Seventy years ago today the world had its first glimpse of the horror that was Auschwitz. We honour those who survived what we know as the Holocaust, and grieve with them, and all Jews, as they remember those who were murdered during this time.
I’m sometimes asked how the Holocaust (Shoah) is different from genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia etc. All of those were horrendous mass killings of people because they belonged to a certain tribe, religious, social or education group and are rightly condemned by any right thinking person. Each took place within the context of war in that country. The Holocaust was the attempt to wipe an entire group of people, Jews, wherever they lived. Unlike the other genocides which occurred within a particular country, Jews were rounded up from many countries,- including the Channel Islands,- and transported on journeys, that sometimes took several days, to concentration or extermination camps. Six million Jews were wiped off the face of the earth, not for doing anything wrong, but simply because they were Jews.
The Holocaust did not happen overnight. Irwin Cotler said:- “the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers – it began with words”.
Adolf Hitler voiced his plans for the Holocaust as early as 1922. He then told a journalist: “Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows – at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example – as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit. As soon as they have been untied, the next batch will be strung up, and so on down the line, until the last Jew in Munich has been exterminated. Other cities will follow suit, precisely in this fashion, until all Germany has been completely cleansed of Jews.”
It is said that, if you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will instinctively try to climb out. However if you gently place it in a pot of lukewarm water and turn the heat on low, it will float there calmly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog is unaware of its deadly changing environment and before long it boils to death.
This is what happened in Nazi Germany. If the killing of the Jews had started as soon as Hitler came to power there would, probably, have been opposition from the German people. When Hitler gained power he began a a concerted propaganda regime to set the German people against the Jews. He blamed them for the financial problems the country was experiencing, he set in motion a series of restrictions on Jews that, over time, became wider and more rigid. Word by word, restriction by restriction, boycott by boycott, he put in the minds of the German people that the Jews were evil, the root of all problems, they were no better than vermin and needed to be destroyed.
By the time the restrictions had been placed on the Jews, and the negative propaganda had done its cumulative work, the expulsion, and eventual killing of them, was accepted, in some cases seen, as necessary.
Today we are seeing, more and more, the same build up of hatred against Jews that were seen in the 1930s. We are seeing the same calls for boycotts of products from Israel, the same refusal to allow Israeli (Jewish, not Arab) academics to lecture in universities or to speak in churches, the same attacking of Jews in the streets and even in schools, the same destruction of synagogues.
Last week a Belgian watchdog on anti-Semitism warned that the country’s public schools are becoming “Jew-free” zones because of harassment. Joel Rubinfeld, president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, revealed that the only Jewish student at the Emile Bockstael high school in Brussels was forced to leave the school. She had posted a picture of herself holding the Belgian flag alongside the Israeli one in summer. As a result she received 288 abusive comments, including threats, on Facebook, also by classmates and other pupils she did not know.
The school “has become Judenfrei, there are no more Jewish students there,” Rubinfeld said, using the German-language term that the Nazis applied to locales which had been rendered “free of Jews.”
In September, she began attending one of the Brussels region’s three major Jewish schools, but the harassment continued. On Sept. 10, she received a photo of a former classmate performing a Nazi salute telling her that she is missed.
We cannot hide from the fact that anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world. It is usually “dressed up” as being anti Israeli policies to try and make it seem, not only respectable, but virtuous, BUT it is anti-Semitism. We MUST speak out against it and stand firm with Israel,- land and people (wherever they are).
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me