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Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Should the Holocaust refer to all WWII victims or “only” to Jews?

WW II Star of David with the Dutch word for Jew with Latin letters in the style of Hebrew letters.
WW II Star of David with the Dutch word for Jew with Latin letters in the style of Hebrew letters.

The Second World War robbed an estimated grisly total of 70-85 million people of their lives. Central in the policies of the Nazi regime was the attempt to exterminate the Jewish People resulting in murdered 6 million of them. How do the general loss of life and the Jewish one relate?

Civilians and Soldiers

My mother lost almost all of her family, friends, colleagues, patients and acquaintances to the Nazi murder machine. A non-Jewish person showed her after the War her suffering. At the closure of the war, stray bullets had flown though her linen cabinet and all her linen was ruined. My mother conduced: each feels their own suffering the most.

Moreover, if your lot was not the loss of possessions but also the loss of people, who is anyone to mineralize such hurt? The Sages teach us that each person is a complete universe, unique and irreplaceable. Civilian deaths from WW II are so often ignored.

And how many Russian soldiers died fighting Hitler? Almost 9 million!

The Inferior

Would it be wrong to mention in one breath both the mass murder of Jews and of other nations branded inferior by Nazi-ideology, like the Poles?

And what about other groups it tried to exterminate as well, like the Gypsies? How about other groups of people deemed subhuman by Nazi ideology and fit for destruction, like the mentally or physically handicapped, the so-called insane, homosexuals?

Since Roma (Gypsies) until today have hardly anyone fighting for them, co-commemorating them with the Jews seems OK to me. But let’s not forget, Jews were especially targeted as the stem from which both Islam and Christianity have sprouted (see below). Any attempt to equate oneself with the Jewish victims must be suspect of trying to hide European antisemitism.

A special case must be the Poles. Most of the gassings were done on Polish soil. Something that would have been unthinkable in the Netherlands. Antisemitism in Poland, before and after the War, was notorious. But the Poles were targeted too by the Nazis. Their culture should be uprooted and it should be enslaved by the superior Arians. Poles were brutally murdered. The greatest number of Righteous Among the Nations (Gentiles risking their own lives by hiding Jews) were Poles. (Percentage-wise maybe the Dutch stand one, but also from that country, a record 75% of the Jews were murdered.) Many Poles resisted the Nazi occupation by taking up arms, some from nationalistic motives and some from ideological reasons; some seeing Jews as fellow victims, some still antisemitic. And as we see with Japan. it’s much easier to present oneself afterward as victims than to acknowledge oneself as cruel perpetrators.

Should Holocaust commemoration only refer to Jews? Other groups were interned and gassed in Auschwitz (iconic for the Holocaust) too.

Jealousy and Special Case

Isn’t isolation the suffering of the Jews an insult of all the other people who were killed? And doesn’t that extra attention create jealousy?

Yet, it seems wrong to try to generalize the Holocaust under the umbrella of other mass murders and even genocides for two reasons. The mass murder on the Jews was not “just” from hatred, disdain, racism or nationalism but with the explicit goal to exterminate all Jews. And it was the culmination of millennia of persecution of the Jews by Europeans.

The methodical industrial attempt to kill off the Jews, in fact, ended the racist myth that Europeans were the most civilized nation (Germany and Berlin before the War, were supposedly the centers of civilization and other cultures were in comparison barbaric!) and that Christians were the most loving. After the defeat, Germany and the Vatican (and some other Christian communities) repented and humbled themselves dramatically.

It Ain’t Over

Unfortunately, most European nations did pretty little soul searching. They rather hid their antisemitism behind blaming Germans and Nazis.

The Arab world as a whole did not disavow antisemitism at all. The complicity of some of their leaders with Hitler stayed a footnote in Arab history and unashamed antisemitism seems rampant in Arab society till today.

Europe now blames antisemitism within its borders on Muslim migrants and still doesn’t look at how it enables it by their racism against migrants (who then look for a scapegoat) and subtle indifference to its Jews.

And often the European messages towards Israel vary from hostile to paternalistic, often not standing with it unconditionally, not demanding that its Arab neighbors stamp out all antisemitism, giving away that still little has changed in the hearts of too many Europeans.

It seems that the phenomenon of ongoing antisemitism is a good extra reason not to hide the Holocaust between all the other death figures and mass murders, as long as hatred or indifference to Jews is still so prevalent in the West and Arab countries.

Prevention of jealousy could be a good argument to not set attention for Jewish victims of WW II apart. On the other hand, envy has so long been such a powerful part of antisemitism. (If one doesn’t (want to) see how hard Jews work for each other’s survival, it’s easy to get jealous.) Maybe this jealousy is just this old stuff, not caused by any undeserved attention.

Jumping on the bandwagon of Holocaust suffering is not done only by fellow Nazi victims. Antisemitic activists eagerly show off Arab Palestinian victims of Israeli persecution (not even the ultimate chutzpah – read on) and some have suggested that fallen Nazi-Germany soldiers could be commemorated together with the Holocaust victims as every death is terrible, these were young people, what suffering for their families, etc.

I don’t envy the lot of Nazi soldiers or Arab-Palestinian mass murderers, throwing away their good lives for the cause of Evil and choosing hatred of Jews as a lifestyle. But to confuse victim and perpetrator is evil itself.

My Solution

I have a proposal. Let all those who want to commemorate the real victims of WW II incorporate the Jews. That’s good against the old let’s-ignore-them. And let next to that, there be special commemorations of the Holocaust. So that Europe, even after so many generations, will begin to finally really uproot its anti-Jewish bigotry of thousands of years.

And so no, International Holocaust Remembrance Day is NOT for remembering “every man, woman, and child who was abused, tortured, or murdered during [sic!] the Holocaust” and NOT about “the betterment of all mankind” as the US President’s speech writers just wrote.

Current Affairs

There is a march for the plight of present refugees in the making that should start at the main Holocaust museum in the Netherlands. Bad idea.

Let it start asking attention to the regional differences of cooperation with or resistance against the Nazis. Let them call upon ordinary Dutch citizens to fight hatred for Jews. There is still plenty of work to be done.

Some proponents of the march from Westerbork have accused the people-against of ignorance. Westerbork, the main Nazi transit camp from the Low Countries to the gas chambers in Poland, after all, started out as a refugees camp. But that is the real ignorance. Surely, the Dutch cynically forced the prewar Dutch-Jewish community to finance a camp for German Jews fleeing Hitler, in order to keep those foreigners off the Dutch labor market. One’s own first! But after the War, the camp was used to jail the Nazi collaborators (how tactful, how economical). After that, the fleeing Moluccans were parked there. And after that, the camp was demolished in an attempt to erase the Dutch’ complicity with the Holocaust. Westerbork stands for the Holocaust and nothing else.

Gentile Poles protesting that World Holocaust Commemoration Day doesn’t look at their suffering too, should be ashamed of themselves.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, an almost daily blog contributor to the Times of Israel, and previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit about what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and education contribute to his visions. * To find less-recent posts on subject XXX among his over 1550 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. Yet, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people who don't deserve that. He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust, and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. He loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, anti-elitism, anti-bigotry and supremacy, for Zionism, Intersectionality, and non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, empowering therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids non-violently. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's being a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. He lives with his library in Jerusalem. Feel free to contact him. * His writing has been made possible by a (second-generation) Holocaust survivors' allowance from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble.
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