Confronting the Holocaust continues to have major implications for humanity. Beyond being the culmination of 2,000 years of anti-Semitism by Christian Europe towards its Jews, the Holocaust is considered as a prototype for understanding all genocides and much has been done to raise consciousness. Yet, despite major efforts for Holocaust education, the resurgence of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial show that we need a new paradigm. Can it be that we need to program healing not only for the victims, but also for the victimizers?
While Holocaust education helped validate the victimized populations, and raise the consciousness of victimizer groups/nations, we are currently experiencing a significant backlash to traditional ways of acknowledging the Holocaust. For example, in February 2018, the Warsaw Parliament signed legislation making it illegal to say the Polish nation was complicit in the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism and the neo-Nazi movement are raising their heads again in Germany. These are just two examples of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism, which have resurged in Europe and around the world.
We need a new paradigm for these victimizer groups/nations — a Yad Vashem, which encourages and supports post-Holocaust, (post/genocide) righteousness. Yad Vashem would award righteous designations for those nations, who in addition to Holocaust acknowledgment, education and reparations, would work towards the prevention of such events in the future. They would research the cause of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and genocide; and confront any group or nation showing signs of anti-Semitism or genocidal intentions.
Research-based trauma healing methods support the theory we propose — the act of recognition and atonement for terrible actions and commitment to prevent repetition of these actions helps people move to a higher level of consciousness and automatically become righteous people.
This step can be more easily fulfilled if tools are offered to process the difficult feelings of humiliation, guilt and shame.
We have the healing programs and tools that facilitate taking responsibility for the tragedies; implementing activities to prevent future behavior, and releasing shame, guilt, and anger, to enable people to move beyond their terrible past into a proactive present and future of repair locally and internationally. This healing system offers a path of redemption for perpetrators and their descendants and assures against recidivism.
Efforts by implicated parties to engage in genocide research and emotional re-education, in addition to the normal process of acknowledgment, apology, and reparations to survivors, must be publicly greeted by the international community. Those nations, which confront groups/nations showing initial signs of racism and genocidal intentions or actions, will be at the forefront of enlightened nations.
Like the Holocaust, genocide — whether politically, economically, socially, or culturally motivated — includes mass destruction, brainwashing of perpetrators, and lasting effects on the historical memory of both victims and victimizers. The lessons from the Holocaust can be immediately applied to current situations of threat or occurrence of genocide.
Never again should a community be targeted for elimination under the watchful silence of the world” must become the new meme against genocide. But to stop genocides like those which occurred within the past two decades, the following steps must be taken:
- Face the tragedy and take responsibility whether one is implicated as or affiliated with the perpetrators, victims, or bystander communities.
- Acknowledge the victims’ deep suffering, despite the guilt and shame of having caused it, and release these feelings. It is this release, which enables people to face the historical events without resorting to emotionally-driven distortions or one-sided narratives and take positive action to help end genocidal practices.
- Contribute to the fight against racism and anti-Semitism.
- Research and address the historical and circumstantial roots of anti-Semitism; the foundational cultural worldviews, characteristics and values behind it (historical ways of dealing with conflicts, assertions of religious, racial, ethnic or political supremacy).
- Engage in reparative work
- Implement community level counseling and healing initiatives to deal with collective trauma and heal community divisions.
- At the world level, detect the first rumblings of a genocide — especially threats and demonization by the media. Take proactive action to dissuade people and leaders from their genocidal intentions. Neither ignore nor allow genocidal threats. Stop doing business or dialoguing with them.
All these steps can be adapted globally beyond the Holocaust context to other instances of genocide. By taking responsibility for one’s affiliation to a tragedy and reparative and preventive action, and being able to move beyond it emotionally, one can move into the ranks of the righteous, and contribute to the betterment of humanity and global healing.
Gina Ross, MFCT, is founder/president of the International Trauma-Healing Institute in the US (ITI-US) and its Israeli branch (ITI-Israel). She focuses on the collective trauma behind politics, specifically the Israeli-Jewish/Palestinian–