Last Wednesday was Holocaust remembrance day in Israel. This morning, at 10:00 am, air raid sirens across the country cried out in remembrance of the over six million human lives that were extinguished in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. It was an eerie thing. The silence. As the sirens began to ring, every person in the country turned off their car, stepped off the bus, ceased whatever they were doing and stood in observance. Standing, listening to the sirens, it brought into sharp relief two modes of thought that are transpiring currently. One is to ensure that we and future generations remember the horrific events of just over 80 years ago, while the other is to erase any guilt or blame being derived from those events.
Recently a survey cited by The New York Times found that 41 percent of Americans and 66 percent of millennials could not say what Auschwitz was. This is a disturbing statistic. Here's another: last year anti-semitic attacks rose faster than in the past 40 years, and it probably would be even further but this length of time runs up against the founding of the Anti-Defamation League, the source of this statistic.
There has been a major lapse of education in American schools that goes far beyond any other at the moment at a critical moment in time. Poland just passed a law, that publicly stating Poland aided and was complicit in atrocities committed by the Nazis in Poland is a punishable offense. The law still hasn't passed Poland's constitutional court however, so there is still hope that a combination of international pressure and basic human decency will stop the law from sticking. Poland is attempting to rewrite history and wash their hands of blood that was spilled in a horrific manner. In the Nazi invasion of Poland, the Poles of Jedwabne were accomplices in the herding of hundreds of the town's Jews into a barn, which they set on fire and burnt every last man, woman, and child inside to death. When I heard about this bill, I went out, bought a recent book on the massacre and the attempted denials by many in the town and elsewhere. The book is called The Crime and the Silence and I highly recommend it not only to anyone who wants to understand the stakes with which the Jews of World War II were faced, but the potential horrors that they face today in certain parts of the world and could in places closer to home than we might imagine.
With the rise of far right parties in Europe, Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist groups in the US, and anti semitic hate growing the world over, now is the time to remind ourselves of the sins of the past and how easily they can be repeated. They can be repeated. Sadly they're even being repeated now. In Syria we receive repeated reports of a government killing its citizens en masse using chemical weapons. Using gas. Some of the horrific stories that you read, of children laid out on the sides of streets, killed from these attacks. Of the last moments of individuals in basements attempting to escape, only to move closer to the gas, unable to make it away in time.
In all the white noise of condolences, pulpit thumping about right and wrong, and political maneuvering by politicians that don't really care where the missiles they send land, it's easy to miss the alarm bells in all the white noise. No, not miss, ignore. It's easy to ignore all the alarm bells in the white noise. Genocide in Myanmar, Syria, and the rise of antisemitism that we haven't seen since the holocaust. Now is the time to remind ourselves of what we risk losing and the horrors that we risk facing again, should we continue to turn a blind eye to the crimes being perpetrated across the world towards our fellow humans. Towards our brothers and our sisters and our fathers and mothers. Human dignity and value does not stop at the edges of a border, and our concern cannot either. If it does, than it is just a few short steps from stopping within.