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Holocaust Organizations, Scholars and Educators Sound Alarm on Surge in Hate Crimes

I wanted to share this important statement by many individuals and institutions involved in Holocaust education, calling us all to stand up against intolerance and condemn hate speech.

From the press release:

Holocaust Organizations, Scholars and Educators Sound Alarm on Surge in Hate Crimes

(New York, NY) – In a powerful statement issued by an array of Holocaust institutions, scholars and educators from around the world, an alarm is being sounded on the rise of groups that promote intolerance and hate speech. These 90 institutions and 71 individuals call on lawmakers to condemn white nationalist groups and ask citizens to be vigilant.

The statement is as follows:

Recent months have seen a surge in unabashed racism and hate speech – including blatant antisemitism and attacks on Hispanics, Muslims, African-Americans, women, the LGBTQ community, as well as other targeted groups.  Journalists have been threatened.  Places of worship, schools and playgrounds have been defaced with Nazi symbols intended to intimidate and arouse fear.  White supremacist groups have become self-congratulatory and emboldened.

As Holocaust scholars, educators and institutions, we are alarmed by these trends.  History teaches us that intolerance, unchecked, leads to persecution and violence.  We denounce racism and the politics of fear that fuels it.  We stand in solidarity with all vulnerable groups.  We take Elie Wiesel’s words to heart: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation."

Therefore, we call upon all elected officials as well as all civic and religious leaders to forcefully and explicitly condemn the rise in hate speech and any attacks on our democratic principles.  We call upon all media and social media platforms to refuse to provide a stage for hate groups and thus normalize their agenda.  And we call upon all people of good conscience to be vigilant, to not be afraid, and to speak out.

This statement is co-authored by members of the Association of Holocaust Organizations, a network dedicated to the advancement of Holocaust education, remembrance and research, and is affirmed by the following institutions and individuals:

The Hinge Generation

An amazing read about how the Holocaust memory will be passed on through the coming generations, by Carol Elias:

From the article:

“The guardianship of the Holocaust is being passed on to us. The second generation is the hinge generation in which received, transferred knowledge of events is transmuted; into history, or into myth.” (Hoffman 2004, xv)

"The impetus for this journey began as an answer or explanation as to why I almost never say the words, 'I love you'. During my grandparents' war-torn generation the ability to express affection almost disappeared. It was as if expressing words of love after the horrors they had faced would somehow demean the enormity of the tragedy. If you could love again, then how bad could it have really been?"

"It is my hope to begin this process as an intergenerational and international discussion. Many of us alive today have been affected by the Holocaust in some way; Jewish or not, survivors and their families or not, and yet we continue to relate to the Holocaust as if it had begun only recently."

Defying the Nazis - a film about Unitarian Universalist rescuers

I read about an interesting film, "Defying the Nazis," by filmmakers Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky, in the Jewish Week:

Joukowsky raised money from family and friends for the documentary, and wrote a book about their exploits; he also established a foundation that awards grants and gives the Sharp Rescuer Prize, which promotes “humanitarian work “ following his grandparents' example.

He has framed the couples story in both amacro context (World War ll and the Holocaust) and in a micro one (the effect of the Sharps' decisions had on their children and on their marriage). His goal was to personalize the Shoah. Ken Burns is quoted in the article: “It's very difficult to say the words ‘six million’ and have them have any meaning.”

The documentary includes interviews with people rescued by the Sharps, authors, historians and Holocaust scholars. Burns worked on the project frame-by-frame. “He's meticulous….a perfectionist."  Burns recruited Tom Hanks to serve as Waitstills voice; in vintage Burnsian fashion, Hanks reads from letters and journals. There is also a haunting musical score, and dramatic re-enactments. 

Implied in “Defying the Nazis” are several questions: What is the cost of personal sacrifice? What are the limits of commitment to an ideal? What would you do in the Sharps' shoes?


If this sounds interesting to you, watch it! “Defying the Nazis” will be broadcast on PBS on Sept. 20, 9 p.m., and will be screened at Village Cinema, 22 E. 12th St. in Manhattan Sept. 9-15.


"Racism is as human as love"

I wanted to share Thomas Keneally's article, PERSPECTIVE ON RACE HATRED: For Gentiles, Too, the Holocaust Is Never to Be Forgotten – This singular crime is not a Jewish problem but a European problem, the apex of centuries of cross-cultural hatreds. Published on January 31, 1994, in the LA Times. 

Thomas Keneally, author of the book "Schindler's List," is a Distinguished Professor in UC Irvine's department of English and comparative literature.

Read the full article here:

From the article: 

Racism is as human as love. In defining ourselves, the tribe we belong to, its mores, we are tempted to believe in the inferiority of the culture and mores of other groups. Prejudice is the hairy backside of what we all need: a sense of identity. Sometimes, the more grand the cultural identity, the greater is the temptation to racism. The officers of the Einsatzgruppen, the SS killing squads, all loved their Mozart and their Goethe.

Over every question of race or group hate lies the shadow of the Holocaust. . . As a Gentile, an Australian of Irish Catholic background, I have no hesitation in saying that the Holocaust should be talked about again and again and should not be forgotten. The reason is that the Holocaust is the most extreme version of rootless race hate in European history. Classic European anti-Semitism was based more on the idea that the Jews had killed Christ and were engaged in an anti-European philosophic and financial conspiracy than on any measurable harm done to Europe. No one could point to Jewish massacres of Christians, though in Poland and Germany vague but intense hate was able to be engineered into blaming Jews for the economic problems of both countries. But who could say, my mother was raped by a Jew, my father hanged by one?

...the Holocaust remains for me not a Jewish problem but a European one. The Germans themselves are grappling with a conflict about this among their historians--how to fit this unique event into German history, into the German and European imagination. And that is not the Jews' fault. It is the fault of Europe, which has pursued anti-Semitism consistently since the Middle Ages and has still not yet repented of it. It is the grand Europe that all us people from the new world love to visit and rightly admire that brought race hate to its ultimate conclusion. That is why it is important for Gentiles to retain the memory of the Holocaust, and to receive the warnings inherent in it.

"We can’t look forward until we can look back"

I wanted to share this review by Ron Rosenbaum in the NY Times Book Review, September 24, 2006: "Giving Death a Face," about Daniel Mendelsohn's book “The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million”

Read the full review here:

From the article:

"The Holocaust is so big, the scale of it is so gigantic, so enormous, that it becomes easy to think of it as something mechanical. Anonymous. But everything that happened, happened because someone made a decision. To pull a trigger, to flip a switch, to close a cattle car door, to hide, to betray."

How do you tell the story of the Holocaust in a way that encompasses both its vast geopolitical and its intimately personal dimensions?

Mendelsohn’s initial quest begins with normal, if death-inflected, genealogical curiosity. The fact that his begins with a physical resemblance to one of the Lost suggests that an important aspect of the obsession is a search for his own identity, his face in the face of the Loss. The tears he provoked as a child grow in this saga into a meditation upon “the tears of things”; the sorrow of one family becomes the sorrow of us all.

. . . Not knowing certain stories, being ignorant of intricate histories that, unbeknownst to us, frame the present, can be a grave mistake.”

Mendelsohn sees the episode of Lot’s wife as a warning that “regret for what we have lost, for the pasts we have to abandon, often poisons any attempt to make a new life.” For those compelled to look “back at what has been, rather than forward in to the future, the great danger is tears, the unstoppable weeping the Greeks…knew was not only a pain, but a narcotic pleasure, too: a mournful contemplation so flawless, so crystalline, that it can, in the end, immobilize you.”

We can’t look forward until we can look back, until we know how we came to be who we are – until we know what we have lost.

Mendelsohn writes: “Whatever we see in museums, the artifacts and the evidence, can give us only the dimmest comprehension of what the event itself was like. . . We must be careful when we try to envision ‘what it was like.’