HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS visit the site of the Auschwitz death camp, during ceremonies marking the 73rd anniversary of the camp’s liberation and International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day, in Poland in January 2018...
(photo credit: KACPER PEMPEL / REUTERS)
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is being marked today, comes at a time when the number of Shoah survivors is dwindling, virulent antisemitism and Holocaust denial are increasing, and bashing Israel with impunity is becoming acceptable among haters of the Jewish state.
There have also been genocides against other peoples, and mass crimes against humanity continue in the 21st century, indicating that the lessons of the Nazi Holocaust have not been learned.
The US took a welcome step to correct a historic wrong on January 14, when President Donald Trump signed the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Prevention Act, after it passed with an overwhelming majority in the House and the Senate. Named after the renowned Nobel laureate, author and Holocaust survivor who died in 2016, the law aims to prevent genocide and other atrocities “which threaten national and international security by enhancing United States government capacities to prevent, mitigate, and respond to such crises.”
Sen. Ben Cardin, a sponsor of the legislation, said, “It is in our national interest to ensure that the United States utilizes the full arsenal of diplomatic, economic, and legal tools to take meaningful action before atrocities occur.”
Cardin noted that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum had recently identified Myanmar’s military actions against the Rohingya as genocide. “From Burma to Iraq, and South Sudan to Syria, atrocity crimes tragically persist all around the globe,” he said. “We simply cannot wait to act.”
Another laudable move has been the World Jewish Congress’s effective #WeRemember campaign “to expose to the world the horrors of the Holocaust and to share the message... that we must remember, and that ‘never again’ must mean never again.”
According to the WJC, more than half a billion people in 155 countries have heard its message via mainstream and social media.
“With antisemitism rearing its ugly head and the ascension of far-right parties in Europe, we knew that we could not remain silent in the face of hate,” the WJC said. “Our journey to educate the world about the Holocaust and the dangers of antisemitism and xenophobia does not stop here. Together, we must remember the past to protect our future.”
The UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 60/7 in 2005, to commemorate the Holocaust every year on January 27, the date in 1945 on which Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The resolution’s two-fold approach – to remember the victims and educate future generations – is stated clearly: “We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world. And we must do our utmost so that all peoples may enjoy the protection and rights for which the United Nations stands.”
Irwin Cotler, who chairs the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights, has also urged Israel to take a stronger stand with regard to crimes against humanity.
“One would have thought that the Knesset would have been the first to pronounce... the genocide of the Armenians or the Yazidis, or more recently, the Rohingya in Myanmar,” Cotler told The Jerusalem Post. “But it is almost not part of the discourse. I would like, for example, to see the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee not just focus on security issues, which are crucial and paramount, but also intersect with issues of human rights, which are also important to security.”
Another eloquent human rights advocate, Ewelina U. Ochab, reminded readers in Forbes of the words of Robert H. Jackson, chief of counsel for the US at the Nuremberg Trials who, speaking of the Nazi atrocities, said, “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated.”
Ochab added, in her own words, “The 21st century cannot afford more mass atrocities. The ongoing genocidal atrocities in Syria, Iraq and Burma are examples of the indecisive response that Jackson warned against.”
As we mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day this year, we agree with Ochab that we must remember the victims – six million of whom were Jews – and seriously consider how to stop such atrocities from occurring again, anywhere. This is a moral imperative, both for Israel as a caring Jewish state, and for the rest of the civilized world as the guardians of future generations.
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