Never Again

When Former President Dwight Eisenhower was the top general in Europe, he ordered all personnel with cameras to take as many photographs as possible, so that future generations would remember the Holocaust.  It turns out that our 34th President was ahead of his time.
We have managed to record the testimony of survivors copiously, and are continuing to do so, in order that future generations can understand the full extent of the horror.  We treasure each one of our remaining survivors who can actually remember what happened, the youngest of whom are now in their late seventies.  We read their memoirs, stunned that the nice man who lived in my neighborhood could have been subjected to such atrocities and that, in spite of it all, he managed to retain his faith and capacity to forgive.
We lie awake at night, wondering what we would have done to help the Holocaust victims if we had been alive at that time.  We know that most of Europe looked the other way until it was too late.  We’ve been told that the U.S. government could have done so much more to ease immigration policies and put a stop to the death camps sooner.
Worse yet, we know that atrocities still happen while people look the other way.  If we allow that in any part of the world, how can we be sure the sheer horror of World War II won’t happen on a grand scale again?  If we let it happen to other people – in Bosnia, Syria, Darfur, Rwanda, Sudan and a host of other places – when do they come for us?  How do we keep it from happening again?
I believe that it all starts with education, such as the March of the Living program at Tarbut V’Torah (see the cover story on page 28) – something my Baby Boomer generation does not take for granted.  I found out about the Holocaust inadvertently.  A customer at our family’s retail store told me in no uncertain terms, “I don’t like Germans,” when I was trying to sell her a manicure set made in Germany.  I asked my parents about it, and they reluctantly told me about something horrible that I had never seen in books, movies or museums.  The wounds of war were too raw, and the prevailing sentiment was to hide the sheer ugliness of it from “the kids.”
But the wounds didn’t go away.  Survivors and their succeeding generations suffered in silence.  Finally, other people began denying the Holocaust, and Jews knew they needed to act in a meaningful way before it was too late.  Suddenly, people understood how critical it was to preserve the past in order to assure the future.
Jewish people, especially younger ones, need to know what they are defending and why.  All Jews have to understand anti-Semitism in its historical context and to be aware of the clear and present danger.  They have to be prepared to speak up – to representatives of Jewish organizations such as the Anti Defamation League that have tools to combat anti-Semitism, to elected officials who can change the rules of the game and to each other so that nobody is suffering alone.
We can be proactive by grooming Jewish campus and community leaders to take a stand, verbally challenge anti-Semitic incidents and work with people in the community at large to educate them and avoid future incidents.  While “fanatics” are not going to negotiate, we have to keep the dialogue going with the rest of the world.  Jews have to educate their counterparts in other religions and other places to remember the Holocaust and make sure it never happens again.
There is an old saying that when you get three Jews in a room, you get at least four opinions.  Yes, we like to debate – about which flavor of Judaism we like, about the word of law versus the action we take and even about Israel.
If there is one thing we all agree about, it’s this: We must never forget the Holocaust, and we must never let anything like that happen again.
Ever.  To anyone.


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