Personal History


Peter Avram Zuckerman

My personal history in many ways reflects the turbulent 20th century. To an unusual degree, I've been both a victim of humanity's proclivity to enmity, and a beneficiary of the equal tendency to amity.

I was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary, in the aftermath of World War I. That country, formerly part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, fought on the losing side during the "war to end war." Though born 11 years after the end of World War I, the experiences of my mother (who was a war refugee), and of the many crippled veterans who lived in our neighborhood left a lasting impression on me. I became fascinated by that tragic conflict, and read many contemporary publications, which described the events from the assassination of the Austrian crown prince by terrorists to the collapse of the empire, and the imposition of a "peace" that lead to a still more disastrous war.

The enmities and hatreds that plagued the world -- and which still continue to fester -- soon erupted into World War II. In the beginning I merely followed the war through newspapers and newsreels -- remotely, yet vividly -- the defeats of Poland and France, the invasion of the Soviet Union, Pearl Harbor, and the seemingly invincible march of the German and Japanese armies.

As the world was consumed by total war, a tragedy within the catastrophe unfolded. An infrastructure of ancient hatreds, modern technology and political mismanagement culminated in the Holocaust. I almost became a victim of genocide, as I passed through Auschwitz and other concentration camps. I managed to survive, until finally liberated by the Allied armies. For my experiences during the Holocaust see my account "Auschwitz, Hailfingen, Vaihingen: Hell on Earth."

In 1947 I came to the United States. During the Korean war I was drafted into the Army -- and ironically, returned to Germany as a member of the occupation forces. My service in the 2nd Armored Division (Hell on Wheels) helped me to regain my confidence much weakened by my experiences during the Holocaust. After my military service I obtained a college degree, started a family, and initiated a professional career in management and systems analysis. However, the disasters I experienced and witnessed made me continue my education -- this time trying to understand the reasons why the Holocaust took place, why organized warfare persists to remain an accepted social institution, and what could be done to bring about a peaceful world.

This quest led me directly to the study of alternative futures. I learned about the possibilities of exploring and influencing the future in more desirable directions. I helped to incorporate the World Future Society, and served as one of its officers for many years. During this experience I absorbed much knowledge about world problems and opportunities, and learned ideas for shaping the future toward peace and prosperity.

During 1984 I became involved in the presidential nomination and election campaign, and gained considerable understanding of the political process, so essential to the implementation of new ideas and directions. It became possible to combine ideas from the various social sciences disciplines with systems approach, management principles, military strategy, and alternative futures.

In 1985 I completed a systematic approach to peacebuilding. As the world situation remained precarious, with the continuation of the arms race and the proliferation of global problems, I incorporated the American Peace Network. This non-profit educational organization was dedicated to orchestrating and focusing the activities of the peace movement and other concerned groups, to bring about TRUE PEACE -- the absence of organized violence, combined with justice, human rights, prosperity and security, with mutually beneficial cooperation among nations, cultures and social groups.

As I studied national and world problems, I gradually realized the common thread linking the various conflicts, wars, environmental and social disasters and other negative aspects of human existence. Human civilization is based on social institutions that tend to function reasonably well in most societies. But the most important institution -- that of government -- is still allowed to operate along stone age principles. In many countries the most ruthless or brutal group gains and retains power. Even in democracies politicians operate according to self-interest -- getting elected and reelected -- rather than to benefit the national interest. Thus "political mismanagement," conducted by a "political class," is the main culprit that caused the two World Wars, the Holocaust and other genocides, and the ongoing conflicts and underdevelopment among most countries in the world. This political class in turn is supported or facilitated by an excessive military or war institution, which prefers the resolution of conflicts by violent means and keeps the political class in power in many countries.

The continuing evolution of my understanding the human predicament made me realize that we must go beyond "peace." Only by going to the next stage of the evolution of human societies can we ensure human survival. Accordingly, the name of the American Peace Network was changed to Human Progress Network, to focus on the need for human progress, so that world peace, the preservation of the environment and other critical goals can be achieved.

As the Cold War came to a close with the collapse of the Soviet Union, one would have thought that the world will become a more peaceful one. Such a condition did not come about, as new conflicts and violence erupted in Europe, Asia and Africa. Accordingly I started to summarize my research and ideas into the book titled: Beyond the Holocaust: Survival or Extinction? I hope to use the Internet and the other new communications technologies to promote the message:

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