I am a Jew born in 1979 and I am a victim of the Holocaust. My grandfather born in 1917 in the United Kingdom is a victim of the Holocaust. My wife is a victim of the Holocaust, her father a victim of the Holocaust. My brothers, my parents, Jews everywhere are victims of the Holocaust. This crime, this mass murder perpetrated by the Nazis and their fellow travellers on the Jews is still with us. It’s with us in almost everything that we do. It’s with the Jews who support Israel and it’s with the Jews who don’t. It is a shadow looming over us wherever we are, whatever we do.
I dream that we will one day forever be able to step out from under the influence of this heinous crime and consign it to the depths of history. Though I fear this will not be for some time to come.
The Holocaust is such a large patchwork of crimes, involving so many different aspects that one gets the feeling even 70 years later that scholars are yet to illuminate the entirety and complexity of the disappearance of an entire Jewish world. Within this one word is encapsulated the deaths of 11 million people and the suffering of many more survivors.
I’ve never been to Auschwitz but every day of my life has in some way been affected by the events that took place there. My need to show that Jews can be tough, my certainty that we weren’t regarded by anyone as such, my Zionism and decision to join the Israeli army was certainly influenced by the Jewish graveyard of Europe. For Jews born since the Holocaust there is truly no escaping its presence.
Every year Israel sends a military contingent to Auschwitz and the Israeli Air Force flies over the camps. But Hitler is long gone, his accomplices also, many at the end of the noose but not enough, many escaped justice, but time has dealt with them all or will. Who is that contingent there to fight? To whom are we sending a message by our presence there?
People today keep talking about a “resurgence of anti-Semitism” as if at some point anti-Semitism stopped existing. It didn’t. If what they mean is that this is once again a march towards the Holocaust they’re dead wrong. This is not the beginning of another Holocaust. This is Europe finally recovered from its post Holocaust hangover, this is Europe returning to the good old fashioned anti-Semitism of the pre Holocaust world, albeit with a different cast of characters. The complaint about the Holocaust was never that it was unsafe for Jews to walk the streets but that being a Jew was a death sentence. It was a highly organised system of dehumanisation and murder beginning with government and encapsulating all citizens of Germany and the other countries they conquered.
Yet it still feels as if the Holocaust is still happening for many. As if behind every corner a new Hitler awaits with an old plan. It still feels as if we Jews are simply waiting for the next demagogue to step from the shadows and call for our destruction once again. We have yet to truly recover.
I wish that the Holocaust could be resigned to history, banished from the soul of the survivors and their descendants. That it can be remembered and the victims mourned without having influence in the decisions we make and the lives we lead so many years later. We Jews still have enemies, some are regimes, some are militias and some are people whose minds are poisoned against us. We must respond to them in the most effective ways we can, be it through military action or calling for better education in schools.
But Nazi Germany is dead and the Fuhrer long gone. Perhaps one day his shadow and that of the actions of his minions shall no longer be cast over us, the people whose destruction they so clearly failed to complete. Too often I feel that we are not fighting the enemies that are truly there but the ghosts of Hitler and his henchmen, men long since banished from this earth. It’s time to stop being afraid of these dead men.
We will continue to be victims of the Nazis until we can reach out from under the shadow of the atrocities they committed and live our lives free from the fear they inspire within us.
We won, they lost. They do not deserve to still hold sway over us so many years later.