Sunday, January 27, 2013
Holocaust Memorial Day 2013
With so much media, so much exposure to violence and awareness of the grotesque cruel inhumanity that people can inflict upon others, it is not altogether unsurprising that a few are blase about the Holocaust. The most recent utterance being the "Liberal" Democrat MP David Ward, who wondered how "the Jews" could suffer under the Holocaust and then oppress the Palestinians, as if a lengthy essentially civil conflict between two groups over one set of territory is akin to a government engaging in a systematic programme of rounding up and exterminating a whole segment of the population.
I used to make that error. When I was much younger, I saw it as one of many grotesque mass murders by governments. Of course, Mao and Stalin murdered, starved and oppressed many many more than Hitler. It really is splitting hairs about how morally empty they are in comparison, but there is a whole context of the Holocaust that needs to be made clear to all.
It really was different.
1930s Germany was a modern society. Most people went about their business untroubled by the state, although it was increasingly clear that opposing the government wasn't a good idea, there hadn't been wholesale nationalisation of businesses big and small. While media and education increasingly glorified the Nazi Aryan ideal and Germanic culture, they also spread the poison of virulent anti-semitism, setting the stage for the removal of all state legal protections for Jews (and others deemed sub-human), encouraging private and state boycotts, harassment, vandalism and assaults, and ultimately the state organised labelling, deportation, incarceration and ultimately execution of Jews.
There have been incidents of mass pogroms against groups, incited by political or religious leaders. Rwanda's genocide is of that nature. However, no other modern society, otherwise seen as civilised, engaged in organised, efficient eliminationist genocide.
Of course, Jews have throughout history faced orchestrated organised discrimination and genocide before, but this is still in living memory, and it remains distinctive.
That today is what we should all commemorate. Those millions executed, starved and tortured to death by the state, seeking to remove those individuals it deemed were not human.
I should not be demeaned by those politicians who dare try to compare such events to anything less than a systematic eliminationist slaughter of a whole category of people, by a government in peacetime (for it is a distraction to imply that this was an event "of World War 2", as if Nazi Germany would not have undertaken genocide had there been "peace" in Europe between states).
So I urge you to spend a moment in quiet reflection, of those who suffered, died, fought and resisted those who wanted them dead, for no reason than their ancestry, their education, their wealth or their private beliefs. Bear in mind those today, who continue to deny it, who diminish it and who relativise it, and what you can do to keep the memory alive of the unthinkable.