For 15 years, WITNESS has harnessed the power of video to advance human rights. In honor of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, they are asking folks to create a video sharing a story about what image first opened you eyes to human rights abuses. (You can find the information here.)
The first image that opened my eyes to human rights abuses was when I was 8 years old and my great aunt took me to a movie called "The Shop On Main Street." Here's a synopsis of the screenplay from wikipedia:
During World War II, a mild-mannered Slovak carpenter Tono Brtko (Jozef Kroner) is offered the chance to take over the sewing notions store of an old, near-deaf Jewish woman Rozália Lautmannová (Ida Kamińska) as a part of the enactment of an Aryanization regulation in the town. As Tono attempts to explain to Mrs. Lautmannová, who is oblivious of the world outside and generally confused, that he has come to be her supervisor and owner of the store, Imrich Kuchár (Martin Hollý, Sr.), a Slovak opponent of Aryanization, steps in and reveals to Brtko that the business itself is less than profitable, as Lautmannová herself relies on donations. The Jewish community then offers the amiable Brtko a weekly payment if he does not give up the store, which would otherwise be given to a new, possibly ruthless Aryanizer. Tono accepts and lets Mrs. Lautmannová believe he is her nephew who has come to help in the store. Their relationship grows, until the authorities round up the town's entire Jewish population for transport, and Tono finds himself conflicted as to whether he should turn in the senile Mrs. Lautmannová, or hide her. When the woman finally becomes aware of the "pogrom" all around her, she panics, and in attempting to silence her, Tono accidentally kills her. The realization devastates him, and he hangs himself.
If you view the clips on YouTube, you'll see some graphic images of the holocaust. It was the first time I had seen images like that and became aware of genocide.
The other day, I shared this memory with Geoff Livingston who was also planning to blog about his first experience. His was not mediated through technology:
My first memory of human rights was not a good one, a prolonged period of time in which my Jewish family was harassed and attacked by anti-semites for a period of years. I do not like talking about that time, so instead I’ve decided to blog about the thing that had the most impact on me from a human rights perspective this year. By far, reading Amy Chua’s World On Fire had the most weight.