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April 16, 2015

Yom Hashoah: The Renewed Importance of Remembering

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Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated each year a week after the end of the Passover holiday, a day when the world pauses  to remember the Holocaust, the millions who died and those who lived on, many to tell their stories to a generation born more than half a century later. To the younger among us, the Holocaust can feel like ancient history. Why is it important that we remember? And why do we continue to utter the mandate of Never Again, when the reality is that genocide has occurred again and again in parts of the world today.

It is often said that our youngest generation will be the last to meet and hear survivors tell their own stories, and those that have this privilege are unlikely to ever forget it. There are important lessons to be learned from survivors’ words and experiences, lessons that still have relevance to students’ lives today. One important lesson is about the tendency of hate to escalate when it is unchecked.  When we witness everyday acts of insensitivity, bias or intolerance, it’s easy to turn our backs and walk away, to avoid getting involved. Many did just that in Europe seventy years ago, and that subtle bias was able to grow and fester like a cancer.  A wise person once reminded us that the Holocaust did not begin at the gates of concentration camps. It began with words – words that grew into prejudice and then acts of discrimination and bias-motivated violence and finally genocide.

We remember the Holocaust because of our hope that the world will never go through darkness as deep as that, but also because we know that the millions who did not survive to tell their stories took with them a world of lost possibilities. They would want to know that they were not forgotten. And because today’s youth will be the last to hear survivors speak in person, there is a renewed importance to finding new ways to keep their stories alive.

But how do we do that?  And how do we inspire in one another the motivation to make Never Again the reality the world longs for?  We can begin by taking a moment wherever we are to remember those who died. We can be witnesses who carry on the stories we have heard to others.  We can ensure that students today have opportunities to reflect on the lessons of the Holocaust and to hear the stories of survivors, resisters and rescuers.  And we can take the time to stop and take a stand against the insensitive, biased and intolerant words and acts that happen around us. Working together, we may even turn the hope of Never Again into a global reality.

Yom Hashoah will be observed on the following dates:

Thursday, April 16, 2015 Thursday, May 5, 2016 Monday, April 24, 2017 Thursday, April 12, 2018

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April 2, 2015

AFA Radio Host Bryan Fischer Tweets Offensive Holocaust Analogy

Bryan Fischer, a radio host and blogger for the American Family Association (AFA), tweeted an offensive Holocaust analogy on April 1. Fischer likened the temporary closure of a restaurant in Indiana, whose owners said they would refuse to cater a gay wedding, to Kristallnacht, a violent pogrom carried out by Nazi storm troopers in Germany and Austria in 1938.  Kristallnacht led to the destruction of thousands of Jewish synagogues, homes and businesses as well as arrests and the deaths of Jews and opened the door to the persecution and destruction of European Jewry. Fischer also blamed the restaurant’s decision to close due to the public’s negative reaction on the “Gay Gestapo.”

Bryan Fischer

Bryan Fischer

In January 2015, the AFA dismissed Fischer as a spokesperson for the organization but he continues to host a radio show for the AFA and to write blogs on the AFA website that demonize the LGBT community.

Fischer often invokes the Holocaust to discuss contemporary American political issues, particularly with regard to the LGBT community. He has made a number of statements likening LGBT activists to Nazis and conservative Christians to Jews who were persecuted under Hitler’s regime. He also compared the Supreme Court to Nazis after it struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

There is no comparison between current political issues and the actions of Hitler’s regime during the Holocaust. Such inappropriate analogies only serve to trivialize the Holocaust and are deeply offensive to Jews and other survivors, as well as those Americans who fought valiantly against the Nazis during World War II.

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February 26, 2015

Mein Kampf Back on German Bookshelves – The Right Way

For the first time since the end of World War II, Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kampf, will be available for sale in Germany. The 2,000-page edition includes extensive footnotes and historic annotations deemed critical by the German Government to the book being viewed in its appropriate context.adolf-hitler-mein-kampf-book

In a January 2014 Op-Ed in the New York Daily News, Anti-Defamation League National Director, Abraham H. Fox­man pre­sciently said,” As an impor­tant his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ment, “Mein Kampf” must remain avail­able to the pub­lic — but not with­out the essen­tial sup­ple­men­tary texts; the intro­duc­tions and adden­dums that put Hitler’s writ­ings into con­text and explain their rel­e­vance today.”

The German Government’s hand was forced on the issue when data came out that Mein Kampf was the top downloaded political science book on Amazon in 2013.  It has been readily available on many services outside Germany, where access by German citizens cannot be prevented. Additionally, the copyright on Mein Kampf expires this December which would make it freely available all across the Internet.

Major online book retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble have worked with ADL over the years to place editorial reviews on Mein Kampf and other anti-Semitic works such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The International Jew to ensure that customers fully understand the authors’ background, intent, context and any issues surrounding the publications.  Recognizing that Mein Kampf will be readily available in Germany and can be an important educational tool, it is appropriate to acknowledge and support the German Government’s insistence upon providing the necessary context.

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