Archive for April, 2010

Learning the Holocaust

Today is the 67th anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It’s also Holocaust Remembrance Day in Poland. It’s not the international Holocaust memorial day (which is on January 27) nor is it the Israeli one (27th of Nisan) but for reasons I won’t get into, I prefer this date.

Now, at the risk of sounding blasphemous, I’m going to be a little critical of Holocaust education.  One can argue that, because there are many people who don’t know about the Holocaust or, even worse, know of it but reject its existence, we should focus on just getting out the message period, quality being secondary.  I see that point but I disagree.

When I first learned of the Holocaust and for many years after the impression I got was that it occured in a vacuum.  That is, the European Jewry were happily living their lives, not a care in the world, and then the Nazis came along and pulled the rug out from underneath them.  This of course is so very not true.  The Holocaust, while undoubtedly the most heinous instance of antisemitism ever, was “merely” the culmination of over two thousand years of Jewish-targeted persecution.  I don’t seek to try and use Holocaust Remembrance Day to remember every victim of antisemitism ever nor am I trying to diminish the uniquely horrible nature of the Holocaust but rather I think it is advantageous for us to observe the bigger picture.

The story of the Holocaust is therefore incomplete I think without the mention at least four things from history: the Jewish–Roman wars and their aftermath, the Inquisition, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and, probably the most relevant, Luther’s writings on the Jews and culture of antisemitism they helped spawn in Germany.  And that’s just the minimum.

I think it is very important that we learn the exact context that the Holocaust occured in.  Not so that it can be somehow justified or written off as inevitable but so we can precisely understand why it happened and make certain that it never happens again.

Never Again