Thursday, May 5, was the annual observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day. "Jews across the globe Thursday observed Yom HaShoah, the day commemorating the deaths of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust during World War II." Many outside the Jewish community commemorate or otherwise take note of the day, and its significance for Jewish, for European, and for world history. The level of decimation, amounting to genocide, has its macabre cousins in other lands as well, but the story of the European Jews set upon by Hitler and his minions, pushed out of view by the continent's majority of Humanists and Christians alike, has been told so far and so wide, that continued denial becomes more and more difficult. It would seem. One would like to think.
This year in Israel, as each year, a siren brawt the citizenry to standstill in silence, while the nation's political leader, Ariel Sharon made a trip to Poland where he delivered a solemn address at the site of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, a unique kind of concentration constructed by the Nazis to destroy the bodily evidence of the death of the destruction of Jews by gassing and burning. Hence the idea of burnt sacrifice that hovers about the concept of Holocaust; but in its main meaning now this was no voluntary offering in the ancient Temple of an animal substitute, the proverbial sacrificial lamb. Instead, this Holocaust burnt up a human population in their generations according to a Nazi design and apparatus built for genocide. CNN reports on the speech of Israel's Prime Minister, the text of which is now on the official website of Sharon's office:
Accompanied by a delegation that included Holocaust survivors, [Sharon] described them as 'men and women who survived persecution, torture, mental and physical degradation; true heroes who experienced the death marches, the deportations and searches, who survived ghettos, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, valleys of death, and concentration and death camps whose monstrous names are carved in blood in the history of our people.' ¶ 'Do not forget how millions of Jews were marched to their deaths while the world stood silent; how thousands of Jews floundered in stormy waters searching in vain for sanctuary while the world stood silent; how the borders were closed and how the Jews were herded again behind barbed-wire fences -- into detention camps in Cyprus.' ¶ He added: "I am certain that all my colleagues -- world leaders -- remember how the world stood by in silence. Do not let them forget -- remember the silence of the world."
Of course, there is no disconnecting the aspirations of most Jews for the Israeili State from the politics of Israel's survival surrounded by a huge majority of Arab peoples, including those who want to return to their abandoned homes and gardens. But this year the current-political dimension of Holocaust Remembrance also brawt another pheonomenon into the overall picture in Israel. The memorial to the Righteous Gentiles who hid Jews from the Gestapo and helped in other life-saving ways, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, was marred with graffitti accusing Sharon of being himself a Nazi, equating him with Adolf Hitler. This kind of use of Sharon's name has been stock-in-trade for certain of the settlers who face removal this year from Gaza and West Bank settlements.
In another development, the commemorations in the last few days in Germany, were confronted with a planned March by several hundred neo-Nazis on the 60th Anniversary of Germany's surrender to the Allies. Pre-empting those plans, many thousands of Berliners and Germans from all over the country conducted a vigil stretching from the distant west of the city to its centre at the Brandenburg Gate, thru which the Nazis had applied to march tne next day, on their way past the national memorail to the Holocaust. The courts did not permit that symbolic move, but the Nazis under the name of the National Democratic Party were permitted to march, while far-left groups prepared to put their own stamp on the stream of events by means of violent interference with the NDP march. According to Erik Kirschenbaum, reporting for Reuters, Berlin's Mayor took a strong position:
"We want to stand up to these incorrigible people who even today are denying what happened under the Nazi rule," said Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit at the start of two days of "festival for democracy" events around the Brandenburg Gate. ¶ "May 8, 1945 was a day of liberation for Berlin, Germany and Europe from Nazi dictatorship," he added. "This date has a lasting meaning for history -- never again terror, war and genocide. We must remain vigilant." ¶ On Sunday, President Horst Koehler will speak to a special assembly of both houses of parliament in a solemn address of remembrance for the Nazis' victims. It will also be broadcast on giant screens at the Brandenburg Gate a few hundred meters away.
Even the commenoration of so greivous a historical period of desolation, the Second World War, including its epitomizing process of extermination of a people the Jews in the Holocaust, and of the Gypsies (Roma people) and numerous other communities and leaderships and ordinary people, does not prevent the infusion of current discontents into a mass psychic delusion such as neo-Nazism into a political party like the National Democrats (NDP) today.