forever be engaged as the first arm of diplomacy.”

Ruth was overwhelmed by the realization that the so called “Final Solution” to rid the territories occupied by Germany of its Jewish population was so meticulously planned and implemented.

“It took so much for me to wrap my mind around the entire event and the entire place. I’m looking at the logistics and the planning and we are planners as officers. The planning that the Nazis had to do to build these camps [was overwhelming.] …It changes the way I look at the world now.”

But she thinks the question of whether the U.S. should be the so called “world police” is hard to answer.

“We are such a small part of this big pie. In many cases we may be able to play a part that can help prevent a situation like that. [But] are we the world police? I don’t think so.”

Ruth does think that she is more aware of the importance of spotting signs that could lead to mass atrocities thanks to this class –and its surroundings.

For a week in September her class of military officers participated in daily lessons that revolved around discussions, critical thinking and reasoning.

“They are told to question themselves,” explains Heller. “If I were in the military and told to do this – what would I do?”

Heller believes that the mid-level career military officers selected for this course are likely to be leading hundreds or possibly thousands of troops on the ground in the near future and could be in a position to see signs of a potential mass atrocity and do something to stop that train from taking off.

“Every person in the world should go there and maybe we wouldn’t have this stuff popping up every decade,” said Heller.

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