Home Lessons from the Holocaust for 9/11:Memorials Don't Matter, Only Actions Do
Home Lessons from the Holocaust for 9/11:Memorials Don't Matter, Only Actions Do

Lessons from the Holocaust for 9/11:Memorials Don't Matter, Only Actions Do

It has been six years and as the clock ticks and the calendar pages turn, 9/11 has come around again. With the new millennium, September has become the cruelest month. A month of remembrance. But what do we really remember?

Six years ago 9/11 was the genesis of a national transformation, Americans uniting as one people, courage was the order of the day and the same virtues that had characterized America's greatest moments were on displays. And then most of us went to sleep again.

And now the memorials will come again. But memorialization is often more about us than it is about those we remember. Monuments like tombstones, services and candle holding are coping strategies to help us deal with our grief. They are important to help the living deal with their pain but commemoration does not create meaning or address the real aftermath of 9/11. They are only ways to contain and limit the pain.

There were two types of memorials built in the aftermath of the Holocaust. One type is the kind you can see anywhere, statues, symbols, plaques and ceremonies. The other kind was the State of Israel.

After the Holocaust there were those who believed that simply commemorating and remembering was enough, that reminding a world that had not cared when six million were murdered would somehow transform it, turning violence into tolerance. That memory was a tool that could uplift and teach about the evils of hatred. They were wrong. Today another Holocaust is being planned in Tehran this time not Berlin and much of the world energetically waves its arms around to call a halt to any plans to stop it. Including the very same liberals who have spend the last half century imbibing tolerance with their mother's milk.

But that is because the lesson of murder should never be tolerance but intolerance, intolerance of evil. Not intolerance of nationalism or religious extremism or fanaticism or any other generic euphemism but evil. What is evil? In this case the answer is surprisingly simple. Evil defines the sort of people who would perpetrate another Holocaust or another 9/11.

In the face of evil, remembrance is the last resort of the defeated. Six years after 9/11 its own commemoration has traveled the same path as that of the Holocaust commemorations in a fraction of the time. 9/11 has spawned its own historical revisionists, the Truthers, determined that 9/11 never happened or that the Jews or the government was behind it. 9/11 has become a fit subject for snickering, for jokes and for satire. The very act of remembering or commemorating 9/11 is itself mocked as phony and self-indulgent.

Today as the commemorations will commence at Ground Zero, Truthers will gather there too like carrion crows, shrieking and hawking their contempt and their hatred for the ceremonies and for the dead. And we will tolerate them. We will not drag them off and beat them. Anyone who attempts to do that will be arrested. Because we are tolerant of evil and for as long as we tolerate evil, our commemorations and memorials remain nothing more than a coping strategy. As long as we compromise our intolerance of evil, we are undone.

The State of Israel, the American victory in Afghanistan were memorials of action, done firmly and resolutely, driven perhaps by pain but driven more fundamentally by the understanding that they needed to... that they must be done. The destruction of evil is the only fitting memorialization to those slain by evil because it and only it can insure that no more die in this way. It is not enough to remember without doing. It is not enough to commemorate the dead without remembering the living.

On September 11, 3000 Americans were murdered. Some died in shock. Some died in agony. Some died in flames and some died in the rush of air as they fell. They were murdered but they were only the beginning. 9/11 was not a tragedy, it was a war. It is a war we are still fighting. The proper memorial for 9/11 is not in cupped hands holding candles but in the soldiers and pilots of the United States standing on watch and going out on their missions against the enemy knowing why they are fighting and what they are fighting for.

Guantanamo Bay is a better memorial for 9/11 than any construction of stone, glass and steel that will ever rise. A bullet in the head of an Al Queda terrorist is a better commemoration for this terrible day than any act of verbal elocution. A tower rising to the sky, an airplane passing overhead, are a fist clenched high in defiance by the civilized world against the uncivilized, by men against savages and human beings against subhuman barbarians.

There was only one Holocaust commemoration that mattered and it took place when Israeli Air Force jets flew over Auschwitz. The dead of Auschwitz had no need for candles and for your grief. They needed to know that even though they died, there would be someone to protect their grandchildren, their nephews and nieces, the descendants of their brothers and sisters of the Jewish people. A single jet is a more fitting memorial to the dead than a million monuments for a jet today has the power to prevent another Holocaust while a million monuments cannot.

The day an F-22 flies over Mecca is the day a fitting memorial to 9/11 will be built. Until then we have but words as clumsy tools with which to dull the pain while fighting for the future.


  1. Everything you wrote is the absolute truth. Only when Americans decide that our lives and way of life are important enough to say Never Again and only when we have the resolve to prevent another 9/11 will the dead have been properly memorialized.

    A very eloquent, moving and gutwrenching article, Sultan. Well done.

  2. Anonymous11/9/07

    I'm sick of memorials - holocaust, 911 -- the whole damn lot of them.

    You're right it is about us. Poor us.

    We don't need another memorial where we weep, pound our fists and vows of Never Again are loudly and as solidly proclaimed as a pimp's promise.

    We need to teach our children, especially our boys, that it's not feelings, their feminine side they need to get in touch with but their righteous anger.

    While our boys are taught in school that aggression is bad and nationalism is shameful, Islamist's are teaching their boys how to shoot, assemble and disassemble a firearm with their eyes closed, to fight. They teach their children, boys and girls, to hate us and yearn to kill us. They inculcate them at a very young age about who the enemy is, how to suck it up and never give up.

    It's not just a slogan. They are teaching their children so that when the older generation dies the fight will go on.

    So while our kids are feeling compassion for our enemies "plight" and marching against global warming the enemy is as King David described so aptly, breathing violence.

    Remember and honor our dead by not repeating the mistakes of the past. Because there's a light at the end of the tunnel but it's not a train. It's the bloody jaundiced glint of the Islamist's sword and Am Yisrael is written on it.

  3. I stumbled on this blog while Googling historical data for a talk I am giving.
    I am a Holocaust survivor, among a handful of children (with my twin sister) to survive Bergen-Belsen.
    I partly repaid this Nation for my life as best I could by serving four years as a Naval Officer by way of Columbia NROTC.

    Today that University bans ROTC and by extention the protection of our liberty and freedoms through force of arms and the courage of our citizens. Instead my Alma Mater
    hosts the leader of Iran, giving him a platform to call for the destruction of Israel and the West.

    Your blog is a breath of fresh air and a glimmer of hope in desperate times.

  4. thank you for your service steven and it is always good to know that what i write reaches someone

    the nation's academic institutions and cultural centers have struggled to redefine America as something globalistic and contrary to the country's interests when they aren't outright redefining themselves as agents of a point of view openly hostile to this country

  5. Don't forget though Sulatn, that the universities have eagerly allowed themselves to be bought by Saudis (Middle East Departments etc) and therefore have compromised their interests too.
    not that I am excusing them. WEe have this problem in Australia too.


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