Kenneth Jacobson

The dangers of minimizing the Holocaust

The Louisville Courier Journal recently published a highly disturbing piece by five opinion thinkers “Holocaust Remembrance Day is a Time to remember more than one genocide.” The article was troubling both for what it said and for what was left unsaid.

The piece distorted the reality of how the Holocaust is commemorated. The accusation that the Holocaust is remembered as if it were the only genocide is simply untrue. Institutions such as the United States Holocaust Museum or ADL, say over and over again that one of the important lessons of the genocide against the Jewish people is to stand up against all manifestations of hate early on so that it doesn’t grow and expand even to the point of leading to genocide. And these are not mere statements as educational programs from such institutions focus on standing up against hate and commemorating all genocides.

Having said that, it is important to understand that while all genocides need to be recognized and commemorated, the Holocaust was unique on a number of levels.

First, it was the only systematized and planned out program to destroy an entire people simply on the basis of what their religious beliefs are.

Second, was the enormity of the crimes, the destruction of one third of European Jews, and the particular targeting of Jewish children with one and a half million slaughtered.

Third, in this genocide Jews were not part of the conflict, they weren’t fighting on any side, but it didn’t matter to the Nazis, for Jews who lived in Nazi-led countries like Germany or Austria or in countries fighting the Nazis were all treated the same: targets for humiliation and extermination.

Fourth, the Holocaust was a result of centuries of hatred and stereotyping of Jews throughout Europe which was the framework for all the players who made the murder of six million possible, the perpetrators, the collaborators and the bystanders.

None of which is to diminish the horrors of other genocides or the historical evils of institutional hatred such as slavery in America. One can testify both to the uniqueness of the Holocaust and the lessons to be learned about hatred of any kind at the same time.

The article, however, even goes further in its false accusations, claiming that for one group to claim that it has suffered more than others is to provoke violence against other groups such as Blacks, Latinos, Muslims and the LGBTQ+ community. This is out and out demagoguery of the first order. Blaming Jews for focusing on the effort to destroy their people as a cause for attacks on other minorities edges into the area of antisemitic tropes about Jews and Jewish power.

Which gets to the theme of what the column did not say but implies. If, indeed, according to the writers of this article, the Holocaust is being used to exclude other forms of suffering, how did this come about?

The unspoken answer is excessive Jewish power. Why the focus on the Jews, it has been said time and again, because the Jews have great power, whether politically, financially or media-wise. The Courier-Journal writers didn’t say it explicitly but it seems embodied in their approach. It is a great irony, that that is the exact way that truly evil folks, unlike the current writers, who deny the Holocaust, justify their position in light of the fact of voluminous evidence testifying to its truth. They argue that Jewish control of all forms of media and communication have led to acceptance of this fantasy created by the Jews that six million were murdered.

It is troubling that at a time when antisemitism is surging, when survivors are dying out, when the need to remember the Holocaust is more important and challenging than ever, that the Courier-Journal chose to publish a piece that diverts attention from that important task and leaves the impression, also a longstanding trope, that the Jews only care about their own.

We all can be better than this.

About the Author
Kenneth Jacobson is Deputy National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
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