* by Andrei Schwartz with Ilana D. Weissz
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the USC Shoah Foundation have managed to bring 100 survivors to participate at the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
These survivors witnessed how millions and millions of Jews were murdered throughout Europe before starting the difficult journey to the then British Palestine Mandate and thereafter, in the newly established State of Israel that epitomized for many of them the only safe heaven against the centuries of Anti-Semitism.
But the fight was far from being over. Here, they had to fight from day one in order to stay alive either due to infamous quotas imposed during the Mandate or faced with the merciless Arabs, many nurtured by the same ideology that lead to the Shoah. The same World which promised to “have learnt its lesson” from the horrors of WWII, and guaranteed that Human Rights and the basic defense of any human life are enshrined as guiding principles in global affairs, has soon started forgetting those who’ve tolled the alarm bells via their sacrifice.
Now, only seven decades after the liberation of Auschwitz, the world seems to be the victim of a strange “guilt fatigue”, even of a “Judaism fatigue” which, to me, clearly permeates from some of the global reactions to the state of Israel’s constant targeting for destruction. In order to have a full picture of the current situation, we only to scrutinize the world leaders reactions to the situations where Jews in the Diaspora are victims of Anti-Semitism and of Islamic Judeophobia. Sadly, I even encounter these reactions amongst fellow Jews, probably as the result of constant fear and mainstream intolerance and Anti-Semitism.
Not few of the victims of the constant threat of the Hamas terror rockets, shot from Gaza this past summer, are Holocaust survivors living in cities such as Ashdod, Sderot or Beersheva. The fact that those who’ve survived through unimaginable horrors 70 years ago are still targeted for destruction should shake the conscience of the World. It should be the wake-up call that unfortunately, was ignored in the 30s and 40s by the same civilized world in a way that should dramatically reshape the collective Realpolitik approach to how we treat nations or terrorist entities who permanently threaten to destroy others nations and etnic groups. And this is not exclusively a ‘Jewish problem’, but has to do with the way in which human values are defended against its too many enemies.
How will Humanity be judged and judge itself if the same Jews who’ve survived 70 years ago will now, Gd forbid, be destroyed by armed terrorist groups many openly supported by states comfortably occupying their seat at the UN, just because we, the European Western world, have again stood idly by and thought it cannot happen just because we assumed wrongly this is not ‘our problem’? And because we believed again, with infinite blind ignorance that ‘words can’t kill’.
I recently visited Lisbon, Portugal. A beautiful, easygoing and multicultural city. The local Jewish community is certainly part of this melting-pot, but mostly symbolically as only a tiny group still remains. One reason for this size is easily understood by any tourist who’s in the central Praça do Rossio and happens to stumble upon the commemorative plaque which reminds of the Pogrom of 1506, when thousands of Jews were slaughtered for their only ‘guilt’ of being Jews. Just another bloody event in our millennia-long string of suffering, some might say. But the historical memory seems to be so incredibly short! The Jews of 1930s Amsterdam (many of whom took refuge in the Netherlands from Spain and Portugal as a result of the Inquisition centuries ago) or Berlin, Bucharest or Odessa did not really believe either that history will repeat itself at such a tragic mass-scale.
Nowadays, the Jews of Paris, Bruxelles, London or Malmo among others, are not any sliver more keen on living in a reality where their life is in permanent danger, simply because they are Jewish. And neither are the Governments of France, Belgium, the UK or Sweden, among others, inclined to accept that this is the daily reality in their democratic countries. Words and generous public declaration matter, but they are not enough, especially when human lives are at stake. While we commemorate the victims of the 30s and 40s horrors and honour the survivors and those who’ve helped them be survive and liberated them from the infamous concentration camps from all over our civilized, illuminated Europe, we need to make sure everything humanly possible and tackle with the strength of the law the Anti-Semitic incitement, regardless of who are the authors of hate speech, whether they belong to the majority or of the minorities in our countries.
The lesson of the Holocaust and other terrible moments of history has to be that we need to be tolerant and embrace each other’s values and culture. But we also have to be merciless and intolerant to … intolerance!