Who would have thought that a mere seventy-four years after the Holocaust, large numbers of people in many countries would either be ignorant of or disbelieve that this ever occurred?
General Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander as he was then, insisted that the scenes he witnessed as his forces liberated the concentration camps be recorded for posterity. When this command was queried he stated with uncanny foresight that in a few years time many individuals would neither remember nor believe that this genocide had ever taken place.
Unfortunately, he has been proven correct because today we face the sad situation that for large numbers of citizens in many countries the events which saw the murder of six million Jews and other minorities deemed “enemies of the Aryan race” is more fictional than actual historical fact.
As we prepare to commemorate Yom Hashoah the fact that there are in many countries now so many who are ignorant of or deliberately in denial of the events which occurred not so many years ago is a worrying reality. Despite numerous films, documentaries and museums the stark fact remains that far too many are still blissfully unaware of the horrors inflicted by the most cultured nation in Europe aided and abetted by all too many willing helpers in occupied countries.
If anyone doubts that we have a problem they should pay attention to the results of several surveys conducted recently in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The first survey revealed that one in twenty British adults do not believe that the Holocaust actually happened. Of those who do acknowledge its authenticity, twelve per cent maintained that the scale of the genocide is inflated.
Another poll conducted in the United Kingdom produced disturbing conclusions. It turned out that forty per cent of those questioned do not know what the term “antisemitism” means. Analyzing this it turns out that more than fifty per cent of those aged eighteen to twenty-four replied “don’t know” and for those aged twenty-two to thirty-seven the “don’t knows” were forty-nine per cent. In other words, a substantial proportion of British citizens below the age of 37 are totally clueless when it comes to understanding what antisemitism means. For quite some time I have argued that this definition of Jew-hatred has lost its relevance among the younger non-Jewish population and this survey would seem to bear it out. The time has arrived when Jewish leaders and communal representatives should discard the somewhat polite definition of hatred against Jews and start to call it what it really is. It is no longer an aversion to Semites, a description which has outlived its usefulness, but rather a virulent and irrational hatred of Jews, Judaism and their nation State called Israel. It is a phobia which is why the term Judeophobia is a more adequate description. For those not scared to be politically incorrect “Jew-hatred” is even better. With the increase of this virus worldwide there is no longer any sense in hiding behind diplomatic niceties in order to spare the sensibilities of those who might wince at the brutal truth. Call it what it is so that everyone is in no doubt.
A recent survey conducted by the Claims Conference in the USA also produced disturbing results. It turns out that over two-thirds of Americans interviewed have never heard of Auschwitz. Half the public polled could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto. One third believed “only” two million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
It would be interesting to ascertain the results of similar polls in Australia and New Zealand. The bottom line is that amongst the non-Jewish public memories and knowledge of the subject is fading fast and for a large number has already been erased completely.
As the number of Shoah survivors who experienced those years is dwindling fast and first-hand accounts will soon be rare the likelihood of total amnesia amongst today’s youngsters, millennials and others is a certainty. The results of this progressive memory loss are already evident as we witness the resurrection and resurgence of Jew and Israel hatred worldwide.
Watch this short video and see how the virus is spreading on university campuses and from there into the rest of society:
Without learning about past historical events we can never prepare for current and future repeats. As Jews most of us have an inbuilt ability to internalize the lessons of our experiences as we celebrate various Festivals and mourn past calamities. Whether we actually learn not to repeat past mistakes is a matter of opinion given the large numbers still enjoying the fleshpots of Berlin, Ukraine, Warsaw and other such centers of Judeophobia.
For the rest of humanity a thorough exposure to Jewish history is a must if the virus now manifesting itself again is to be eradicated. Museums of tolerance are all very well but unless all school age students, university graduates and millions of others are exposed to some sort of educational enlightenment the memory loss will accelerate. Refusing to make Holocaust studies a compulsory component of the education curriculum guarantees another generation of “don’t knows,” deniers and incubating bigots.
In Israel when the sirens wail throughout the country, evening and morning on Yom Hashoah and the nation stand in silent tribute there can be no doubt as to what the day signifies. Elsewhere in the world it is a muted event confined to parts of the Jewish community and perhaps a smattering of invited guests.
Our challenge in the immediate future is to ensure that the memories of the men, women and children murdered just because they were Jews is not lost in the hazy mists of historical revisionist political correctness and collective apathy.
Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.