This Thursday is Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and is a difficult day for most Jews for obvious reasons. It is another day that is going to have new significance for me because one of the consequences of the Holocaust is all around me now, our new home. What worries me are predictions that future generations will forget what happened to Jews during the Second World War and in the many attacks on our ancestors in the past.
One of the admonishments that has been passed down to each new generation since the Holocaust is that we must never forget what occurred during that terrible time. If we forget, we become complacent and we could allow another, similar tragedy to occur again. As controversial as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech in the US Congress was, this extract isn’t:
… Standing up to dark and murderous regimes never is. With us today is Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel. Elie, your life and work inspires to give meaning to the words, “Never Again.” And I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned. I can only urge the leaders of the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Not to sacrifice the future for the present; not to ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.
But I can guarantee you this, the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over. We are no longer scattered among the nations, powerless to defend ourselves. We restored our sovereignty in our ancient home. And the soldiers who defend our home have boundless courage. For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.
The Times of Israel published an article titled “Almost half of Israelis say another Holocaust is possible” and while the world is a dangerous place for Jews living in Israel as well as outside Israel, the prospect that future generations will forget the Holocaust is scarier:
Some 46% of [Holocaust] survivors also say that future generations will not remember the Holocaust after they are gone, a spike of nine percentage points from last year’s study. A lower 31% of the general public has the same worry, while half of Israelis under 30, the study found, never knowingly met a Holocaust survivor.
We will teach our children about this dark part of our history when they are ready for it. It is an important part of their identity and a little part of our collective defense such a tragedy ever happening again. As PM Netanyahu said, “we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.”.
Never again. Never forget.
Photo credit: Prisoners in the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen from Marion Doss, licensed CC BY-SA 2.0