Why Holocaust Remembrance Day feels difficult and makes me angry

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.

This day feels difficult and it makes me angry. Let me explain:

The family that I visited over Shabbat had an elderly couple as visitors during the afternoon. One of them is a holocaust survivor. She grew up in Germany and still speaks English with a German accent – but refuses to speak German because of what the Germans did to her and her family. She has piercing blue eyes, but her memory is fading.

And so is our collective memory.

Which happens over time and is hard to prevent. Remembering is burdensome because the act of remembering requires effort. We are fighting the natural work of time. But we must — both to honor those who lived and died through the holocaust and because our collective memory is our best protection against its horrors returning to this world.

Which is why this day also makes me angry. It highlights the fact that old hatreds are returning and old passivity is accompanying them. It should be sobering that Europe is once again becoming a place where Jews cannot live. And it should be shocking that Mein Kampf is sold on almost every Arab street corner. It is too easy to portray what happened with the Nazis as a freak of human nature. The reality is that it only took a few committed haters and nations of people who were willing to do what they were told and not to stand up to it.

Not all anti-Zionism is antisemitic. But a lot of antisemitism sneaks in under the guise of supposedly reasonable criticism of Israel and supposed concern for the plight Palestinians (hypocritical hogwash given the deafening silence in response to the atrocities in Yarmouk). There is a nasty and endless stream of attacks on Israel’s legitimacy. But there is a perhaps more worrying passivity in the face of them. In the collective shrugging of shoulders when Iran calls for death to Israel or in the face of Erdogan’s rampant conspiratorial antisemitism.

It is burdensome to remember, but history suggests that evil — and especially evil against Jews — is something that may disappear for a while, but does not depart. I think non-Jews are not doing enough to fight it as Jew hatred, this, the oldest of evils, the undertaker of the Holocaust, once again rears its ugly head.

So that is why I felt burdened and angry as I stood and listened to the siren today.

But I also felt some hope.

About the Author
Olaf Sakkers is a graduate of Princeton University. He grew up in South Africa, but has also lived in Germany, Japan and the USA. He made aliyah after graduation in 2011 and after completing his IDF service in the Foreign Relations Branch, he now works for a venture fund investing in autonomous vehicle technologies.
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