In a recent article titled, “Why I Went to Auschwitz,” former NBA superstar Ray Allen contemplated a significant question: “Why do we learn about the Holocaust? Is it just so we can make sure nothing like this ever happens again? Is it because six million people died? Yes, but there’s a bigger reason, I think. The Holocaust was about how human beings, real, normal people like you and me – treat each other.”
Allen nailed it; to learn about the Holocaust is to learn about ourselves and about humanity in general. The Holocaust represents the worst of the worst ordinary people could become. Apropos, in conversation about Nazism, a friend recalled a native parable: an elder told his grandson about two wolves who live in every heart. One is Evil — anger, jealousy, pride — and the other is Good — joy, love, peace, humility. The grandson asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The elder replied, “The one you feed.” The German people fed the wrong wolf … he said.
The way we treat each other and the way we react to hate and intolerance around us defines our state of humanity. It also puts to the test the strength of our social institutional structures which guide and protect civil discourse to ensure we are guided by common values and norms. Unfortunately, these days, there are multiplying factors which are stressing the existing – mainly legal – framework. This week, for example, we uncovered a store that is selling Nazi memorabilia, including flags, pins, playing cards, magazines and more.
The seller seems unabashed in openly displaying horrific genocidal and antisemitic material. In this open veneration of Hitler and Nazism, we deduce there must be a market place for white supremacism and neo-Nazism in our very own backyard. In fact, Nazi collectables from the era is a booming business online and at flea markets and shops in Canada and around the world. It should be disconcerting for us that our neighbours want to feel a “closeness” to the Nazis by collecting memorabilia.
Nazism is not only offensive to the Jewish community but to Canadians at large. Canada lost 45,000 soldiers in the fighting against the Nazi Germans to liberate Europe. Any symbolism or celebration of Nazism and the white supremacism on our soil is a stain on the memory of those Canadian soldiers who fought against the Nazis.
The passing of Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel this week was another reminder of the evil which lurks in the shadows of history and truth. How contemptible to minimize the horrific death of six million Jews and millions more at the hands of a racially inspired society. And once again we were witness to the vile defence of hate propaganda at a hearing this week in Toronto about an antisemitic (actually anti-everything) paper being distributed across the region, including possibly targeting Jewish homes. But our lawyers stood their ground and defended humanity to the drum beat of never again – for we shall never back down.
In his conclusion, Allen reflects that in 2017 we need to do a better job breaking ignorance and closed mindedness: “How can human beings do this to one another? How does somebody process that? You can’t. This is not history. This is humanity. This is now. This is a living lesson for us as a people.” – Amen.