Lest we forget the Shoah…writes Alan Gold

April 26, 2016 by Alan Gold
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The recent commemoration of the 101st ANZAC Day was observed by tens of thousands of men, women and children in every city and town in Australia, as well as in the fields of France and on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula.

Alan Gold

Alan Gold

And what was particularly remarkable was that many of the people who lined the streets in respect and reverence of the sacrifice made by thousands of young Australian and New Zealand men, had only a distant connection with the soldiers who were killed. Most of the marchers in the parades were too young even to have known their grandfathers or great uncles who died for their country.

In Gallipoli, large numbers who made the long journey to the distant shores where thousands of young men died, were themselves young, and the majority had only tenuous connection with the catastrophe. They were there to honour the memory of the soldiers who fell, because, in the words of the Roman poet Horace “It is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country.”

Every year, the numbers of people who attend the moving dawn ceremony is growing, despite the century which separates the commemoration from the event.

Yet there’s a strange contrast between the larger and larger crowds at ANZAC services, and the diminishing numbers of Jews who attend the commemoration of the greatest crime and mass-murder in all of recorded history.

Jewish community leaders around this and other nations are working to make the commemoration of the Shoah relevant to today’s and tomorrow’s generations of young Jews, almost all of whom are connected to a victim of the Shoah.

While it is inappropriate to compare one tragedy with another, there are salutary lessons to be drawn. Because what makes the distinction between the commemoration of ANZAC Day and Shoah Remembrance Day even more stark, is the growing trend of Holocaust denialism. For those decreasing numbers of men and women survivors of Hitler’s attempted genocide of the Jewish people, the denial of their suffering, the accusation that they’re all collectively lying about what happened to them in their youth, is the greatest imaginable hurt which can be perpetrated.

In the days before the advent of the Internet, only a handful of anti-Semitic pseudo-historians, calling themselves researchers or historical revisionists, promoted the inane and absurd hypotheses that the Shoah was an invention.

But since the appropriation of parts of the World Wide Web by Islamist extremists and Jew-hating fanatics, the growth of Holocaust denialism has been exponential. And it’s even become a function of the anti-Zionist movement, where proponents of the destruction of the Jewish State promote the idea that Jewish leaders have used the Shoah as justification for the denial of Palestinian rights and aspirations.

The ANZAC’s ‘Lest We Forget’ is the antithesis of how the world is reacting to memorializing the Holocaust. Whilst much of Australia’s identity is bound up in the ANZAC tradition, the Shoah is increasingly becoming an Albatross around the necks of young Jews. And this, despite the fact that, unlike most ANZAC marchers, most Jews do have a direct connection with a family member who was a victim of the Shoah.

Some years ago, as the Chair of the New South Wales Holocaust Memorial Committee, I was giving a speech about the Shoah to a large gathering of a particular service charity in Sydney. At the end of my talk, the first question I was asked by an elderly man was “When are you people going to get over the Holocaust and get on with living for today? You can’t keep living in the past, you know.”

And it’s not just the notorious Holocaust deniers, masquerading as historians or so-called Holocaust revisionists, such as David Irving and Fredrick Toben, who are leading the assault against the memory of the Shoah.

Hundreds of far-right and far-left, anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian, militant Islamist, neo-Nazi and fascistic internet sites continue to promote the idea that the Holocaust is a lie perpetrated by the Jewish people to promote the growth of the State of Israel.

Their claims, patently absurd and amoral, yet believable by their uncritical audiences, are based on conspiracy theories and scraps of spurious nonsense masquerading as their evidence.

The most prominently repeated claims of Holocaust deniers are that Hitler knew nothing of the Final Solution, but merely wanted to deport the Jews from the Third Reich, preferably to Madagascar and never contemplated the extermination of the Jews; indeed, deniers claim that while there may have been inevitable and understandable deaths through overcrowding and disease, there was no planned mass extermination, but merely the establishment of the camps to round-up Jews prior to their deportation.

Another claim is the denial that the extermination camps were used to kill human beings, but were created merely for fumigation purposes.

These are just some of the more specious and increasingly nonsensical assertions which the Holocaust deniers trot out at their conferences and meetings.

What they claim isn’t of any academic or intellectual importance, and certainly not worthy of the time of Jewish historians or philosophers in answering them. What is of much greater importance is that as the distance grows and as survivor numbers continue to fall, the truth of the Shoah will increasingly be in the thrall of denialists and anti-Semites. In their hands, the Shoah will become just another lie of history.

And with the rise of ISIS and the many other gangs of anti-Western and anti-Semitic Islamists, the denial of the Holocaust is a weapon which can be used to undermine the centrality of the creation of the State of Israel for the Jewish people.

Truth, unfortunately, isn’t a defence which can be used against the anti-Semitic hatred of the deniers, because their ears are closed to facts and only open to the lies which justify their existence.

But what can assist in denying the deniers is the attendance of young people at Holocaust Remembrance services. Because, to adopt the watchwords of the ANZACs, Lest We Forget.

Alan Gold is a novelist and opinion columnist

 

 

 

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