Sold out for Israel: Putting a muzzle on the truth

It is neither acceptable nor rationally justifiable to deny or depersonalize the evil of an era.

Elwood McQuaid 224-88 (photo credit: )
Elwood McQuaid 224-88
(photo credit: )
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's recent proposal for Holocaust education in France showed two forces clearly at work in the world. And neither of them does the Jewish people, French children, or the rest of us any good. First there is denial, a favorite of radical, militant Holocaust deniers of the Jean Marie Le Pen stripe who write off the greatest atrocity in modern history as little more than an incidental footnote to World War II. Then, equally insidious, is the depersonalization that reduces the Shoah to faceless commemoratives inspiring little that is lasting or life altering. In Germany there is talk of German youth being afflicted with Holocaust fatigue. A report issued by a German Foreign Ministry delegation claims many children in German schools are tired of the entire subject. Fortunately, that feeling was not reflected by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her recent trip to Israel. Sarkozy's proposal that French 10-year-olds symbolically adopt a French-Jewish child deported and killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust seemed a commendable gesture. But his political opponents, plus some schoolteachers and French psychologists, pilloried him, claiming, "No educational project should be constructed on death." Le Pen chimed in, "The poor children will feel guilty and broken." And Simone Veil, former minister and prior president of the European Parliament, called the plan "unimaginable, unbelievable, traumatic, and above all, unjust. You cannot inflict this on little 10-year-olds. You cannot ask a child to identify with a dead child. This history is much too heavy to carry." Sarkozy countered with reasoned good sense, saying that telling the truth is never a transgression of propriety or sound judgment. Make our children open their eyes.... If you don't talk to children about this tragedy, then you should not be surprised if it repeats itself." For most people, an antidote for Holocaust denial and depersonalization may be found at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Merkel was deeply moved during her visit there. While addressing the Knesset in Jerusalem, she expressed anguish over the six million who perished under Hitler and the indescribable suffering the Nazis unleashed on the Jewish people, Europe, and the world. She went on to ffirm that Germany would always stand by Israel. The Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem is an xperience that etches the soul in a deeply ersonal way. Entering the foyer where images of the faces of child victims look back at you is motionally mesmerizing. In the dimly illuminated room beyond, the names, ages, and countries of 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust are solemnly intoned. These statistics underscore the essential fact of the horrors forced on these innocents who were thrown into the cauldron of death. As for all of the psychobabble about traumatizing French 10-year-olds by exposing them to the truth, it is neither acceptable nor rationally justifiable to deny or depersonalize the evil of an era - as we may soon discover if Iran perfects its nuclear capability. Imposed ignorance or failing to face the reality of potential genocidal will not enhance the movement toward lasting, or even temporary, peace. Sarkozy's proposal and Chancellor Merkel's remarks provide a context for understanding why instilling the lessons of the Holocaust into young minds is imperative. Those who would gloss over, trivialize, or treat with thinly veiled scorn a historical landmark of such magnitude must account for their actions. This is especially true today, when children in Germany are stepping over swastikas and "death to the Jews" etched on sidewalks, and some Jewish mothers in France are cautioning their sons not to be seen wearing yarmulkes or they may be attacked by the growing packs of young anti-Semitic thugs. And why is it that there is no great clamor from Sarkozy's critics to denounce official Palestinian and Islamist incitement of children? Apparently the "no educational project should be constructed on death" rule does not apply to terrorists who institutionalize martyrdom among children much younger than 10, touting it as the highest form of patriotism and religious fulfillment. Why the silence for a culture that teaches children to blow themselves up in order to slaughter innocent people? Real history involves accurately appraising the past through a prism of truth that dispels ignorance and creates a framework for the future. Real history must rest on realism, rather than denial. Unpleasant as it may seem at times to teach the truth, doing so is the only way to impart the kind of discernment necessary for survival. As President Sarkozy properly said, "It is ignorance that produces abominable situations. It is not knowledge. Let us make our children, children with open eyes who are not complacent." Elwood McQuaid is Executive Editor for The Friends of Israel. His most recent book, For the Love of Zion, is now available online and in bookstores. Previous entries: Inextinguishable Israel Religion and politics: who's in the game Big gifts in small packages 'Serious' - another way to surrender Mainline or out-of-bounds The essence of Christian Zionism View from the Temple Mount