Lessons from Holocaust still relevant today

EXPLAINER

Forty world leaders attended the Word Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, marking 75 years since Auschwitz was liberated. The Nazis killed more than one million people there, mainly Jews.

The Forum took place at Yad Vashem, a hillside memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It was established in 1953 to remember the dead, and research the holocaust and genocide, so it may never happen again. It has a research institute, libraries, an education site, memorials and a synagogue. The name means a memorial and a name, in Hebrew.

It was the fifth World Holocaust Forum to “remember the past and apply history’s lessons to the present and future”. They were established in 2005 by Dr Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress.

Entitled “Remembering the Holocaust: fighting antisemitism”, speakers from all over the world warned of rising antisemitism and said hate is an urgent present-day issue.

Violent attacks against Jews increased by an estimated 13% worldwide in 2018 with antisemitism ‘mainstreaming, according to Tel Aviv University Research

The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency surveyed 16,500 Jews in Europe one year ago and found antisemitism in Europe pervades the public sphere, with Jews feeling anxious for their own safety. Antisemitic hate speech, harassment and an increasing fear of being recognised as Jewish were becoming normalised.

COMMENT

Prince Charles warned that acts of “unspeakable cruelty” are still perpetrated around the world against people for reasons of their religion, their race or their beliefs:

“Knowing, as we do, the darkness to which such behaviour leads, we must be vigilant in discerning these ever-changing threats; we must be fearless in confronting falsehoods and resolute in resisting words and acts of violence. And we must never rest in seeking to create mutual understanding and respect.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister said:

“The Jewish people have learned the lessons of the Holocaust – to take seriously the threats of those who seek our destruction to confront threats when they are small …  has the world learned the lessons of the holocaust? There are some signs of hope today. The dangers of racism, hateful ideologies and antisemitism are better understood. Many recognise a simple truth. That what starts with the hatred of the Jews doesn’t end with the Jews.”

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President of Germany:

“The industrial mass murder of six million Jews, the worst crime in humanity, was committed by my country. The terrible war, which cost far more than 50 million lives, originated in my country.  Seventy-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz, I stand here as the president of Germany, laden with guilt…. I stand before you grateful for the miracle of reconciliation and I wish I could say that our remembrance has made us immune to evil. Yes, we Germans remember, but sometimes it seems we understand the past better than the present. The spirits of evil are emerging in a new guise, presenting their antisemitic, racist, authoritarian thinking as an answer for the future, a new solution to the problems of our age. And I wish I could say that we Germans have learned from history once and for all. But I cannot say that when hatred is spreading.”