Holocaust Memorial Day is for everyone — except Jews
Modern commemoration of the genocide has lost all its meaning
When will Jews be forgiven for the Holocaust? The great Howard Jacobson first posed this provocative question back in 2013. He argued that with so many nations bound up in the genocide it was easier for them to reject the burden of guilt by portraying themselves as victims of the Jew.
Perhaps today, though, the argument should be updated to something along the lines of: can the Jews please have the Holocaust back? Indeed, it appears as though every event in modern times has been compared to the Holocaust (unless, of course, Jews are involved). Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, for example, compared the vaccine rollout to the Holocaust, while trans rights activists frequently and consistently abuse the memory of the genocide — the most recent example being a Scottish councillor a few days ago.
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“I’d like to challenge those people who appropriate the Holocaust to come and meet a survivor and tell them how what you are experiencing is akin to being locked up, treated as an animal and losing your family to murder,” Karen Pollock of the Holocaust Education Trust tells me. “It is such a lazy and offensive comparison.”
Troublingly, these false analogies are becoming increasingly normalised in politics. In addition to Bridgen’s comments, the Welsh government minister Julie Morgan MS intended to hold a Holocaust Memorial Day (which falls on the 27th January each year) vigil for “gypsy, Roma and traveller” victims. Nowhere did Morgan’s plan mention Jews. Why? It should be an “inclusive” event, apparently. Elsewhere, the University and College Union and an official from the National Union of Students have both previously marked HMD by referring to every group targeted by the Nazis except one: Jews.
While on HMD we also remember the other victims of the Nazis, there is, in fact, another day (August 2) which commemorates the Roma and Sinti genocide, which is known as the Porrajmos. Strangely, Morgan made no mention of this.
The new fashion for anti-colonialism adds another layer to these issues because there are some who like to call Jews the new Nazis — a particularly nasty form of antisemitism called Holocaust Inversion, whose practitioners legitimise it by pointing to the injustices committed by the modern state of Israel. According to this reading, Jews should have learned a lesson from the Holocaust which was, apparently, to be nicer people.
The Holocaust is studied in schools because it is unique: one nation deciding not only to maim and kill but to completely eradicate an entire people off the earth and use modern instruments of industry to do it. It needs to be understood not as a one-off moment of madness but, instead, as part of a history of 2000 years of antisemitic thought which continues to this day. People who equate everything they don’t like with the Holocaust are not only exposing their own ignorance, but denying what it was, too.
I have just watched a short segment on BBC News re Holocaust Memorial Day. The most prominent comment was that the German government was, this year, focusing on those persecuted for their sexual and gender identities.
I do know that homosexuals were persecuted by the Nazis for their sexual orientation and this should not be forgotten. Roma and the disabled were also persecuted and I am sure there are a host of other minority groups treated similarly.
We now live in a world where the true horror of the Holocaust is disappearing from view in a sea of overblown claims of ‘literal violence’, ‘genoicide’ and denying my right to exist’ when fetishistic men are told “No!” and breast bound teenage girls are ‘misgendered’.
What chance is there to heed the lessons of the past when they are reshaped and diminished like this?
I actually saw a comment in the Daily Telegraph yesterday where someone tried to justify massively reducing the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The logic used was pathetic.
It’s becoming quite common currency now to trivialise it and infect the facts with false data.
I’ve noticed a worrying trend in that sort of comment with many false equivalences being used as justification.
Almost as worrying as the fact people are thinking like this is the fact that saying it publicly could be thought acceptable.
Nicole Lampert’s essay is very insightful. By calling for both remembrance and repentance, it goes beyond well-meaning clichés—let alone trivializing analogies.
As a Jew, however, I’m somewhat ambivalent about the public rituals that now accompany memorials of the sho’ah (catastrophe). If we can’t learn something of universal importance from this particular historical event, after all, then why study history at all? But something is missing, something desperately needed in this age of rampant and even institutionalized cynicism.
It’s easy to see why so many people ignored, excused, condoned or supported the Nazis. (Their motivations have been documented relentlessly by historians, psychologists, sociologists and so on.) Would I have been any different in their position—that is, as an “Aryan”? I doubt, as a thought experiment, that I would have gleefully thrown babies out of windows. But I have no reason to assume that I would have acted heroically. Fortunately, I don’t know. I’ve never been tested in that way.
It’s not so easy to see why a few people did precisely the opposite, risking their lives to save or at least to help the targets of Nazi persecution. Jews do honor those gentiles—the “righteous among the nations”–who chose, out of compassion, to defy evil. And, having to act secretly, they were hardly motivated by virtue-signaling. Their names are inscribed on a monument in Jerusalem, their letters and photos carefully collected and displayed, their deeds recorded in books and documentaries. But I’d go one step further by adding one day of the year, preferably the next day, to remember the ordinary people whose altruism can still–in spite of the moral corruption that we know about from both history and, to some extent, from personal experience in everyday life–make us proud to be human.
If that wouldn’t be a powerful antidote to the cynicism of woke ideology and other forms of ideology, I can’t imagine what would be.
Very well said.
Beautifully and sadly correct. Thank you Paul Nathanson.
Bridgen didn’t compare the vaccine mandates / rollout to the Holocaust. He said ‘since the Holocaust.’
Absolutely. Why do people (even supposedly professional journalists/writers) continue misquoting Bridgen/his source?
SINCE. SINCE. SINCE.
Because it serves their narrative to do so. A perfect distraction from the real content of Bridgen’s speech.
A classic “don’t look here, look over there” ploy.
Sorry, it’s still a comparison. The word “since” doesn’t unmake the comparison.
That is simply hair-splitting. Anyone using the phrase “the xxxx since” is implying a near equivalence as I am sure you know.
No-one ‘knows’ this, because it isn’t true. Bridgen’s quoting of an unnamed cardiologist who apparently said that the COVID vaccines constituted ¨the biggest crime since the Holocaust¨ was certainly offensive and distasteful, but not because it equated or near-equated these two things. It was offensive and distasteful and wrong because it implied that the COVID vaccines were worse than all the atrocities which have occurred since the Holocaust, including say Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia or the millions killed in Rwanda in 1994. One doesn’t have to go back to the Holocaust – or indeed even to be particularly enthusiastic about the vaccines – to find the remark objectionable.
Spot on Philip.
There’s a lot of angels dancing on the pinhead of semantics on this forum. Bridgen lost his credibility, which pleases me actually since I don’t agree with him, as soon as he referenced the Holocaust.
If you genuinely support and agree with Bridgen’s views, as many do on here, then your man just hit the ball over the bar. I enjoy seeing your huge efforts to justify his daft comment as you lose the whole argument.
The argument about vaccine safety, which was the substance of Bridgen’s speech, is not ‘lost’. In fact it is only just beginning. Evidence is emerging every day which at the very least demands a public inquiry.
Those who have used the Holocaust reference to deflect attention from what he really said are likely to find themselves on the wrong side of history.
And every time someone quotes the Holocaust to support their vaccine arguments they’ll lose support across the board as attention focussed on offence etc. It’s stupid referencing it if you want to win an argument.
Accusing people of bad faith arguing is no way to win an argument. It’s more likely people “used” the holocaust reference because they found it offensive and stupid, which it was.
I quite agree. But the crazies? They are apparently on right side of something that has no sides, history! Just like the other side. Madness!
Come off it, Madeleine. Your comment is the best thing since sliced bread!
now you’re toast
Interesting that the author has written a thought provoking piece about the increasing insistence of Wokeness to pull focus for the Holocaust and its complex machinery away from the specific antisemitism which motivated it, and commenters are responding with “but, and” and veiled ad-hominem.
Certainly the Master Race ideology meant that Slavs, Romani, and other ethnic minorities were undesirable, as were people considered degenerates (homosexuals, criminals, drug addicts), and those deemed enfeebled, whether from a chronic medical condition or mental or intellectual disability. All these were swept up along with political enemies and conscientious objectors or any combination of the above undesirabilities.
Yet, the motivation for the machinery of death, for the creation of the 40-camp complex we know as Auschwitz-Birkenau, for Dachau, for Mauthausen, Majdanek, Trenlinka and all the rest, was The Final Solution Of The Jewish Question. The machinery then became a convenient way to deal with all the other undesirables in the plan for the 1000-Year Reich.
Yes, all those others were rounded up and murdered and that needs to be remembered as well, but first and foremost the motivation for that war and those camps from the NAZI perspective was to liberate and purify the Aryan race and its historical European homeland from the corruption of Jewishness. All the author is really saying is that this is where the focus of Holocaust Remembrance Day should ideally remain.
Actually the author said it was “denying” the holocaust to make comparisons, which as you know is now a crime in many places. This is not just an opinion piece – its a thinly veiled invitation to criminalize free thought. Presumably you also support the German government investigating a holocaust survivor for not having the ‘correct’ views? Vera Sharav said “Those who declare that Holocaust analogies are ‘off-limits’ are betraying the victims of the Holocaust by denying the relevance of the Holocaust”. And for that she is (once again) facing down the full might of the righteous German state. Appalling.
Oh please. I read the entire article, and nowhere did it claim or imply anything of like “criminalizing free thought.”
Watching Schindler’s List, as I did last night, should be compulsory. It is one of the most powerful demonstrations of how easily humanity was corrupted in a previously civilised nation and then accepted murder on an appallingly efficient industrial scale.
Since this is the memorial day of the Shoah I attach this article.
Thanks. Very interesting and informative.
A much needed call, thank you. “The Holocaust is unique…”.
Only quibble: Anti-semitism extends much farther even than 2,000 years, arguably as far back as the pharaohs.
I’m not sure about that; anti-semitism has a long history, but I would trace a large share of its roots back to the feeling in e.g. the Middle Ages that the Jewish religious establishment of Jesus’ lifetime was responsible for his death. (If they were – so what? But i digress.) Long ago – but long post Pharaonic Egypt. I’m not sure that the Jews in Pharaonic Egypt got treated much differently from other enslaved peoples – but there probably aren’t the records left to say for sure.
Whoever those hebrews in Pharaoh’s Egypt were, they certainly weren’t Jews yet. Modern racial antisemitism really only began once the French Revolution liberated Jews. Anti-Jewish bigotry goes back to the Greeks in Alexandria and elsewhere.
It’s more than 2,000 years of antisemitic thought. Against Apion was written late in the first century but rebuts a strand of pagan Greek criticism that likely stretched much further back in time.
Hear! Hear! These people should be ashamed of themselves. But their vanity has no shame!
This Christian lament is worthwhile and yet in the passage “The United Kingdom’s Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other religious traditions can each contribute to this, providing a deeper meaning to Holocaust Memorial Day than can be offered by a purely secular discourse” is IMOV hidden the Elephant in the room.
I haven’t deeply investigated this topic yet, but I’ve heard excellent comments about various writers of Holocaust theology. Would make a good university course.
I’m puzzled as to why anyone would put their name to such a vulgar thoughtless and crass comment.
I find it really offensive to be lectured at by some virtue signalling journalist about the holocaust, and I find this piece far below the usual standards of Unherd. There are so many things about the holocaust that people should study and understand if we are to avoid seeing these types of atrocities repeated. It should be talked about and debated vigorously. The seeds of this unspeakable evil are not unique to antisemitism but lurk in the intolerance of every human heart toward “others”. The idea of shaming and criminalizing the ‘wrong opinions’ has far more in common with the perpetrators than it does with the victims.
I imagine all you downvoters think its just fine that the German government is investigating a holocaust survivor for allegedly “denying the holocaust”. Here’s what she said – and she is absolutely correct:
“The purpose of Holocaust memorials, is to warn and inform future generations about how an enlightened, civilised society can be transformed into a genocidal universe, ruled by absolute moral depravity. If we are to avert another Holocaust, we must identify ominous current parallels before they poison the fabric of society. … Those who declare that Holocaust analogies are ‘off-limits’ are betraying the victims of the Holocaust by denying the relevance of the Holocaust.”
yeah yeah yeah. There are several holocaust survivors who spout this sort of nonsense, usually because they’re from a hard left persuasion and think analogies that compare Israel to the Nazis is just peachy. As the son of survivors who grew up immersed in their company, I can tell you with certainty that this one, like several others, is an anomaly. Yes of course, genocides like Cambodia and Rwanda can be compared to the Holocaust. But vaccine rollouts, or Israel’s struggles with the Palestinians, shouldn’t be. As for the Germans, they are understandably sensitive about misrepresentation of the holocaust, as they should be. Those laws don’t exist in other countries.
Oh really! This is just a variation of the “you have to start somewhere” argument, where somewhere always seems to be about Jews or the Jewish state.
It’s perfectly reasonable that an event claimed to be of some sort of unique and unquantifiable event after almost a century is being recognised by mainstream opinion for what it actually is – one in a series of brutal actions by one tribe against another tribe that has been ongoing for millenia. Like the Pontic genocide, harrying of the North and extinction of the Tocharians it will become another passage in the history books. People need to learn to accept that inevitability. What is considered significant now will one day be a footnote only.
If you think the holocaust was just another example of man’s inhumanity to man, or another “brutal action,” you have a screw loose or you couldn’t care less about Jews. There is no third option.
It seems all Russians have also been excluded.. remember? the ones who defeated Naziisn and saved Europe? and suffered the most of all the allies nations? Disgusting!
I wonder when Remembrance Day for the the genocidal, apartheid victims of Palestine will commence?
Yeah, the population increases 5x since the establishment of the Jewish state, and this idjit calls it a “genocide.” My lord.
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