Yad Vashem Chinese 311.
(photo credit: Yad Vashem)
On the 27th of Nissan we remember the victims of the Holocaust. However,
remembrance is not a static picture of the past; it is also a dynamic task for
the future, which poses major challenges for the Jewish world.
these challenges is education of our own youth. We are grateful that many
survivors are still with us. We embrace them with the full strength of our love.
And yet the generation of those who emerged from the jaws of the Nazi beast is
increasingly retreating from our lives. Tomorrow’s Jewish children will
have to remember the Holocaust without the immense emotional power of meeting
actual survivors. It will be an important task of Jewish education to
bridge this gap.
We also must demand that the non- Jewish world keep the
memory of the Holocaust alive – and much remains to be done in this regard.
True, six years ago, International Holocaust Remembrance Day was established by
the United Nations, and it is being observed in many countries. True, the amount
of Holocaust education in the democratic world has increased in the past decade
or two. And yet there are valid reasons to worry.
UNESCO-commissioned study by Israeli educational scientist Dr. Zehavit Gross of
Bar-Ilan University showed that Holocaust lessons in Western countries often
lead to massive anti-Semitic reactions from students. This does not mean
the dimensions of Holocaust education should be reduced. On the contrary, we
need a much wider educational effort aimed at all age groups and population
The message we need to get across is straightforward. He who
defiles another human being’s dignity, let alone takes his life out of baseless
hatred, commits a transgression against the spirit of humanity and against God
who created all of us in His image. It is not enough for parliaments to make
Holocaust denial punishable by law. Rather, let us repeat to the nations of the
world the commandment of the Torah: “The stranger who lives in your midst… you
will love him as yourself.”
OF COURSE, I am not naïve. The hatred of Jews
is unlikely to disappear. We ourselves bear the main burden of
responsibility for securing our existence. The fight against anti- Semitism
remains a primary task. It is a sorry state of affairs when Jewish communities
need police protection from anti-Semites. It is a disgrace when Jews,
recognizable as such by their clothes or just by a kippa, must be watchful in
the streets of London, Paris or Berlin lest they become targets of abuse and
But of course, the main targets today are the Jews of Israel,
who are threatened with a second Holocaust by the Iranian leadership. The debate
as to whether it is permissible to compare these would-be annihilators with the
Nazis is beside the point, for if they should ever succeed, the results are
likely to be similar.
The threat to Israel’s very existence is not new.
In 1948 Israel’s Jews faced Arab armies which invaded the newborn Jewish state
with the explicit purpose of destroying it. The ability of the nascent Israel
Defense Forces to defend the country was by no means a foregone conclusion.
Later threats, in 1967 and in 1973, were repelled, but the enemy’s message
remained clear: We want to kill you. As for Iran, despite Israeli deterrence,
there are scenarios under which the Iranian regime could well attempt to use its
future nuclear arsenal to “wipe out the Zionist regime from the pages of
No less alarming than the Iranian intention is the miserable
failure of the democratic world even to significantly slow the Iranian effort to
obtain atomic weapons. Obviously, the prospect of another Holocaust against
millions of Jews is not considered a reason for action.
This is a
sobering thought. Of course, a nuclear Iran would be a strategic threat to the
West, too. Israeli Holocaust researcher Prof. Yehuda Bauer once
observed that World War II was started by an anti- Semitic regime that murdered
six million Jews. However, he noted, 29 million of the 35 million people who
died between 1939 and 1945 were non-Jews. This, Bauer said dryly, should give
non-Jews a reason to ponder.
Yet we see that the world has not learned
its lesson. We must do all we can to change this attitude. This, too, is part of
the legacy of the Holocaust and its victims, whom we remember and honor on
Remembrance Day.The writer is secretary-general of the Central Council
of Jews in Germany.