A shadow many thought resigned to the dustbin of history is currently spreading
over the European continent. Politicians, steeped in National Socialism,
xenophobia and anti-Semitism, are taking seats in European parliaments across
Parties like the Golden Dawn in Greece, Svoboda in Ukraine and
Jobbik in Hungary have gained significant political representation in their
respective parliaments and portals of power. They are also parties steeped in
hate and violence.
Among their recent activities are calling for lists of
Jews to be drawn up, holding intimidating midnight torch rallies, beating up
minorities and allegedly even murdering dissenters. While these actions may be
undertaken by a few, the party platforms of the neo-Nazi parties are attempting
to offer hope to a Europe reeling from a massive economic depression.
we well know from the past, this is another strong echo of the past; the Nazis
were able to gain power in Germany because of dire economic
In some parts of Europe, unemployment among youth is over
50 percent, and these parties are specifically targeting the malcontents among
As someone who has spent the whole of his professional
life in education, I sincerely believe that the greatest shield against hate is
The more people, particularly the younger sectors of society,
understand about the true consequences of Nazi ideology, the more likely they
are to abhor it.
A short time ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the
Balkan region. While I was in Macedonia I was particularly impressed with the
attitude of the Macedonian government toward commemorating those Jews who
perished in the Holocaust. I was particularly touched by the government
initiative for schools to visit the Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of
Macedonia in Skopje.
Every year since its opening, thousands of
Macedonian schoolchildren visit the center to learn about the Holocaust and
particularly about the murder of thousands of Macedonian Jews at the Treblinka
Speaking to my parliamentary colleagues in Macedonia and some
of the participants on these visits, it is clear that these visits have a
chilling yet vital effect.
While the Holocaust is a very well known
subject in Israel, in parts of Europe the average schoolchild will not be
familiar with even its most basic details. These visits put the children face to
face with the consequences of hate and evil. They are taught to disavow hate,
racism and xenophobia because of the information they absorb during these short
In 2006, three Scottish academics began studying whether educating
highschool students about the Holocaust has an impact on pupils’ citizenship
values and attitudes, and particularly those values and attitudes relating to
various minority or disadvantaged groups.
The study found that there were
positive dispositions ascertained toward minorities in the aftermath of the
lessons on the Holocaust. In terms of comparing the core sample with their peers
who had not had the opportunity to study the Holocaust, there is evidence that
the core sample had stronger positive values, were more tolerant and more
disposed to active citizenship by their understanding of individual
responsibility with regard to racism.
The authors of the study wrote to
the Scottish authorities in their conclusions that the evidence “certainly
suggests that learning about the Holocaust in primary school can have both an
immediate and lasting impact on pupils’ values.”
There are many similar
studies which demonstrate that learning about the Holocaust and visiting
Holocaust memorials or even concentration camps has a positive effect on the
moral compass of individuals and can prove to be an important buttress to the
steadily growing neo-Nazi propaganda.
In 2000, the now renamed
International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an inter-governmental
organization, signed the Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the
The stated aims of the IHRA are to mobilize and coordinate
political and social leaders’ support for Holocaust education, remembrance and
research at national and international levels.
While the IHRA was
originally created to fight ignorance and denial with regard to the Holocaust,
the teaching of the Holocaust can have a much wider impact on European
It can be an antidote against the hate that is on the rise in
large parts of Europe. It can militate against the feelings of despair neo-Nazi
groups are feeding off of. European countries should follow the Macedonian model
of sending as many children as possible to Holocaust museums and concentrating
resources on Holocaust education.
As Jews, we applaud the study of this
great tragedy that befell our people. However, European leaders should welcome
and increase these initiatives for their own reasons, primarily to teach the
values of tolerance and to stem the rise of the growing neo-Nazi
They are an vital investment in the European future.
the essayist George Santayana famously said: “Those who cannot remember the past
are condemned to repeat it.” Europeans must remember this dark chapter of
history because there are events taking place every day which are eerily
reminiscent of the National Socialists’ amassing of political power leading up
to the Holocaust.
Europeans must be taught the past so they can stand in
the way of these groups in ways that their ancestors did not, before it is too
The writer is a Knesset member for Yisrael Beytenu and chairs the
Knesset Lobby for the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism.