Keep remembering, keep educating

The Eichmann trial helped change the way we, as a society, related to Holocaust survivors and their stories.

By ELIEZER AYALON
April 9, 2011 23:14
3 minute read.
From the exhibition: ‘Adolf Eichmann on trial'

eichmann trial_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial, events, symposia and exhibitions are taking place around the world to commemorate this important occasion.

The Eichmann trial, in a sense, helped change the way we, as a society, related to Holocaust survivors and their stories, and in the decades since the trial the voice of the survivors – our voice – has become integral to all aspects of Holocaust education and memory.

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While it is true that countless victims of the Shoah hoped, more than anything else, that the world would know about their suffering and death at the hands of the Nazis and their partners, I am constantly amazed that, more than 65 years after the end of World War II, there is so much happening in regard to the history of the Shoah.

As a Holocaust survivor, I am paradoxically both surprised that this is so, yet find it unimaginable that it could be otherwise.

IF IN the first years after the Shoah we were not always sure the world was listening to us, now so many years later and with so many attentive ears, I retain a fervent hope that people will continue listening. Our story, the story of the survivors, has profound implications for all people everywhere.

It is extremely impressive and says a great deal about the centrality of the Holocaust for contemporary civilization, that on the governmental level, presidents, prime ministers and senior diplomats take an active part in memorial ceremonies, and lend their support to educational and research projects. The creation of sites of memorial and museums in the past decade in Berlin and Budapest, and projects underway in Warsaw and Skopje, for example, mean that the history of the Holocaust continues to become better known to more people than ever before. Projects like Yad Vashem’s YouTube channels in Arabic and Persian, unique educational initiatives in the United States, in Spain and online, among other things, serve to fulfill the wishes of so many who suffered, and contribute to making the historical record known in places where otherwise it might not gain entry.

Sometimes I am asked why it’s important to continue all this activity. “Haven’t we done enough?” they ask. But when I meet with groups of young people, or travel around the world and tell my story, I am confronted both by a willingness and a hunger to listen and learn; although it must also be said that sometimes there are people who are disposed to close their minds to the facts of the Shoah and remain willfully ignorant of them. It is ignorance, of course, that provides fertile ground for deniers and revisionists. Indeed ignorance, in fact, can breed denial.

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There have recently been some voices calling for a halt in funding for Holocaust education and research. But it is only by increasing young people’s exposure to the facts and the stories of the survivors and victims that we can ensure that they will be equipped to fight for societies in which such scourges will become impossible.

In a world where violence and intolerance are rampant, it is vital to learn about the darkest chapter in human history; a chapter in which our bonds as human beings and our faith in humanity were tested to their limits, and all too frequently did not stand the test. With an abundance of misinformation readily available, and where the events of the Holocaust are frequently distorted beyond recognition, it is vital that we provide reliable information, in its proper context.

As individuals, we must continue to do our part. But it is no less important that the major centers of commemoration, research and education continue to carry out the wishes of those who were brutally murdered, and ensure that the Holocaust remain in the consciousness of people everywhere, and will never be forgotten.

The writer is a Holocaust survivor from Radom, Poland, and lives in Jerusalem. He often speaks to groups in Israel and around the world as a Holocaust witness.

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