January 27, 2010
Traditionally, it is around Yom HaShoah that the history and lessons of the Holocaust are in focus, and we pause on that special day to honor the victims. As a Holocaust survivor it has always been very important for me to participate in Yom HaShoah events either in the United States, in Israel, or wherever in the world I might be on that day.A recent and welcome recognition of the Shoah is the annual commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27. As we approach it this year, it is important to recall the significance of having the international community demonstrate awareness of the ongoing task to impart the lessons of the Shoah and be reminded of the deadly dangers of forgetting the brutality that human beings can inflict. This international commemoration recognizes the uniqueness of the Holocaust and the special responsibility to ensure that the lessons of the Shoah are never forgotten. At the same time, we must all do much more to ensure that those lessons are not only remembered on January 27, but are absorbed deeply by societies around the globe and transmitted from generation to generation. One of the basic lessons from the Nazi era is that acts of hate and hate speech cannot be ignored. Words of hate, and the world’s disregard of that hate, paved the road to Auschwitz. Yet, we see that the United Nations continues to permit its platform to be used for spewing hate against Jews and Israel without consequence. Among the numerous examples are Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blaming Jews and “global Zionism” of dominating international finance and media, a Libyan representative charging that Israel’s actions in Gaza are worse than the Holocaust, and the President of the General Assembly accusing Israel of “crucifying” the Palestinians. Today we are in an environment where the Internet instantaneously propels hate-filled material of all kinds around the globe. Holocaust denial and other forms of anti-Semitism arrive on our desktop computers at home, in our workplaces and on our smartphones wherever we are. YouTube videos demonizing Israel and the Jewish people and Facebook social networking communities engaging in blatant Holocaust denial are becoming commonplace. The language of the Holocaust is turned upside down and Israelis are described as Nazis. Fueled by intense anti-Israel sentiment, Nazi comparisons and anti-Semitic beliefs mix in a dangerous brew in street demonstrations throughout the world where chants of “Jews to the gas chambers” and other calls for death to Jews are generally met with little or no public condemnation. The alleged perpetrators of the two recent arson attacks on a synagogue on the Greek Island of Crete are reported to have explained their acts by noting they don’t like Jews. The Big Lie of Israeli organ harvesting for profit has again resurfaced and gone global practically overnight in a video posted on YouTube by a Seattle man who claimed that the IDF mobile hospital unit in Haiti may be involved in stealing organs. Remembering and commemorating the Shoah will never be sufficient to ensure the lessons of the Holocaust are learned. We must make certain those lessons are taught and applied not just on International Holocaust Day, but every day throughout the world.