The Jewish Report Editorial

The lessons we learn from the Shoah

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This Yom Hashoah, there are fewer survivors left. I am stating the obvious as the Holocaust began 85 years ago and ended 73 years ago. So, the youngest survivors are likely to be in the winter of their lives. Having had the toughest start in this world, living past 80 is a very long life.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Apr 12, 2018

We have been so fortunate to be able to hear the stories of what our people endured from the mouths of those who endured it. There can be no misunderstanding or misinterpretation. They went through a hell that most of us cannot even begin to imagine.

From their mouths, we hear it as it was. When they speak, we see their pain for what it is. Truth is, it’s hard to believe that human beings could commit such heinous crimes against other humans – but they did. And every year at this time, we are reminded when we hear real live stories from the mouths of survivors.

But they won’t live forever and, in a decade’s time, we will be lucky if we still have survivors.

Why do we need to hear them tell their stories? Why can it not simply live in our memories? There are movies, books and other documentation. Isn’t that enough?

The truth is that unless you actually experience what they did, or – like second generation survivors – have felt the pain through the lives of your parents, it is never going to be absolutely foremost in our minds.

The saddest thing in this is that if we did forget, others would be there to remind us. I am almost always astounded, as your editor, how there is rarely an edition of this paper that goes out without some significant anti-Semitic incident taking place somewhere in the world.

Sometimes it looms large as political leaders make anti-Semitic statements and policy changes, or renegade gunmen open fire in a Jewish deli or school in France. Other times, it is isolated incidents, like a swastika being daubed on a shop window in France or someone making a racist comment on American television.

From where I sit, it appears as if there is a growing anti-Semitism.

I believe this is the result of what I have come to call the “Trumpist Era”. I believe we are living in a time when people are becoming more parochial and protective of their own, and dismissive and derogatory towards those who are different. This is evident in Brexit, as the Brits seek to isolate themselves from “others”, and in US President Donald Trump’s philosophy of “America first and foremost”.

It doesn’t stop there.

Why the term Trumpist, you may ask. Well, it is all about trumping – outshining and outclassing – people who are different and don’t fit a certain view of who and what is right. In other words, this is an era of increased prejudice – and anti-Semitism is one such form.

In all of this, there are lessons for us. You see, while we do all we can not to forget about the Holocaust, we must also do what we can to prevent others from being the victims of racism, prejudice and persecution.

We have learnt the hardest way just how far people can take prejudice – we have had it indelibly tattooed into our people. Our lesson and our reason for being selected as a light unto the nations is to be able to stand up against all forms of prejudice and racial hatred.

We see it and have seen it all over the world – and right here in our backyard.

I accept that prejudice has rarely got anywhere close to what happened to the Jews in the Holocaust. That was humanity’s lowest and most evil era.

But it happened to our people and we know the pain it caused. We know, and we can and must ensure that anything that has a vague semblance of prejudice is stamped out so that a Holocaust can never happen again – not to us or anyone else.

There are some of us who dismiss the prejudice against others as someone else’s problem, but that is what so many in Europe and the world did when we were the victims. I believe it is incumbent on us to be that light unto the nations and ensure that nobody is subjected to prejudice and persecution.

Few said this quite as eloquently as the esteemed author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented.”

And then, as Anne Frank reminds us in her eternal diary of a young girl: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before beginning to improve the world.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Shabbat Shalom!



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