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Yom Ha’Shoah Post #5: Never Again?

A Jerusalem Post editorial asks the question. The big question. Really, the only question: what has humanity learned from the Holocaust?

Jews have been tireless in using the Holocaust to teach about man’s inhumanity to man. Has it made a difference? Ask the 1.7 million Cambodians slaughtered between 1975-1979 by communist lunatics. Ask the over 800,000 Rwandans cut down by machetes — in a mere 100 days — in 1994.

Clearly, efforts to universalize the lessons of the Holocaust have utterly failed. Would a forced visit of Hutu killers through Washington DC’s Holocaust Museum saved a single Tutsi?

No one predisposed to genocide will be shamed into human decency by exposure to Schindler’s List. More than that: Even humanists who mourn Hitler’s Jewish victims have, in the blink of a relativist eye, condemned Israel for eliminating Ahmed Yassin, though he was single-mindedly committed to a new genocide.

[ . . . ]

We are loathe to equate today’s foes with the Nazis. But as Yad Vashem’s Yehuda Bauer has argued, “Nazism, Stalinist communism, and radical Islam are different from each other, but they also have a certain similarity: All three aim, or aimed, at exclusive control over the world, all three oppose or opposed all expressions of democracy, and all three attacked Jews…” On this day, it is worth remembering that in Mein Kampf Hitler predicted terrorism and force would be victorious over reason.

The battle continues.

To that, we can add the Armenian Genocide, the hundreds of thousands (or more) killed in the Congo, the “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia, and the thousands of North Korean “political prisoners” being subjected to untold horrors in the Gulags. These are, sadly, only a few examples.

Was it realistic to say “Never Again” after the Holocaust? How could it be, when millions of years of human history teach us that the one thing human beings keep doing is finding new ways to instill horror and cruelty on one another? How could we think that the Holocaust would scare humanity straight, when it was only the “next step” in a long line of massacres, wars, and the wiping out of entire peoples?

There’s still an emotional connection to the Holocaust today. The events of 50 or 60 years ago are close enough in time that there are still survivors to tell their tales, to share their pain and to remind us. There are still memorials standing where the death camps once were. We can visit them, witness them.

But how long until the Holocaust becomes just another dry chapter in a history textbook, too remote in time for emotion? How long until future generations talk about it with the same detachment as they do the Crusades, or the Roman conquest?


Because maybe we haven’t learned. We haven’t figured out “Never Again” and perhaps we never will. But we have figured out Never Forget.

We haven’t forgotten the events of two or three thousand years ago. We’ve been observing holidays, retelling stories and prayers, tearing our clothing on Tisha B’Av and reciting the story of the Exodus on Passover. We weep over events of two thousand years ago with the same emotion as though they happened yesterday.

If there’s one thing us Jews have, it’s a very long collective memory. It unites us as a people as we remember the chapters of our shared history.

And if it hasn’t ensured a “Never Again”, then we have at least ensured that we will “Never Forget”. Maybe it’s a first step.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • josh 04.18.04, 9:42 PM

    It already is talked about with detachment and denial that it can happen again. Sadly, ihstory repeats itself.
    Sure many people can still say claim their grandparents are ‘survivors’ or that half their family perished in the [first?] holocaust, but many of these Jews are also proudly non-religious and view Judaism only as some ethno-ritual experience to give the periodical/seasonal lip service; Tisha B’av is a sad day (sorry, evening, we go to work the next day and at the end, we thank g-d for it being over ‘this year’ and that ‘next’ Tisha B’av is a long way off).
    “Never Again” and “Never Forget” are empty rhetoric. Why? Because so much emphasis is placed on the actual event, we usually forget to remember what led to it all in the first place.
    Thankfully, the world is reminding us everyday. I hope we wake up soon.

  • josh 04.18.04, 9:51 PM


    >>When the Jews of Europe were being annihilated, the “civilized world” was indifferent, and much of it was downright supportive of the annihilation. The “civilized world” sat in silence in the decade leading up to the Shoah, while Hitler expounded his plans openly.

    I think that one of the best litmus tests of the extent of re-nazification of the planet is to observe the reactions of the world to the assassination of the Gaza Nazi, Rantisi. All those denouncing Israel’s hit on Rantisi as “state terrorism”, as a crime, as a
    violation of “international law”, as violating Palestinian “rights”, as
    aggression, as itself “nazism”, ALL such people are today’s most visible
    illustration of global re-nazification. ALL of these people are in fact in favor of the random mass murder of Jewish children. ALL of these people oppose every form of Jewish self-defense except capitulation to Nazism and passive Jewish marching into the gas chambers.

  • Albert Law 04.18.04, 10:20 PM

    “but many of these Jews are also proudly non-religious and view Judaism only as some ethno-ritual experience to give the periodical/seasonal lip service;”

    You’re gonna let him talk about you that way, Sari?

  • segacs 04.18.04, 11:08 PM

    He’s entitled to his opinion. You’re entitled to yours. Usually I don’t agree with either of you.

  • Albert Law 04.19.04, 12:50 AM

    “He’s entitled to his opinion. You’re entitled to yours. ”

    That’s never stopped you from responding before, has it?

    I’m still curious about how you want the UN to get off its legislative ( not executive ) ass.

  • segacs 04.19.04, 1:39 AM

    I don’t answer every comment on this site. Especially when comments are just there to goad, or when they speak for themselves. If I have an opinion, I’d rather post it as an entry than engage in a comments war.

    And your question has nothing to do with this post. Please try to stay on topic.

  • DaninVan 04.19.04, 6:48 AM

    Stay on topic? What kind of concept is that?

  • josh 04.19.04, 8:31 PM

    Good use of ‘goad’, I agree.
    The thing is that I am really scared for world Jewry. After WWII, there were 12million Jews, and now, there are 12million Jews. World Jewry is shrinking, having less kids, (now that I think about it, I can’t recall too many high school comrades with more than 1 sibling-thank g-d for the ultra-orthodox who are keeping the numbers up), aging, and assimilating. It’s happenning in the states, France, an in Israeli too. Right now, we are ‘strong’ and respected, but soon this 2nd generation to immigrants (our parents) will be gone, and I believe that what will be left will not be better off.
    Thank goodness for Birthright for trying to bring instill some Jewish pride, and maybe one day, we’ll know that this Palestinian war was also a blessing to goad Jews to reunite and remind the Jew that his purpose on the planet is not just to party, watch tv, and become a yuppie.

  • segacs 04.19.04, 11:21 PM

    Hey, um, I went on Birthright and there was an awful lot of partying (and even some TV… MTV in Hebrew was kinda funny).

    I don’t share your views that it is necessary to be ultra-Orthodox to maintain Jewish continuity. But hey, like I said, not everyone agrees about everything.

  • josh 04.20.04, 9:22 PM

    I don’t want to be seen as the one with all the answers, cuz I don’t have ’em and prefer that others contribute too since we can only progress together.

    I didn’t say that I think we should all be ultra-orthodox to stay Jewish. I just appreciate that they’re still producing Jews and know the importance of a family that’s more than just 2-3 kids. Granted, IMO, they are too conservative, the fact is that with this they are surviving by changing only ever so slowly, and not us modern people, who enjoy blending into society wherever we live, which time and time again, destroys us.

    I know that Birthright isn’t 100% glatt kosher, and better that way because I think that everyone should procede at their own pace & nothing should be forced on anyone. I think that the important think about Birthright is the exposure to Israel (first time for some or many)and the fact that whatever partying is done (outdoors and elsewhere ;-), is with other Jews and in Israel – where most Jews should b

  • Hanthala 04.20.04, 10:00 PM

    Just out of curiosity…I seem to remember from a course on Judaism in CEGEP that Jews are supposed to have two kids. The idea being one to replace each parent. Any idea? The prof was Orthodox.

  • segacs 04.20.04, 11:21 PM

    My understanding is that “be fruitful and multiply” is a mitzvah that is technically fulfilled by having at least 2 kids – one of each gender – but that most Orthodox Jews view that as the bare minimum. That’s why so many have 10, 11, 12 kids in a family.

    Imagine all the dirty diapers…

  • Hanthala 04.21.04, 6:49 PM

    Eeekh, bad, bad for the environment, and they talk about the Catholics and Muslims(!)

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