Recently I visited the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, England with my Father. A part of that museum is dedicated to the US 8th Air Force which was based nearby during World War II. There is a memorial in that section of the museum to all of the American airmen who fell during the European bombing campaign in the war. I found myself staring at the list of names engraved on that memorial for an inordinately long period of time. I was looking for Jewish names. I started by looking for my own name, Goldberg. I moved on to Silverstein, Cohen and any other Jewish sounding names I could think of. I found many Jewish names there among the dead. Alongside the Jewish names there were Irish sounding names, English sounding names, Italian sounding names and many more names I couldn’t place.
I felt a sense of pride in front of the names of the dead. I felt that we Jews had earned our place amongst the gentiles. Here we paid with our blood the price of admission into society. Here among the honoured dead is the proof against the anti-Semites. The Jews who fought the fight against Hitler’s might and made the ultimate sacrifice while wearing the uniform of their country.
But what they died to protect us from has survived. The prejudice that is anti-Semitism seems to be invisible to all but those who suffer at its hands. When Jews are offended we are made to prove that we are victims to an unseeing, unforgiving public that would much rather we had said nothing. The latest example being the notorious Quenelle that arrived so publicly and so unwantedly on British shores. This sign is an inverted Nazi salute that Jew haters have been pictured making at Jewish sites all over Europe, including at Auschwitz.
After its use by West Bromwich Albion striker Nicholas Anelka the Football Association dragged its heels before grudgingly ordering an “investigation”. The football club behaved as if nothing had happened. The onus was on the Jews to prove why this was a disgrace, to prove that we were right to be upset. When West Bromwich Albion’s sponsor cancelled their £3m sponsorship deal with the club in protest, the media took great pains to make it clear that one of the partners of the firm was a Jew. As if that could be the only possible reason a company wouldn’t want to be associated with anti-Semitism.
Now there are gangs of Jew haters standing outside Jewish shops in France making the quenelle at the owners, taunting them, openly intimidating them. And so Holocaust Memorial Day has turned into a perverse test, a day when those who hate Jews come out in force to push their filth and to intimidate Jews everywhere. As if by its mere existence Holocaust Memorial Day is some kind of Jewish imposition on the public. An imposition that requires an anti-Jewish response. What was supposed to be a day of memorial for millions of innocent victims of massacres around the world has turned into a rallying cry for anti-Semites everywhere.
On the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day 2014, the sacrifice paid by so many Jews for their country is no longer enough to protect their descendants from facing the very evil that they gave their lives to destroy. I say we should use this day of memorial as a rallying cry of our own. Let this be the day where Jews and all people who are against tyranny redouble their efforts to fight the insidious hatred that appears to be spreading. To fight the same baseless hatred that led to innocent people being murdered on an industrial scale for no reason other than that they existed.