Over the past week, coping with genocide and its aftermath has occupied a great deal of my thoughts. Of them all, I am most concerned by the alarming trend in which history is being revised even as I write this, when the Holocaust is being covered-up by increasingly accepted, blatant lies.
Last night and into today, during Yom Ha’Shoah, Jews everywhere bow our heads in remembrance of the 6,000,000 of our people (1/3 of the world’s Jewish population at the time) who were brutally murdered and sent to their systematic and obsessively planned slaughter. In Israel and around the world, the Jewish communities mark this day by participating in memorial ceremonies during which survivors give their personal testimonies.
However, despite the museums, memorials, testimonies, and ceremonies; despite the hard evidence, including video footage and photographs; despite the fact that even Germany, which led the killing, is among the leading countries to combat Holocaust denial – instances of outspoken and public dismissal of the Jewish genocide are increasing in their prominence, public tolerance, and even acceptance.
In such a reality, combatting Holocaust denial is becoming an increasingly central part of remembering and memorializing the victims and their memories during Yom Ha’Shoah. This responsibility is becoming ever more important, as year after year, we are increasingly laying to rest the last of the brave heroes who lived and survived through the Holocaust; the living, breathing proof of what happened to our people only two generations ago.
None of us should let Yom Ha’Shoah pass without realizing this great responsibility – that answering the grim reality of Holocaust denial is up to us, and only us. We are of a generation that wasn’t sheltered from the testimonies (as was the case in years prior). Instead, we were raised to acknowledge, respect, and honor the eyewitness accounts, encouraged to hear the stories first-hand.
For the past year, I have come to closely know another nation that is coping with a very similar battle – the victims of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Just last week, on April 7, I participated in the official ceremony at the UN, led by Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, marking 21 years since the start of the genocide in Rwanda.
During his speech at the ceremony, Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana could have spoken on many things – his people’s story, his family’s story, or even his very own personal story. Instead, Ambassador Gasana, facing a very troubling and similar trend that we face, focused his message on highlighting the disgusting revisionism that is covering up the bloody and gruesome history of the Genocide Against the Tutsi. In his delivery that evening, Ambassador Gasana reminded us all, that “genocide denial is the final stage of genocide.” This sentence particularly struck a chord with me, naturally in line with my main concern on this matter.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, that although our cases are very different, Jews and Tutsis find mutual understanding in the other. Perhaps this is why another memorial ceremony for the genocide in Rwanda was held in NY at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. During this ceremony, Tutsi survivors of the genocide in Rwanda shared their horrifying stories with the audience (consisting of significant Jewish presence) in a museum that seeks to be “a living memorial to the Holocaust.”
When historical facts surrounding genocides as as well known as that of the Jews in Europe or as recent as that of the Tutsi in Rwanda are increasingly coming under fire, it is no wonder that after 100 years we still haven’t heard an acknowledgement from Turkey for its role in the genocide of the Armenians.
As an emancipated Jew in the modern world, I have the privilege to proudly live, freely and safely, in my very own independent and sovereign state – something that wasn’t even imaginable only seventy years ago, and something I am grateful for each and every single day. Given this relatively new situation, us Jews like to proclaim (myself included) ‘never again.’ However, upon internalizing what we went through to reach this improved reality, we should make it our personal and collective obligation to challenge Holocaust denial, as well as all cases of genocide denial. We can say ‘never again’ all we want, but if you agree with Ambassador Gasana’s statement as strongly as I do, that “genocide denial is the final stage of genocide,” then we should all wake up and realize that genocide is happening right now. It doesn’t matter if we are Jewish, Tutsi, or Armenian, as people who each bear a collective memory of similar atrocities, if we truly wish to ensure that genocides never happen again, not against ourselves and not against others, the battle against genocide denial is one that we must wage ourselves and it is a battle we must never give up on!