Holocaust Remembrance as Holocaust Denial

What except Denial even begins to explain our
unwillingness to accept the obvious?
Once a year Europe and the extended West commemorate the Holocaust. And yearly “the Holocaust” grows ever more universal. Biafra, South Sudan: genocides around the globe subsumed under the term, “holocaust.” And while these also are tragedies, senseless bloodlettings, they lack the premeditation and planning, the systematic and determined effort that characterizes the effort aimed at the total eradication of Jewish existence from the world. So how explain this watering down of a term born of the Eichmann trial to describe the German led Final Solution to the West’s Jewish Problem?
Among academics perhaps the most banal excuse of all, laziness. If it appears similar assume that it is. But is the impulsive mass murder by one ethnic or religious group by another the same as the systematic carrying out of an idea penned nearly twenty years earlier by a man who would become a head of a state?
Generally speaking Holocaust remembrance is despite, no contrary to its expressed intention, a form of “soft” Holocaust Denial.
For Christendom Holocaust Denial provides distance between the bloodletting of mid-20th century Europe and the nearly two thousand years of persecution and murder by Christendom of its Jewish minority: denial insulates Christianity from responsibility as precedent, from consequence.
For the Jews denial also serves a purpose. Not that the community is not united in remembrance of the six million, because we are. But our “six million” lose materiality, drift, along with the Holocaust event, into but one more “inexplicable” tragedy in our long and bloody history. Babylon, Rome, the Inquisition. And, as earlier tragedies, we remember. Not as reality impacting our lives today, but as an abstract lesson.
In 2005 the United Nations set aside 27 January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, “condemning ‘without reserve’ all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, whenever they occur.” Auschwitz becomes as universal a symbol as that twenty-four foot high crucifix erected by the nuns of Auschwitz in 1984. An act of contrition, salvation for the souls of those murdered at the site. An act of desecration of the Jewish cemetery, Auschwitz; an act of defiance and disrespect for the feelings and traditions of living Jews.
But why should the Holocaust not be a symbol of universal human cruelty; would not by this symbolizing at least give meaning and purpose to Jewish suffering?
The problem is that the Holocaust is not an aberration, a unique event in history, a “mystery.” To describe it so is to willfully disregard centuries of prehistory, to divorce centuries of Christian persecution of the Jews from its result, the Final Solution. And, as Jews, to allow the transformation of the Holocaust into just another ritualistic observance, as Purim and Tisha b’Av; for the true meaning and intent of the Holocaust to fade with time and memory is to leave us as unprepared, as unable to accept its gradual unfolding in the future as we were in the past.
As International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2012 came and went notice the headlines that accompanied it. Far-right Vienna ball causes outrage on Holocaust Day and, ''1938-style Jew hatred still alive in Belgium.'' A few days earlier, German anti-Semitism ''deep-rooted'' in society. And a few months before that, ADL Poll Finds Anti-Semitic Attitudes on Rise in America. According to the ADL poll, “15 percent of Americans – nearly 35 million adults – hold deeply anti-Semitic views…” The German figure was 20 percent.
I close with a quote from an article by Rabbi Aaron Rubinger, Déjà Jew. “In the precursory period to the Holocaust, no one knew how bad things might get; the eternal hope was that things couldn’t possibly get worse. While enabling some with the strength to endure, such wishful yearnings ultimately proved tragically fatal. Likewise, in Europe today, to borrow Al Jolson’s words, we just “ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Perhaps Jewish Denial might be understandable before 1939. Who prior to the Final Solution could have even imagined the possibility? Yes the evidence for possibility was always there in Christian scripture. What more justification for eradication than our description as deicides, responsible for murdering Jesus in Matthew, 27:25; or our personification as children of, “your father, the devil,” oft repeated in John 8:44.
But in the aftermath of Auschwitz, fully aware of the evidence not only of our centuries of the scriptural roots for hatred, the millennia-long history of persecution, expulsion and murder in our Diaspora, and finally faced with the ultimate proof, the Final Solution itself?

What except Denial even begins to explain our unwillingness to accept the obvious?