Summary: As survivors of the Holocaust decline rapidly in numbers, the attacks on the veracity of the Holocaust, and on Jews and the Jewish State have begun to rapidly escalate. Survivors’ stories are not just reminders of evil actions, but serve as protection from evil ideas. Like the sun’s solar winds that beat back interstellar particles, we have approached the Termination Shock, where the sun’s influence is rapidly fading. Will evil ideas once again proliferate when survivors cannot speak?
Holocaust denial began immediately after World War II. US General Dwight Eisenhower was keenly aware of the risk of deniers openly challenging historical facts and ordered the liberation armies to record the atrocities found at the concentration camps. Decades later, movie producer Steven Spielberg began to record the testimonies of Jews that survived the attempted extermination of the Jewish people to add personal histories of what transpired.
But the movies of the camps and recorded testimonies are a step removed. Ideally, one interacts with the survivors themselves to truly understand the evils and horrors of the Shoah.
Many Jewish schools developed programs such as Names Not Numbers and Witness Theater to connect today’s youth with Holocaust survivors. The students interviewed survivors and helped retell their stories of life before, during and after World War II through film and theater.
The programs were more than teaching moments for the children. The human interaction with the survivors became a bond with the past and a protection from potential risks in the future. Learning about world events from only history books can leave a distance from the topic. However, engaging directly to living history cements lessons into those children for their lifetimes. Those lessons are of life and death.
THE HOLOCAUST AND ANTISEMITISM TODAY
One of the shocking things that students heard firsthand from survivors was how “normal” life was for Jews in Europe. In Germany and Austria, sophisticated societies had Jews among the elites including university professors, artists and financiers. Overall, life was decent before the Nazis came to power.
While it may have once been convenient to think of German society as primitive to harbor such evil anti-Semitic feelings, Germans were highly educated. The history of Germany shows that hatred comes in all formats: primitive and sophisticated; rich and poor; from the powerful and the meek.
Pure hatred stems from a conviction of complete superiority (Germans called Jews “Untermench“) coupled with the belief in the cause of completely controlling people. When a society with such sentiments attains power, atrocities follow. Education and employment are no shield, despite what the Obama administration says today.
Echoes of the Holocaust have returned loudly today. The calls of “the Nazis were right” outside synagogues in Europe; the comparison of Israel to the Nazi state and Israeli PM Netanyahu to Hitler; the sale of Nazi-themed merchandise in large department stores; UN agencies calling out NGOs defending Israel as comparable to Nazis; mainstream US papers trivializing the Holocaust by comparing it to the Palestinian Nakba have become commonplace. Further aggravating the situation was the press’s refusal to label the incidents as antisemitc. Even US President Obama refused to call the killings in a Parisian kosher supermarket an attack against Jews. Attacks have become invisible in their motivation and assume the role of the new normal.
A chorus that Jews and Israel consider themselves Ubermenchen that seek to control Palestinian Arabs, world banks and media have again gained appeal in a repeat of historic anti-Semitic trope. The inversion of victim-and-attacker gives rationale for assuming the role of attacker and attacking the victim.
THE PROTECTIVE FORCE
Right after the Holocaust, in December 1948, the United Nations developed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UNDHR. Its goal was to serve as a bright red line declaring that every individual has basic rights that must be protected. Every Holocaust survivor that walked the planet was a symbol of this important declaration.
Survivors are the beacons of the UNDHR.
- Holding a survivor’s hand is a reminder of their humanity.
- Hearing their histories is an opportunity to reflect on society.
- Retelling their stories is a means of incorporating the reality.
Survivors are living defensive forces against evil run amok.
Our world is not only reliant on the sun for light and warmth. Life on Earth would not exist without invisible shields of magnetic fields emanation from the Earth itself and solar winds from the sun. The solar wind deflects the interstellar ionized particles that continually bombard our solar system which would make life impossible.
But those invisible forces only go so far. As they peter out, space itself becomes choppy and dangerous as the solar winds are compressed. The Termination Shock is that point where the protective barriers begin to give way to the hostile forces of the universe.
As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindle, the important message they carry has begun to fade. The Termination Shock of Survivors is leaving their stories as lines in history books, which people can opt to read, ignore or doubt. The beacons are going dark and the universal message they carry is growing faint.
Survivors are not only protection for Jews against the world. They are a reminder for everyone: for Jews about Jews and non-Jews; and for the world about Jews and non-Jews too. But the world is already growing deaf and blind.
The calls for the eradication of people must not be allowed to stand. But they do. Iran’s call for the destruction of the US and Israel should be grounds for expulsion from the United Nations. Hamas’ call for the killing of Jews should be the immediate and automatic withdrawal of all UNRWA staff from the Gaza Strip. But they don’t.
It is no surprise that Hamas refuses to allow the teaching of the Holocaust in UNRWA schools or that the Iranian regime loudly denies the Holocaust. However, it is shocking that the world is getting ready to take the next backwards steps in annulling the UNDHR by empowering these very same entities.
Thousands of survivors are yet alive, but the lessons of the Holocaust and the significance of the UNDHR is becoming localized to the handful that are already receptive to the message. Where will the world be when we pass the heliopause, and are no longer protected by the invisible power of the Survivors?
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