Do we really need to talk so much about the Holocaust?

The further we move away from an event, the harder it is to remember it, its details and even its outcome. Any event enters the annals of history the minute they take place, and there is nothing man can do to erase that event from our collective memories. Nothing can take it away unless it is an event that the vast majority of people wish to forget or even tell the rest of the world it never happened. There are four types of people in any event of history: the victims, the helpers, the perpetrators and the bystanders. As it pertains to the Holocaust, they all need to be remembered.

Not only do we run the risk of forgetting an event, but we also run the risk of allowing history to repeat itself. When it comes to the Holocaust, it would be tragic on both levels. In January 2020, we remember the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau (1/25), and we also commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day (1/27). As Forty heads of states and key representatives gather to pay tribute to the victims and the helpers (Righteous Among the Nations), the rest of the world is invited to post a photo of themselves with the hashtag #WeRemember.

The beauty of a hashtag is that it inserts itself into the worldwide web to never disappear or be changed, and that has power in and of itself. Once composed and posted, a hashtag serves as a beacon bringing people to a particular topic, where all similar hashtags congregate. It can be very helpful. The downside of a hashtag is that too many people use them as gimmicks to satisfy their own conscience. Can someone post #WeRemember or #FightAntisemitism and feel satisfied that they have done their good deed to speak up against the Holocaust and antisemitism? Sure they can, but does it really help?

Hashtags alone only serve to point to the gravity of the Holocaust and the danger of the new antisemitism, as much as a repeated word can. Hashtags will not defeat Holocaust deniers, historical revisionists and antisemites. Hashtags are the bumper stickers of the twenty-first century, they make a statement in passing as they move to their eternal abode in cyberspace.

They don’t speak up, they don’t sign petitions, they don’t march on the street in protest, they can’t teach history, ethics or morality. We need people for all that. Create all the hashtags you want, they might tug on the strings of our hearts, but until we move into action, nothing will change.

We can do so much more:
• Visit one of the numerous US-based (30 states) Holocaust memorial/museums like the one in Washington DC or even Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. If you cannot visit a museum, get online to their sites and learn from their extensive databases and research tools.
• Read on the topic. Start with the autobiographical short book "Night" by Elie Wiesel. Move on to "The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945 by Lucy Dawidowicz. Then in an effort to understand how the Holocaust further affected Jewish/Christian relations, read "The Jewish People and Jesus Christ After Auschwitz" by Jakob Jocz.
• Please, share your knowledge with the next generation. Two-thirds of millennials do not know what Auschwitz was. Additionally, 22% of Americans have never heard of the Holocaust.
• Attend marches and/or protests in your city or near you if they take place to show your support to the Jewish community and your disagreement with the enemies of Israel.
• Be ready to even go further by helping Jewish people in dire need. We can be proactive in 2020 instead of reactive in the 1930s and 40s. Things might get worse before they get better.

The African American communities should not stop telling their people about slavery and segregation, just like the Native American communities should not stop educating their young ones about the poor treatment and fate of their forefathers. So, why should we stop speaking of the Holocaust and why should we let those who deny it, get away with it?

Remembering a happy and positive moment requires no action but simply bring pleasure as we reminisce. When we are called to remember a somber moment on mankind's timeline, remembering the event is just the tip of the iceberg. Sharing our memories, past experiences and teaching others about those events is key. Very soon, all the survivors of the Holocaust will be gone and the task of continuing to honor their memory will fall on those of us who still believe that the Holocaust happened and it could happen again.  So, YES, we need to continue talking about the Holocaust, today more than ever!

Holocaust Remembrance Day: More Relevant than Ever!

Yom HaShoah was voted by the Israeli Knesset as an official national memorial day in Israel in 1953. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion established that day as a yearly memorial for the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Every year since that day, Jewish people remember the Shoah or “Catastrophe” as they perpetuate the memory of the loved ones they lost in the Holocaust. In Israel, on that day, two minutes of silent reflection is observed at 10:00 AM as a siren is heard all over the country. It isn’t unusual to even see motorists stop in the middle of the road and get out of their cars to observe that solemn moment. This year, it takes place on the 27th of Nisan which happens to start at sundown on April 11.

The importance of perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust cannot be underestimated. It is not about dwelling on the past for the sake of dwelling on the darkest days of Jewish history, but rather for the sake of never allowing future generations to forget these events and possibly preventing another “Catastrophe” in the future.

Historically speaking, the Shoah is a unique genocide for at least one reason. It is the only attempt at annihilating a people group–The Jews–by even going outside of the area where they resided to gather them and bring them back to a certain death in the myriad of Death Camps. It was an orchestrated, organized attempt at the total destruction of European Jewry. With all other genocides, as brutal as they might have been, there was always a way for potential victims to escape and/or immigrate. This was rarely the case for the Jews during the Holocaust years. My maternal father Maurice Weinzveig was one of the six million. He died in Auschwitz on July 24, 1942. Here are four reasons why Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), is more relevant than ever:

• Holocaust denial continues to grow
How could we possibly go from NEVER AGAIN to NEVER HAPPENED in 75 years? Holocaust denial is gaining a lot of momentum globally. Holocaust denial officially got organized by Willis Carto (Liberty Lobby) in 1978 with the founding of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR). Even Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas wrote his dissertation in which he doubted the existence of the gas chambers and the high number of Jewish victims. Even though in 2014, he backpedaled to admit that the Holocaust was a heinous crime, his statements made in English and Arabic vary greatly. Some claim that the Holocaust never happened, some claim that it was greatly exaggerated, some claim that it was used as Jewish propaganda and some think that we talk too much about it. The frightening truth is that according to a recent survey by the ADL, 1/3 of the world population believes that the Holocaust was a myth... One third!

• Holocaust survivors are dwindling down to a very small number
As the years go by, Holocaust survivors are getting older and many of them are rapidly passing away. If a baby was born in the camps in 1945 and survived the horrors of the Holocaust, they would be 73 years old today. In reality, the vast majority of Holocaust survivors are in their mid-eighties at best, and even older. Within the next 20 years, the surviving witnesses of the Holocaust will have ALL DISAPPEARED, facilitating the propagating of lies by historical revisionists. Thanks to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the Spielberg Shoah Foundation, names, stories, artifacts and testimonies are added every day.

• The Holocaust might have been worse than we even thought
It was about 18 years ago when a team of their researchers started to gather data from about 400 different sources about the Holocaust, Camps and Ghettos of the 30s and 40s. Based on their preliminary studies and available records, they had estimated the number of ghettos, labor camps, concentration camps and extermination camps at about 7,000. In 2013, They published their findings and realized that the numbers were not 7,000 but over 42,500. It is hard to fathom that the horrors of the Holocaust could have been a lot worse if not in intensity, most definitely in numbers. This renders the excuse of those who claimed that "they didn't know it was happening", completely unrealistic. Considering these findings about the 42,500 camps and ghettos, not only more people had to be well aware of the events but possibly more bystanders might have been more than just watching. A bystander who does nothing only facilitate the work of a perpetrator. Bystanders became co-perpetrators by default!

• End-Times Antisemitism is on the rise
By downplaying the Holocaust, we run the risk of minimizing recent acts of antisemitism. The last decade has seen an exponential increase in acts of antisemitism all over the world. These acts are getting more frequent, more spread out and much more violent...to the point of death.  Until recently, antisemitism–as evil as it is– seldom claimed the lives of Jewish people. Since the Spring of 2012 and the "Toulouse Massacres", Jews are now fearing for their lives and for good reasons, they are leaving Europe. The recent death of French Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll is a tragic example of the growth of End-Times antisemitism. She was an 85-year old Holocaust survivor who lived alone in her Paris apartment. She was stabbed 11 times and then burned inside her home. The poor woman who barely survived the flames of the Auschwitz factory of death, ended-up losing her life in flames, as if in a personal Holocaust.

As we remember the victims, the survivors and their families, I would like to encourage you to visit the site Shadows of Shoah that presents the truth about the Holocaust. It is neither dramatized nor romanticized. The stories come from first-person interviews with survivors of the Shoah across the world. Considering the fact that fewer and fewer survivors are still alive today, there is a sense of urgency in this kind of work. As first-hand witnesses continue to disappear, the “Catastrophe” runs a greater risk of falling into oblivion.The simplicity of the presentation brings out the profound reality of the Shoah. Each survivor has his/her own ordeal to recall and relive in front of the camera and they do it with difficulty but with dignity. It gives the audience a sense of hope based on mankind’s resilience. Some of these people who came out of the Shoah as survivors are still with us, telling their story and letting us know that after they survived the horrors of the camps, they chose to live and to share. Shadows of Shoah brings truth, light and hope into a world that too often lacks all three.

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.  For not only are we responsible for the memories of the dead,  we are also responsible for what we are doing with those memories”  Elie Wiesel

The best way to remember the Holocaust is not with a hashtag!

On January 27, the whole world will be invited to remember the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust by observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is an anniversary that was set-up by the United Nations and is different from the yearly Yom HaShoah (Day of the Catastrophe) that takes place in Israel in the spring. While I find much bias in how the UN views and portrays Israel, I must commend them for recognizing the Holocaust. We live at a time of history nearing the complete extinction of all the remaining survivors of the Holocaust, as most of them are now in their mid-eighties at least. The motto of "NEVER AGAIN" arose soon after the closing of World War Two and has been the on-going creed of all those who want the Holocaust to be remembered. Recently, people have been even more creative in prompting, challenging and encouraging others to remember. This year, the World Jewish Congress wants to reach 500 million people globally, who will post the hashtag #WeRemember or #IRemember on a multitude of platforms on the social networks. Hashtags are a very powerful way to express an idea and make it attach itself and multiply itself on the web like nothing else can. In and of themselves, they are not bad, but they can have a tendency to become counterproductive.

Many people around the globe will post pictures of themselves with a sign showing the hashtag, and they will feel good about themselves. They will get a feeling of righteous indignation against hatred. They will feel like they are part of a broad community of people holding virtual hands to speak up against the Holocaust and antisemitism, and in a small way, they will be, but for most, the remembrance will dissipate soon after. Hashtags are a good starting point or a good addition, but if we truly want to remember–And now more than ever is the time to do so– we should opt for other ways of looking at the Holocaust. As permanent as a hashtag can become on the web, it is very ephemeral in our minds. There are other options that will leave an indelible memory in all of us, and we should explore them if at all possible.

Listen to a Holocaust survivor: Their number is dwindling down very fast, but there are still ways for many of us to get first-person accounts of the horrors of the Holocaust. If you know such a person or have an opportunity to go listen to one, do not hesitate to go and listen. Their stories vary from one to the next, but they all are a testimony to the problem of evil within mankind and the deep hatred for the Jewish people. For many of us, it can be challenging to meet one in person. The closest thing to a physical meeting is a video testimony. The powerful work of the staff at Shadows of Shoah brings many testimonies from survivors on video, and by virtue of that medium, renders their unique stories eternal. Additionally, the Steven Spielberg Shoah Foundation has over 54,000 video testimonies of survivors that are there to stay. Every single one of them is poignant and memorable in its own way.

Visit a Death Camp: In 2010, I had the opportunity to travel to Krakow, Poland and visit the remains of Auschwitz-Birkenau. This meant a lot to me since my maternal Grandfather Maurice Weinzveig was taken there by the Gestapo, from Paris in the Summer of 1942. Walking alongside the empty barracks in the cold of winter, left a mark on my psyche. Had Maurice spent time in any of them or did he die on the train or the gas chambers upon arrival? I will never know. The Death Camps are gruesome and eerie monuments left over from one of the darkest periods of mankind's history. If at all possible, everybody, and most definitely every Christian should walk through one of them once in their lifetime.

Visit a Holocaust Memorial Museum: There are many such edifices that gather artifacts, photos and videos from the Holocaust. They make the events of the Jewish Catastrophe more real and tangible. The biggest and most elaborate of them–Yad Vashem–is located in Jerusalem. It is a difficult visit punctuated by visual and audio markers that will undoubtedly leave an impression on you for many years, well beyond the posting of any hashtag. There are several Holocaust Memorials closer to home in the United States. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. or the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles are just two of the most impactful and fruitful in their respective communities and nationally. The list is much longer and warrants several different visits if possible.

Read an account of the Holocaust: There is a tremendous global collection of Holocaust literature. From survivors' accounts to biographies, historical accounts and even poems. Every human being should read the short but life-altering account of Elie Wiesel's time at Auschwitz-Birkenau with his father when he was only 15. As told in his autobiography Night, his story of resilience and survival against all odds is very dark. Another powerful account coupled with a symposium from famous survivors is found in Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower. A detailed and accurate account of the Holocaust can be found in Lucy Dawidowicz The War Against the Jews or in The destruction of the European Jews by Raul Hilberg.

Any of these options or all of them if possible will work a lot further than a clever hashtag. The Holocaust cannot afford to be relegated to a single string of two or three words. We are minimizing the gravity of the event by posting hashtags. The virtual remembrance that is brought by the clever use of a hashtag will quickly become empty without the personal experiences, stories and accounts that can be lived through survivors, camps, museums and literature. Since most of us were not there in the camps and probably not even born at the time, what are we really saying when we say #WeRemember? At the very least, we ought to listen to the few survivors introduced on Shadows of Shoah , and then we can honestly say that we remember what they shared.

It is our duty as human beings to remember the Holocaust, share its history with the future generations and speak-up against those who deny that it ever happened.

The best way to do all this IS NOT just with a hashtag!

How can the UN both remember and ignore the Holocaust?

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article entitled "Are we talking too much about the Holocaust," in which I came to the conclusion that it was not that we speak too much of the Holocaust, but maybe that we speak of it in the wrong context. As we are days from remembering the Jewish Catastrophe as an international community, I cannot help but ponder on the United Nations' double standards about the tragic event that took the life of six million innocent Jewish people.

Every January 27, the international community remembers the Holocaust with various services, memorials and exhibits across the globe. That date also coincides with the anniversary of the Liberation of the "Death Factory" at Auschwitz-Birkenau. International Holocaust Remembrance Day was initiated in 2005 by the United Nations through UN Resolution A/RES/60/7. It is different from Yom Ha Shoah (Day of the Catastrophe) or Holocaust Remembrance Day that was initiated by David Ben Gourion in 1953 and takes place every year in Israel on the 27th of Nisan.

The United Nations has been making efforts to remember the Holocaust, and that is commendable. I am not sure why it took the international community 60 years to declare a day for Holocaust memory, especially in light of the death of more and more of the survivors in the last few decades and the push by many pseudo-historians to deny that it ever took place. Nevertheless, the UN do recognize the Holocaust. But there are two sides to that coin!

I find it interesting that the United Nation's webpage for the event has the following statement: "Denying historical facts, especially on such an important subject as the Holocaust, is just not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable to call for the elimination of any State or people. I would like to see this fundamental principle respected both in rhetoric and in practice by all the members of the international community". (UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.)

The UN found it crucial to include "Nor is it acceptable to call for the elimination of any State or people" in their statement, most likely referring to the Nazi regime's attempt at completely destroying the Jews. But when we look at the UN's role in contemporary antisemitism and demonization of Israel, one wonders if it applies to current events?

Furthermore, UN Resolution 60/7, seems to be suffering from a very strong case of double standards when it comes to the Holocaust, Israel and the Jewish people, especially in light of Resolution 2334 passed in November 2016. Amongst other things, the text of UN Resolution A/RES/67 states that they urge, reject and condemn, but do they?

• Urges Member States to develop educational programs that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide, and in this context commends the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research; yet many Arabs members of the current UN either finance the Palestinian cause or heavily promote its revisionist narrative.

• Rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or part, yet the UN has no problem supporting the Palestinian Authority whose leader Mahmoud Abbas wrote his dissertation on Holocaust Denial.

• Condemns without reserve all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, wherever they occur; yet UN member states turn their back on crimes against humanity committed by the Hamas, victimizing the Palestinians while demonizing Israel.

Now we have Resolution 2334 passed last November that literally makes the building of more settlements illegal in Israel. This is added to UNESCO's shameful decision to call the Temple Mount by its Arabic name and stripping it from all its Jewish roots, thus fueling and validating further Palestinian violence in that area. The recent Paris Conference sanctioned by the UN would have liked to see Israel going back to pre-1967 borders. These are the indefensible lines that Jewish diplomat Abba Eban rightfully called the "Auschwitz Borders."

I place very little faith in the ethics of the United Nations. It is true that it is through that organization, Israel was voted into a modern state in 1947. Since then, the UN has passed more resolutions against Israel than against many other countries combined. So when they say "The Holocaust was a turning point in history, which prompted the world to say "never again". The significance of resolution A/RES/60/7 is that it calls for a remembrance of past crimes with an eye towards preventing them in the future, this means very little to most Jews.

Words without actions carry no weight, especially in the case of the Holocaust! How can the UN both remember and ignore the Holocaust? Well, they can't! In the meantime, countries AND individuals can do their part to remember and tell the future generations. We can start by visiting the Shadows of Shoah site that very tastefully give an eternal voice to the few surviving victims of the Shoah.

Because of them and for the rest who speak no more...NEVER AGAIN!