Time to rebrand the Holocaust?
This month, Israel not only commemorated not only the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, but also recalled the untold stories of the many acts of Jewish resistance that occurred during this period throughout Europe – the Holocaust being the darkest period of Jewish history.
In recent months, as the Holocaust has been cynically used as a backdrop for Jewish liberals in America to attack President Trump, it's not surprising that in response to this partisan use of the Holocaust, more and more voices can be heard stating that it's time for Jews to get over the Holocaust and suggesting that now is the time for Jews to move on and stop making the Holocaust the most pivotal event in Jewish history.
With mass killings going on in recent years during Obama's watch, many of his Democrat and liberal supporters have been suggesting that the Holocaust is unnecessarily singled out, as if it's more special than other historical events. They claim that although the Holocaust was on a much greater scale and horrifically well organized, it was far from the first incident of a dominant power killing those deemed "inferior" on trumped up charges, and essentially not very different from what's going on in the Middle East over the past five years, while the Obama admiration did nothing to stop the killing.
For many of these liberal "Tikkun Olam" Democrats, mankind has been perpetrating horrible atrocities on other human beings for centuries. They seem genuinely puzzled as to why Holocaust denial is even considered a crime in over a dozen countries. Surely, as far as they are concerned, this is an overreaction. Do we arrest those who believe and express the opinion that the world is flat? Why should denial of a historical event even be considered a crime, something detrimental to society?
Historical events, as earth-shattering and history-ending as they seem at the time, eventually fade from the forefront of public consciousness and become memory. When Holocaust survivors are no longer around, and when there is no more opportunity to let children and educators hear firsthand testimony of the Holocaust, will the Holocaust be just another event studied in world history classes? Will all of the effort that has gone into recording testimonies of the Holocaust be enough to preserve historical memory in terms of the magnitude and uniqueness of the Holocaust?
Sadly, yet not surprisingly, many Jews are not immune from the politically correct trivialization of the Holocaust and acceptance of universalism as the intellectual context of interpreting world events. Yet Jewish identity that ignores or belittles or "moves beyond" the systematic attempt to exterminate the Jewish race seventy-five years ago cannot possibly fathom the significance and importance of the establishment of the State of Israel. The Jewish people made a conscious effort to rebuild out of the ashes of the Holocaust. Those who regard the Holocaust as just another unfortunate event cannot be depended on to understand that in order to deal with existential threats, Israel must do whatever is necessary so that "never again" will not become an empty slogan.
Those who depict the Holocaust as just another historical event should be reminded of what the Holocaust was all about. In The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, Daniel Mendelsohn describes in detail the core horror of Nazi action in collaboration with locals in Bolechow, Poland, September 1942:
The story of Mrs. Grynberg was a horrible episode. The Ukrainians and Germans, who had broken into her house, found her giving birth. The weeping entreaties of bystanders didn't help and she was taken from her home in a nightshirt and dragged into the square in front of the town hall. There, she was dragged onto a dumpster in the yard of the town hall with a crowd of Ukrainians present, who cracked jokes and jeered and watched the pain of childbirth as she gave birth to a child. The child was immediately torn from her arms along with its umbilical cord and thrown - It was trampled by the crowd and she was stood on her feet as blood poured out of her. She stood that way for a few hours by the wall of the town hall, afterwards she went with all the others to the train station where they loaded her into a carriage in a train to Belzec.
In every generation, the Jewish nation has had to deal with the threat of annihilation. In ancient Egypt, it seemed that the Jews would be gone. In ancient Persia, it looked as though Haman would have his way and annihilate the Jewish nation. All of these so-called great empires have disappeared, and against all odds, we, the Jewish nation, are still around – not just surviving, but thriving.
In retrospect, the Holocaust compels Jews to confront their own Jewishness. After such unspeakable events such as the one described above, every Jew must look inside himself and consider: Hitler tried to exterminate my people, and the world stood by in silence. Will I, through apathy and indifference, become a partner to Hitler? Or will my life convey a testimony to the glory of the Jewish people and its resurrection from the ashes?
That is the real reason that it's not the time for Jews to "get over and move beyond" the Holocaust, nor agree to rebrand the Holocaust as just another sad episode in world history.
The writer, a 25-year veteran of the IDF, served as a field mental health officer. Prior to retiring in 2005, he served as the commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGOs implementing psycho-trauma and psycho-education programs to communities in the North and South of Israel. Today, Ron is a strategic adviser at the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria. To contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.