A statement from Yad Vashem:
“Yidn, schreibt!” [“Jews, write it down!”] is what historian Simon Dubnow reportedly called out to the remaining Jews in Riga as he was taken to be killed on December 8, 1941.
On the same day that Dubnow was shot, Nazi Germany opened the Chelmno extermination camp for operation, the first of the camps built especially to murder the Jewish people.
More than four years later, on January 27, 1945, Soviet troops entered the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, the last such camp still functioning. They found 7,000 survivors from among the more than 1,000,000 people murdered there. Several days earlier, the camp’s Nazi staff had marched out more than 50,000 inmates in order to prevent them from falling into Allied hands. Most of these were also murdered. More than 90% of all these victims, both the murdered and the survivors, were Jews. Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest extermination center created by the Nazis. It has become the symbol of the Holocaust and of willful radical evil in our time.
These three events frame much of the Holocaust. When Dubnow called on the Jews to write it all down, he was calling on them to leave a record of what happened. That record was to be studied by future generations, so that what happened would be known, the Jews remembered, and perhaps something learned.
The Holocaust shook the very foundations of modern civilization, calling into question our understanding of humanity itself. Modern nations were found wanting at best, murdering at worst. For the first time in modern history, one nation set out to murder an entire nation, without leaving behind a single exception. There was to be no conversion, no assimilation, no pity on the elderly, and no mercy for the children. The Jews represented for the Nazis and their collaborators all that they held to be wrong in this world, such as the concept of human equality, based on the belief that all human beings are created in God’s image.
Murdering all the Jews meant murdering modern civilization, in order to replace with a Nazi racist, antisemitic, totalitarian, and brutal vision of the world. And parallel to the millions of human beings who were to disappear off the face of the Earth simply because they had a Jewish background, many other people who were undesirable in the Nazis’ eyes were to be persecuted, enslaved, or murdered.
The awakening of the UN to Holocaust commemoration is an important step in heightening awareness of the Holocaust and of its devastating impact on the world. More than sixty years since the Holocaust, we still wonder what the world has learned. This year we can say perhaps that the world has learned to remember, and in remembrance of the particular event – the murder of the Jews – we can address the universal implications – the challenge posed to modern civilization. Only in remembering and learning the past can we hope to secure the future.
A northern Swedish city has decided to cancel a planned Holocaust Memorial Day torchlight procession due to the recent IDF offensive in Gaza, it was reported Tuesday.
The official reason given for the decision, made by the municipal board and local church in Lulea, was safety concerns, but Bo Nordin, a clergyman and spokesman for the church, cited the war in Gaza.
“It feels uneasy to have a torchlight procession to remember the victims of the Holocaust at this time,” Nordin told Swedish National Radio. “We have been preoccupied and grief-stricken by the war in Gaza and it would feel just feel odd with a large ceremony about the Holocaust.” (via Meryl Yourish)
The Catalunya government has called off the ceremony marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was scheduled to take place on January 27, citing the Israeli offensive in Gaza as the reason.
The Gaza campaign has inflamed the already pro-Palestinian public opinion in the northeastern Spanish region, and the local media has run endless stories comparing the Israeli stance on the situation in the Strip to Nazi atrocities.
The overwhelming public support for the Palestinians has prompted the government to cancel the Holocaust Remembrance Day service. This was to be the only public event marking the day, and was scheduled to take place in Barcelona’s central piazza.
“Marking the Jewish Holocaust while a Palestinian Holocaust is taking place is not right,” a local City official told Barcelona’s La Vanguardia newspaper. (via Harry’s Place)
These are the same people, of course, who whine about “Zionists” linking the Holocaust and the state of Israel. I wish they’d make up their minds. Meanwhile, the Pope has allowed a rabid Holocaust denier back into the Catholic fold, and the Muslim Council of Britain once again boycotted Holocaust remembrance events.
In the Middle East, of course, some deny the Holocaust ever happened. Some are praying for another one. Many believe both, simultaneously.
Never again? I wish.