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January 26, 2015 0

What We Learned From Auschwitz

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

The 70th anniver­sary of the lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz, which will be marked Jan­u­ary 27 on Inter­na­tional Holo­caust Remem­brance Day, comes at a time when some are ask­ing: is it hap­pen­ing all over again in Europe?

We know the ratio­nal answer to that ques­tion. As bad as the resur­gence of anti-Semitism in Europe is, there is no com­par­i­son to Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.  Then, a party com­mit­ted to the destruc­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple gained total power in Ger­many and even­tu­ally con­trolled most of Europe, enabling the sys­tem­atic mur­der of six mil­lion Jews and mil­lions of oth­ers in the Holocaust.

Today, gov­ern­ments in Europe are not espous­ing anti-Semitism; they are coun­ter­ing it, even if not strongly enough.

If it isn’t the Holo­caust – and, if it isn’t help­ful to under­stand today’s immense chal­lenges by com­par­ing it to the Holo­caust — does Auschwitz present any lessons at all for today?

I would say there are several.

First is the role of hate­ful ide­olo­gies in pro­duc­ing vio­lent, anti-Semitic behav­ior. While today’s anti-Semites in Europe do not con­trol gov­ern­ments, they are able to mobi­lize indi­vid­u­als com­mit­ted to vio­lence on the basis of fan­tas­ti­cal notions about the unique evil of Jews.

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s min­is­ter of pro­pa­ganda, con­vinced Ger­mans not merely to dis­like Jews but to believe that they had to pro­tect them­selves from the evil, all-powerful Jew who was poi­son­ing the Ger­man body politic. So too today, the Islamic extrem­ists, whether it’s Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, or Hezbol­lah, see the Jew as the source of evil in the world.

The Hamas char­ter not only repeat­edly calls for the destruc­tion of Israel. It claims that Jews are respon­si­ble for all the ills of the mod­ern world going back to the French Revolution.

When Al-Qaeda decided to attack the World Trade Cen­ter on Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001, it was only after they con­sid­ered hit­ting Jew­ish tar­gets in New York. Even the World Trade Cen­ter was seen as partly a “Jew­ish” tar­get since it was deemed that Jews con­trol world com­merce, per the “Pro­to­cols of the Learned Elders of Zion.”

Once it is decided that Jews are the source of evil, then it is almost a respon­si­bil­ity to act against them. And so attacks on Jew­ish civil­ians, who rep­re­sent evil in ordi­nary form, become permissible.

We must fight this ide­ol­ogy of hatred. We must not equiv­o­cate in call­ing it what it is and in ral­ly­ing peo­ple of all faiths against it.

A sec­ond les­son is that shame about what anti-Semitism could lead to, which man­i­fested itself with the appear­ance of the first pic­tures of Auschwitz after the lib­er­a­tion, is an impor­tant inhibitor of anti-Semitism.

It does not cure the world of the dis­ease of anti-Semitism, which is so deeply embed­ded and serves so many pur­poses, but it does affect the level and inten­sity of anti-Semitic behavior.

For decades, anti-Semitism did not explode as a phe­nom­e­non, partly because of this shame. As time passes, and the imme­di­acy of the Holo­caust recedes, it makes more impor­tant than ever the need to develop new and cre­ative ways to reach younger peo­ple about its horrors.

I remem­ber hear­ing some years ago from Rita Suss­muth of the Ger­man Bun­destag, who talked of the need for new and emo­tional meth­ods in reach­ing each gen­er­a­tion of young peo­ple who are fur­ther and fur­ther removed from the events in World War II. We must never give up the strug­gle to explain what anti-Semitism can lead to.

A third les­son for me is the inti­mate con­nec­tion between anti-Semitism and the health of a demo­c­ra­tic soci­ety. Whether it is the expres­sion that Jews are the canary in the coal mine or Pas­tor Mar­tin Niemoller’s famous lines about the con­se­quences of not stand­ing up in the face of evil, Auschwitz is not only about the evils of anti-Semitism, but also how its going unchecked invari­ably endan­gers all of society.

The fight against anti-Semitism should never be seen as sim­ply a moral strug­gle. It is a prac­ti­cal one, as spo­ken so elo­quently by Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls to the French par­lia­ment after the ter­ror­ist attacks on Char­lie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket.

How, he asked, could French soci­ety not speak up and be out­raged when Jews were insulted, when van­dals vio­lated Jew­ish insti­tu­tions, when pro­tes­tors sought to invade a syn­a­gogue?  His mes­sage was clear: All of France needs to stand up early and loud when Jews are under attack. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is vital for the well-being of French society.

The mur­der­ous attack on Char­lie Hebdo inevitably fol­lows the mur­der of three Jew­ish chil­dren in Toulouse. The tar­get­ing of Jews in Nazi Ger­many invari­ably led to the efforts by Hitler to dom­i­nate and enslave the world.

So as we observe the 70th year of the lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz and Inter­na­tional Holo­caust Remem­brance Day on Tues­day, the impor­tance of know­ing what hap­pened there and of trans­mit­ting it to the next gen­er­a­tion is more urgent than ever.
Threats to Jews today are greater than they have been since those darker days.  And those threats, as taught by the lessons of Auschwitz, threaten all of us.

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January 22, 2015 0

Bittersweet Freedom

“After Auschwitz, the human con­di­tion is not the same, noth­ing will be the same.“
– Elie Wiesel

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Credit: Yad Vashem

Jan­u­ary 27th marks the 70th anniver­sary of the lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz Birke­nau Con­cen­tra­tion Camp by the Russ­ian army at the end of World War II.  For those who were able to sur­vive the hor­rors of Auschwitz, finally hear­ing the words “We’re free! We’re free!” echo­ing across the camp bar­racks must have seemed almost too good to be true. We often hear sto­ries of the ini­tial encounter between camp sur­vivors and the lib­er­at­ing army, recounted by one child sur­vivor, “They gave us hugs, cook­ies, and choco­late. Being so alone, a hug meant more than any­body could imag­ine because that replaced the human worth that we were starv­ing for. We were not only starved for food but we were starved for human kindness.”

Peo­ple rarely con­sider what hap­pened to the anti-Semitism that was at the root of the Holo­caust once the war ended. There is some­times an assump­tion that anti-Semitism ended with the war or that it was greatly dimin­ished. In fact, this is never the case when geno­cide occurs. The hatred and prej­u­dice still exist, but their man­i­fes­ta­tion is not always bla­tantly obvi­ous.  In the case of the Holo­caust, the world felt a col­lec­tive sense of shame in fac­ing the images of sur­vivors, which was a strong inhibit­ing force against the bla­tant expres­sion of anti-Semitism. Today, decades later and with new gen­er­a­tions ris­ing, the ero­sion of that sense of shame has become a key fac­tor in the surge of anti-Semitism. That’s why edu­ca­tion is more impor­tant now than ever.

After lib­er­a­tion, the sur­vivors of Auschwitz were free to walk out of the camp, and were essen­tially on their own to make their way back to their com­mu­ni­ties and learn if their for­mer homes and val­ued pos­ses­sions were still there.  Many of the young women who sur­vived the camp trav­elled together in small groups, some­times for long dis­tances. Sleep­ing in barns, sheds or out­side in the woods, they were fre­quent vic­tims of vio­lent sex­ual assaults from maraud­ing sol­diers, attacks from which some did not sur­vive. They were tar­geted for two rea­sons – because they were women and because they were Jewish.

The lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz is clearly a crit­i­cally impor­tant event in the his­tory of the Holo­caust and one that should hold an impor­tant place in our col­lec­tive mem­o­ries.  But we also need to be mind­ful that anti-Semitism did not mag­i­cally dis­ap­pear with the lib­er­a­tion of the camps or the sign­ing of the peace treaties.  Today, anti-Semitism has reached to all-time highs across Europe and our mem­o­ries need to be tem­pered with a renewed vig­i­lance to con­tinue to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of prej­u­dice, from sub­tle stereo­types and Holo­caust “jokes” to vio­lent hate crimes against peo­ple per­pe­trated because of who they are.  Only then, will the man­date of “Never Again” become a reality.

How do we bring the lessons of the Holo­caust to stu­dents today in ways that are rel­e­vant to their lives?  The Anti-Defamation League pro­vides pro­grams and resources that help edu­ca­tors and stu­dents study the his­tory of the Holo­caust and apply its lessons to con­tem­po­rary issues of respon­si­ble cit­i­zen­ship, moral deci­sion mak­ing, prej­u­dice, hate, and geno­cide.  Teach­ers can inte­grate mul­ti­me­dia cur­ric­ula into their class­rooms through Echoes and Reflec­tions.

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February 26, 2014 1

Iran Press TV Provides Platform To Emerging Anti-Semitic Voices

Iran’s English-language satel­lite news net­work, Press TV, which pro­vides a plat­form for some of the most well-known anti-Semites, con­spir­acy the­o­rists and Holo­caust deniers in the U.S., also enables lesser known anti-Semites to gain expo­sure for their views.press-tv-anti-semitism-holocaust

Bran­don Mar­tinez, a Canada-based free­lance writer who pro­motes Holo­caust denial and anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries, is among the lat­est fringe voices to be pub­lished by Press TV.

Martinez’s arti­cle, pub­lished on Feb­ru­ary 24, 2014, and titled, “Zion­ist excep­tion­al­ism, fears WW2 truth,” is steeped with anti-Semitic claims and bla­tant Holo­caust denial. In his arti­cle, Mar­tinez describes the Nazi death camp Auschwitz as a pleas­ant place where Jews were encour­aged to join in activ­i­ties, such as play­ing in the orches­tra or par­tic­i­pat­ing in “other cul­tural and leisure activities.”

Mar­tinez not only denies the num­ber of Jews who fell vic­tim to Nazi atroc­i­ties dur­ing World War II, but also denies the exis­tence of gas cham­bers and the use of Zyk­lon B in the mass exter­mi­na­tion of Europe’s Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion. To back up these claims, Mar­tinez cites Holo­caust deniers Mark Web­ber and David Irv­ing.

Fol­low­ing the U.S. tem­po­rary waiver of sanc­tions on broad­casts by Iran’s broad­cast­ing author­ity which broad­casts Press TV, this bla­tantly anti-Semitic con­tent is once again more avail­able to audi­ences in the U.S.

Accord­ing to a biog­ra­phy pro­vided on Press TV’s web­site, Mar­tinez writes on Zion­ism, for­eign pol­icy and “decep­tion in media and pol­i­tics.” Press TV has pub­lished Martinez’s arti­cles on its web­site since Novem­ber 2013 when it pub­lished his first piece on Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper’s visit to Israel. In that arti­cle, Mar­tinez describes Israel as a rogue regime “Born out of ter­ror­ism and eth­nic cleans­ing,” and describes Prime Min­is­ter Harper as “being sub­servience to Israel.”

Martinez’s arti­cles are also found on his per­sonal blog, The Thoughts and Writ­ings of Bran­don Mar­tinez, as well as on con­spir­a­to­r­ial anti-Semitic web­sites like Vet­er­ans Today, and its affil­i­ated site Vet­er­ans News Now.

Below are some exam­ples from Martinez’s arti­cles that have appeared on Press TV and other anti-Semitic websites:

  • Feb­ru­ary 16, 2014:  In an arti­cle titled “Scru­ti­niz­ing Israel role in 2001 anthrax attacks,” Mar­tinez claims that the anthrax attacks imme­di­ately fol­low­ing the 9/11 ter­ror­ist bomb­ings orig­i­nated from Israel’s bio­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal indus­try, and implied the exis­tence of a nefar­i­ous col­lab­o­ra­tion between the Israel and the Bush admin­is­tra­tion to carry out the attacks. Mar­tinez also claims that the Israelis placed the blame for the anthrax attacks on its Arab ene­mies as a pre­text to force the U.S. to go to war against Iraq.
  • Jan­u­ary 26, 2014: In an arti­cle titled “Israeli mil­i­tarism pred­i­cated on 9/11 decep­tion,” Mar­tinez claims that Israel has a his­tory of con­duct­ing false flag oper­a­tions and that the 9/11 attack was Israel’s “grand­est deception.”
  • Jan­u­ary 13, 2014: In an arti­cle titled “Zion­ist per­ver­sion of his­tory threat­ens world peace,” Mar­tinez pro­motes the age-old anti-Semitic con­spir­acy of Zion­ist con­trol over Hol­ly­wood. Zion­ist con­trol of Hol­ly­wood, Mar­tinez alleges, is why Hitler is depicted as a “vil­lain­ous demon,” while in real­ity, “Zion­ist Jews them­selves were Hitler’s most enthu­si­as­tic col­lab­o­ra­tors.” Else­where in the arti­cle, Mar­tinez calls the Holo­caust and the num­ber of Jew­ish vic­tims a “myth” and part of “Zion­ist propaganda.”

Extrem­ists like anti-Semite David Duke, anti-Semitic colum­nist Kevin Bar­rett and Holo­caust deny­ing book pub­lisher Michael San­tomauro, remain fre­quent con­trib­u­tors to Press TV’s web­site and reg­u­larly fea­tured on the network’s programs.

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