FOWPAL visits historically significant World War II sites: Stopping conflicts, promoting goodness, and ending war
(By Ellena Ma from Warsaw, Poland) The Federation of World Peace and Love (FOWPAL) has been promoting the concept of love and peace around the world for years. The FOWPAL cultural goodwill delegation visited Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, five of the nations with the heaviest casualties during World War II, from September 25 to October 6 to learn how the people of these countries cope with the repercussions of the war. It has been 72 years since the Second World War ended in 1945, but many important buildings in these countries are still in the process of reconstruction. Ravaged by war, the local people are particularly eager for love and peace. Ewa, a tour guide in Warsaw, wished to have peace and no more wars because his kids are still little. He considered it very important for FOWPAL to promote love and peace in Poland, and he feels that such efforts are very significant for the world.
World War II, the deadliest military conflict in history, caused tens of millions of casualties, showing human beings the horrors of war. The top three countries suffering the most casualties during the war were the Soviet Union, China, and Poland. Approximately 23.4 million people of the Soviet Union and more than 5.6 million (between 5,620,000 and 5,820,000) Polish citizens were killed in World War II. The four countries with the highest percentage of their populations that died during World War II are: Poland, with more than 16 percent of its population that died in World War II (16.1% to 16.7%), Lithuania (14.33%), the Soviet Union (13.88%), and Latvia (11.78%). On this trip, the FOWPAL delegation went from one city to another, healing the wounds of history with love and peace.
The delegation visited Warsaw, the capital and largest city of Poland, which suffered great damage during World War II, with over 85% of its Old Town destroyed, just like a war-torn city in today’s Syria caused by the recent conflict. Nevertheless, the late 18th-century appearance of Warsaw’s Old Town has been recreated. Poland has the second largest land area and the second largest population in Central Europe. It has nurtured many elites, such as Nicolas Copernicus, Marie Curie, Frédéric Chopin, Pope Saint John Paul II, etc. The history of Poland is marked with conflicts and uprisings, and foreign powers invaded Poland and partitioned its territory on many occasions. However, these experiences have helped the Polish people gain a stronger faith in themselves after its independence, and the country has gradually moved towards prosperity. Warsaw, with a population of 1.75 million people, is the political and economic center of the country. It was basically rebuilt from the ruins, like a Phoenix reborn from ashes. Its cityscape and citizens demonstrate the integration of the new and old as well as the fusion of Eastern and Western European cultures. Warsaw’s Old Town is among the first sites selected for the UNESCO World Heritage List. While the FOWPAL delegates visited scenic spots in Warsaw, they met optimistic Polish people wherever they went. Those Polish citizens showed enthusiasm for life and seemed to have left the pain of the cruel war behind. When the FOWPAL members presented flash mob performances and angelic singing and invited the locals to join them, the people of Warsaw cheerfully responded to them by singing, dancing, or giving them big hugs, reflecting the positive human nature of showing kindness to one another and expressed their aspiration for love and peace.
The FOWPAL delegation also shared with the Polish media the spirit of martial arts—stopping conflicts and promoting goodness—and hoped to further spread positive energy through the powerful influences of mass media. On October 2, president of FOWPAL, Dr. Hong, Tao-Tze met Maciej Orłoś, a well-known Polish media veteran and famous TV host, who won numerous awards. He used to be a weekday news anchor on a Polish National TV channel. He has set a record of hosting the longest TV news program in Poland since1989. Maciej Orłoś has a very good reputation in Poland, and many Polish people are fond of his hosting style. Dr. Hong shared with Maciej Orłoś the spiritual significance of martial arts, and the FOWPAL members gave a martial arts demonstration. Maciej Orłoś was so amazed by their performance that he forgot to take photos during their presentation.
Maciej Orłoś was very touched by FOWPAL’s promoting world peace in a pragmatic way across the planet. To date, 302 prominent figures, including heads of state, United Nations ambassadors, and other visionary leaders, from 99 countries have rung the Bell of World Peace and Love and made wishes for peace. Very impressed by FOWPAL’s achievements, Maciej Orłoś kept asking Dr. Hong what he could do to assist FOWPAL in its peace endeavors. He hoped he could help promote love and peace by means of the power of mass media.
The FOWPAL delegation continued its trip to another World War II site—a town called Oświęcim, where a major network of concentration and extermination camps was built by the Nazis in the 1940s. The town is 60 km southwest of Kraków, the second largest city in southern Poland. About 1.1 million people were killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp, and more than 90% of the victims were Jews.
The FOWPAL members witnessed hell created by prejudice and hatred and saw evidence of atrocities, including the hair from tens of thousands of females, which was ready to be woven as military uniforms, relics of tens of thousands of victims, and countless historical photos recording war crimes. Many people, lured by the Nazi’s false promise that they could leave the war zones, came by train with a lot of hope but ended up being robbed by the Nazis. After going through a selection process, the people who were considered healthy and strong enough for forced labor survived and were treated like animals. The old, the weak, women, and children were sent into the gas chambers after their hair was cut off, and 4,000 people could be killed every 15 minutes. The Gestapo ruled people with terror. They executed people and did human experimentation in an inhumane way. Not until 1945, did the Auschwitz concentration camp finally become liberated by the Red Army. Poland built at this sad place the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum to serve as a testimony to the history of World War II and ensure that the Holocaust is not forgotten. In 1979, the Auschwitz-Birkenau was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Visiting the bloodiest areas during World War II makes one gain a deeper understanding of the importance of peace and the urgency of promoting world peace. One of the FOWPAL members mentioned, "We hope we can end war with the culture of martial arts, which aims to stop war and promote goodness. People aspire to live in peace and security, and they shouldn't become the victims of ambitious politicians." FOWPAL members hope that all people will contribute their efforts to the attainment of world peace so that the world will have more love and hope.