I was recently reminded of an article published at a Yeshiva University affiliated website called “The Beacon”, entitled “Why it’s time for Jews to Get Over the Holocaust”, the author had suggested that now is the time that Jews move on and stop making the Holocaust the most pivotal event in Jewish history.
The author suggested that the Holocaust is unnecessarily singled out as if it’s more special or unique than other historical events, he continued and stated that although the Holocaust was on a much greater scale and horrifically well-organized, it was far from the first incident of a dominant power killing those deemed “inferior”. As far as this Yeshiva University student was concerned, men have been perpetrating horrible atrocities on one another for centuries.
He seems to be genuinely puzzled as to why Holocaust denial is considered a crime in over a dozen countries. Surely, for this learned Yeshiva student, this is an overreaction. Do we arrest those who believe and express the opinion that the world is flat, he ponders? Why should denial of a historical event even be considered a crime, something detrimental to society, he asks again and again. Denying the significance and uniqueness of the Holocaust is no different than denying that the world is round, so he believes.
Historical events, as earth-shattering and history-ending as they seem, eventually fade over the course of time from the forefront of public consciousness and become a footnote of historical memory. When Holocaust survivors will no longer be around, and when there is longer an opportunity to let children and educators hear firsthand testimony of the Holocaust, will the Holocaust be just another event studied in world history classes? With all of the effort that has gone into recording testimonies of the Holocaust be enough to preserve historical memory in terms of the magnitude and uniqueness of the Holocaust?
There are few historical events that have undergone greater scrutiny and preservation. Perhaps we can even acknowledge that we’ve done enough to ensure that the Holocaust can never be forgotten. In a moral world, in a world that differentiates between good and evil, right and wrong, this kind of preservation of historical memory would probably suffice.
However, today in the age of “woke” culture that is rooted in signaling support for progressive causes as a substitute for genuine change, and “Critical Race Theory” in which everything is viewed through the prism of cultural relativism; facts and evidence are not enough. The enemies of the Jews and of the State of Israel not only claim that the Jews exaggerate, but that the Holocaust was made up to justify the establishment of the State of Israel. They go even one step further and claim repulsively that Israel itself is implementing a Holocaust on the Palestinian Arabs.
The provocative article from the “The Beacon” that questioned the uniqueness of the Holocaust and was posted on a website affiliated with Yeshiva University is a sign that the Orthodox community is not immune from the politically correct trivialization of the Holocaust and acceptance of intersectionality as the intellectual context of interpreting world events.
Jewish identity that ignores or belittles or “moves beyond” the systematic attempt to exterminate the Jewish race eighty years ago cannot possibly fathom the significance and importance of the establishment of the State of Israel. The Jewish people made a conscience effort to rebuild out of the ashes of the Holocaust. Those that regard the Holocaust as just another unfortunate event cannot be depended on to understand that for modern Israel, in order to deal with existential threats, Israel must do whatever is necessary so that “never again” will not remain an empty slogan.
Those that compare the Holocaust and the Flat Earth Society should be reminded of what the Holocaust was all about. In Daniel Mendelsohn’s book; The Lost, A Search for Six of Six Million, he describes in detail the core horror of Nazi action in collaboration with locals in Bolechow, Poland, September 1942:
A terrible episode happened with Mrs. Grynberg. The Ukrainians and Germans, who had broken into her house, found her giving birth. The weeping and entreaties of Jewish bystanders didn’t help and she was taken from her home in a nightshirt and dragged into the square in front of the town hall. There… she was dragged onto a dumpster in the yard of the town hall with a crowd of Ukrainians present, who cracked jokes and jeered and watched the pain of childbirth and she gave birth to a child. The child was immediately torn from her arms along with its umbilical cord and thrown – It was trampled by the jeerers and she was stood on her feet as blood poured out of her with bleeding bits hanging and she stood that way for a few hours near the wall of the town hall. Afterwards she went with all the others to the train station where they loaded her into a carriage on a train to Belzec…….
In every generation, the Jewish nation has had to deal with the threat of annihilation. In ancient Egypt, it seemed that the Jews would be finished. In ancient Persia, it looked like Haman would have his way and annihilate us. Yet, in the end, the Jewish people were saved. All of these so-called great empires that attempted to annihilate the Jewish nation have all disappeared and against all odds, we the Jewish nation are still around. Not just surviving, but thriving.
The enormity of the Holocaust, with the majority of European Jewry being systemically murdered by barbarians, is a singular event that defies comparison to any other historical event in the last millennium.
In retrospect, the Holocaust compels Jews to confront their own Jewishness. After such unspeakable events such as described above, every Jew must look inside and consider: Hitler tried to exterminate my people and the world stood by in silence. Will I, through apathy and indifference, or by belittling the tragic uniqueness of the Holocaust become a partner to Hitler? Or will my life convey a testimony to the glory of the Jewish people and our resurrection from the ashes.
For this reason alone, we must stand united and dismiss the politically correct idea that it’s time for Jews to get over and move beyond the Holocaust.
International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust will be commemorated throughout the world this year on Friday, January 27, 2023
Ron Jagergrew up in the South Bronx of New York City, making Aliyah in 1980. Served for 25 years in the IDF as a Mental Health Field Officer in operational units. Prior to retiring was Commander of the Central Psychiatric Clinic for Reserve Solders at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring has been involved in strategic consultancy to NGO's and communities in the Gaza Envelope on resiliency projects to assist first responders and communities. Ron has written numerous articles for outlets in Israel and abroad focusing on Israel and the Jewish world.
To contact: [email protected], Website: www.ronjager.com.