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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Holocaust: Understanding and Memory

As Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, comes again; the predictable discussions and debates over it return again too.

In Judaism there are holidays and fast days, both mandated by G-D or men with a specific meaning. Their first aspect is remembrance. Remember the Exodus from Egypt. Remember the miraculous salvations of Chanukah and Purim. Remember the destructions of the temples. Remember what Amalek did to you. Remember. Most of all remember. And we remember.

Holocaust museums have gone up all around the world. The stories of survivors have been printed in untold numbers of books and video and audio taped interviews collect those stories. Children are acquainted with the Holocaust. Films are made about the Holocaust. A day has been set aside to remember the Holocaust. We know the names, Auschwitz, Birkenau, Bergen Belsen. We know the history, Kristalnacht, the Final Solution, the Wannasee conference.

We remember the dead. The bodies buried in lime. The pits full of arms and legs reaching out of the earth. Burning heaps of bodies. And we remember how they died. Men and women waiting for the gas chambers or to be gunned down and thrown into the pits. Children taken out and shot. The Ghettos, the barracks, the barbed wire. We remember the individual survivors and their stories. We connect and empathize with them but beyond memory there is understanding. To understand the meaning of the Holocaust. On the actual events, beyond the ranks of the Holocaust deniers, there is little debate. But on the meaning, debate never seems to end.

To the liberals, the cosmopolitans, to many Europeans; the Holocaust is an explosion of racism and nationalism. In that interpretation of history, the German people embraced nationalism which in turn led to racism which in turn led to genocide which is the logical end result of racism. To them the lesson of the Holocaust are the dangers of prejudice against other ethnic and racial groups and the evils of nationalism. The Jews are not truly relevant to the Holocaust, whose essence lies not in in the Jewish experience but in the German political culture that allowed the right wing to dominate it. To them Jews are not the subject of the Holocaust but one example of the victims of prejudice that has many other historical examples and remembrance of the Holocaust must teach tolerance for all.

This model erases the Jewishness of the Holocaust both by internationalizing it to include all the other 'Holocausts' and by making the Jews simply the casual victims of rampaging prejudice. It could after all have been any other group, this point of view goes, and in fact during the Holocaust was. The Jews were merely convenient. Jews however have no special claim on memory or the Holocaust nor do the Germans have a special role to play in it. The real villain was the rampaging virus of nationalism and prejudice and when Jews appear to be nationalistic or prejudiced, it's entirely fair and not at all obscene to call Jews, Nazis.

Just as the Nazis sought to erase Jews both from life and history; the liberal view of the Holocaust erases Jews from the Holocaust to replace them with an ad for tolerance and multiculturalism. It replaces the experience of Holocaust survivors to partisan liberal politics. It dejudaizes the Holocaust and finally turns it against the Jews themselves.

The USSR, which in fact engaged in its own form of Holocaust denial by refusing to recognize a specific effort to exterminate Jews, only 'Soviet citizens' and then only recognizing the 2 million that had been killed on its own territory; began this process as early as 1952 when in the beginning of the Doctors Plot, which was to mark Stalin's Holocaust that would exterminate the Jews of the USSR; was marketed in France by pointing to the role Doctors had played in the Holocaust in medical experimentation as a propaganda justification for the plot. Thus the Holocaust itself, less than a decade after, had already become dejudaized and turned against the Jews with the aim of making Jews the Nazis and to carry out yet another Holocaust against them.

It should come as no surprise then, that the left, which took most of its best ideas from Communism, should be implementing these same policies more than half a century after. The new view of the left is that once upon a time Jews were persecuted but now Jews have become the Nazis and persecute others, primarily arabs in Israel but also liberal activists fighting for Arab Palestinian causes. And the Arab masses of Islam, following in the footsteps of the Mufti of Jerusalem who personally helped advise and execute the Holocaust for Hitler, thus become the victims of the Jews. Their Jewish victims become merely the targets of the understandable and rightfull anger of the victimized Arabs and the second Holocaust which they have sought to execute upon us.

This is the other kind of Holocaust denial. The neo-nazis and the Arabs practice a Holocaust denial that denies the events of the Holocaust. The left practices not a denial of the events and atrocities but a denial of their jewishness. Where remembering is a sufficient defense against the holocaust denial of the right, it is insufficient against the holocaust denial of the left which does not deny their testimony but its relevance. The right says it never happened, the left says it had nothing to do with Jews and Jews have no claim on it.

It is not enough therefore to remember what happened but why it happened to defeat this second more insidious kind of Holocaust denial. To remember it as a Jewish Holocaust, rather than a generic one. To remember the victims as Jews rather than random victims of global prejudice and nationalism.

In Judaism our holidays first tell us to remember and then they tell us what to remember. Remember that I took you out of the house of slaves to be my people. Remember what Amalek did in that he feared men but not G-D. Remember Chanukah when we rededicated the temple and ourselves to the service of G-D. Remember the fall of the temple due to conflicts between brothers. Remember not just what happened but why.

The Holocaust museums, memorials and studies have their own agendas, to internationalize, to broaden, to dejudaize, to forget. We must remember not merely what happened but why. That it was not intolerance but anti-semitism. A hatred of Jews. A hatred of the G-D whose word Jews brought before man. We must not forget, not only to remember the living but to remember that Bekol Dor Ve'Dor Omdim Aleinu Le'Kaloteinu, in every generation they arise to destroy us. The Holocaust was not a unique one time event, it is part of the continuity of anti-semitism and the drive by our enemies, by the Amaleks that pervade every time and place, every nation and era; to destroy us.

Remember.

4 comments:

  1. Well put, Sultan. Check out what CAROLINE GLICK has to say.

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  2. good article, thank you for the link cosmic

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  3. Anonymous5/5/05

    This is well written as usual and brings up much food for thought.
    Thank you for your fine posts.

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  4. glad you enjoyed them :)

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