A couple of days ago, ADL published this frightening statistical chart over Holocaust awareness in the world. The version they put up on Twitter, which I can not paste in, since I am not that great with technical things, was very similar but showed how youths are less and less knowledgeable about the Holocaust. Which for me, as a historian, is a very daunting reality. I re-tweeted their tweet and just felt I had to add the comment that it is an outright disgrace. Because when we forget, history repeats itself. And my last sentence contained the words: If we forget, then the Nazis won after all! Because that is the truth. The neo-nazis do want us all to forget the crimes that their predecessors committed. Because of all the objectionable things that the Nazis did, the Holocaust was the most shocking, the worse part of their ideology. Britain, France, and finally the US, went to war against Hitler Germany because that maniac had to be stopped. But not until they arrived at the camps, did the full scope of the Nazi ideology really hit them in the face. Not until then did the little soldier, understand fully, why he was in Europe, fighting a war!
Almost immediately did a stranger answer my comment and tried to convince me that youths never believe in the older generation. I wanted to tell him that he obviously do not have any children, because if there is one thing us adults can do as parents, it is to teach them right from wrong. It is our moral obligation to do so. As soon as we receive that fresh little angel from heaven in our arms, it is our job to raise that child in to a righteous human being. We have to teach that child from the very start, to respect other people and their belongings. We have to teach them a lot of things. And in this day and age, with countries that are no longer homogenous in any way shape or form, we also have to teach religious and cultural tolerance.
When I see a chart like the one on twitter, I see only one thing and that is, that parents and schools are failing in their upbringing and education of today’s children. How can I see that from a chart? Well. My son has just graduated from gymnasium and has finally been able to say goodbye to classmates who have been brought up by their parents, been indoctrinated in the TV-sofa and at the dinner table, to believing:
1) There is no God
2) USA is the big bad wolf of the world
3) The Palestinians are poor innocent victims
4) Israel is an evil nation
5) Anyone thinking differently must be forced to change their minds. If a parent thinks differently, then its children should be put in foster care.
If this can be taught by the dinner table and in front of the TV, opinions re-inforced by the news channels, then tolerance, love AND the facts about the Holocaust can also be taught in the same manner! If children can accept one thing from their parents, they can accept other things as well. We mould our children and if we look at the chart published by the ADL, we see what world the parents of today, want their children to believe in.
I would never have the audacity to claim that I am an expert on the Holocaust. BUT I have read so much more than the average person. I’ve been reading about the Nazi era and what they did to the Jews, for 37 years, and it is not less appalling today than it was when I first read about it. To find out that anyone could deny facts and call it all a myth. Well, it is beyond belief just as I said in that tweet. I do realize that few youths and people have the privilege to visit Auschwitz. I am not one of the people who have been able to do so. But enough school classes from Sweden, have been given the opportunity, to go down there and when filmed, they have all crawled in to their jackets and cried. They have wept in front of the piles of shoes, in front of the piles of hair, because they have finally understood what it means when milllions are killed, because of their race. But Auschwitz is not really the best example of anything, according to historian Laurence Rees. For one thing, Auschwitz was both a labour camp and an extermination camp. The Germans were proud of their labour camps and saw no problems with letting the world see those camps. That is why they all remained in 1945, including the work part of Auschwitz. But the extermination camps were less easy to explain away. They did understand that the world would not agree with their dealings there, so they were careful to destroy Treblinka, Majdanek, Chelmno and the killing part of Auschwitz. They did not want any visible evidence of their handiwork.
But there is plenty of evidence of it. And always have been. One just have to look. The alarming thing in all this is, how people do not want to look. How they want to minimize it. How they feel a need to compare it to other things happening in our world. The Holocaust can not be compared to anything. And this brings me over to subsequent tweets to my objective initial comment. How religion can make one blind to facts.
At the moment I am reading a fascinating book called “Defenders of the Faith”. I have been following the Israeli TV-series “Shtisel” and have loved it. While waiting for the final episode, I started thinking about my Judaism course, at the University, and how our professor did not really have the time or the inclination to discuss the haredim, or ultra orthodox. Instead she just told us, to go and read this book. All the other students were studying to become priests in the Lutheran Swedish state church, so maybe they did not pick up a copy. But I did. The course literature and a new baby, taking all my time, prevented me reading the book just for the fun of it. So, it has rested on my shelf all these years. Till I suddenly remembered it and dug it out, from the back row of all my religion related books. Fascinating. In it, this rabbi is told to have claimed that there is nothing wrong with being a fanatic. I beg to differ. There is nothing wrong with being devoted to one’s religion. I certainly am. But when you do become a fanatic about something, the backside of it is always, that your tolerance to others disappear. And the backbone of many religions are said to be tolerance and love for the next human being. Muslims in Sweden have been sitting claiming since 9/11 that Islam is all about love, love and tolerance. Why is it that we do not see that though? Through our actions, we set an example. And the only example which I see from the Muslims, is a hatred which is beyond anything. How someone can hate like that, well I would have thought that only the devil himself was capable of that. But the hatred I have encountered from my very objective tweet about the ADL results, shows to me, that Islam is nothing even remotely connected to love. This fanatic in Turkey has basically set a fatwa on me. In tweet after tweet, to me personally, he calls me a murderer. Anyone who supports Israel, is in his opinion a murderer and he has informed me that since I am a SIONAZI, Muslims will exterminate me as well as all the Jews. It’s their duty. In other words, I have received this death threat today, from a fanatic Turk.
D. is furious with me and says that people like me, have to have police protection, because one is not allowed to open one’s mouth against the Muslims of this world. What do I say to that? Is this really the sort of world we want to live in? A Gestapo world, where one religious group of fanatics or one religion is going to be allowed to tell us what we are allowed to think, say and publish? I am not going to be politically correct ever. I will say what I please. And as much as I have read about Turkey, I do know that the religious fanatics lack all knowledge they need to make intelligent decisions. One simple reason being that they fear education and there is no law which force them ALL to go to school. People sit in areas of Turkey, not getting any education at all. Especially the girls. While at the same time, you have Turks who live a modern life, wanting to join EU. It’s also very interesting that this Turkish fanatic boy calls me, a Swedish mother of seven, living in a little village far away from Israel, a murderer of Palestinians. It shows that he has not gone to school at all, since he obviously has not heard of the mass murdering of Armenians and Kurds in his own country. Or is that just a myth as well? Exaggerated numbers? Those human beings just evaporated in to thin air did they?
63% of the population in the Middle East deny the Holocaust and it made me think of this book I read many years ago, by a Palestinian woman named Souad, who was “Burned alive” (=also book title) by her own family. I have dug the book out of my book-case and would like to quote some things she said about the Jews and the general attitude in Palestine. She of course never learned to read and write since she was not allowed to go to school. She did not even know if the Earth was round or flat. (Her own words.) “What I did know was that we had to hate the Jews, who had taken our land; my father called them pigs. We were forbidden to go near them for fear of becoming pigs like them.” Pig being forbidden food in both religions, mind you!
As a little side line to this, God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in other words over and over again, beginning in Genesis 17:8 “And I will give unto you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God”. He did not give it to illegitimate son Ishmael! He made the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so to even argue that Canaan, i.e. Israel, belonging to anyone but the descendants of Jacob, is ridiculous in the first place.
But, we were talking about education and the influence a parent has on its child: Souad continued later on in the book, “I had been taught not to go near the Jews because they were halouf, pigs. We were not even supposed to look at them so it was very bad to be close to them. We were taught that because they ate differently and lived differently, they were not as good as us. We and they were like night and day, like wool and silk. That was what I was taught. The Jews were the wool and we Muslims were the silk. That was the only way of thinking. When you saw a Jew in the street, and you almost never saw them anywhere else, fights broke out: stones and pieces of wood were thrown. We were forbidden to speak to them because if we did, we would become Jewish too.” Thanks to leaving Palestine, she has come to this conclusion: “I have realized that I know nothing about the Jews and their history, and if I continue like this I will convey the idea to my children that the Jews is a halouf. I will have passed on to them ignorance, instead of knowledge and the ability to think for themselves.”
I doubt very much that Souad is an exception. She comes from Palestine and tries to explain the attitude there. And for years we have been able to see that attitude come alive on our TV screens. Children throwing stones, bombs, suicide bombers and finally the Israelis raising a wall to protect themselves. Is it any wonder? No, the wall doesn’t solve any problems but I must say that sometimes I would like to raise a wall around my house as well. At least it shuts the problems out! But what Soud’s revelations prove is the fact I am trying to get through in this post: To say that youth just object to everything their elders say and therefore would not believe in the Holocaust because of that fact, is definitely wrong. Prejudice is taught and learned. Hatred is indoctrinated. The guards in Auschwitz all told of how their parents had raised them to hate the Jews. The only way to counteract all this, today, is to educate! If the parents will not, then the schools must pick up where the parents are failing. If they can not bring the children and youths to stand in Dachau, Bergen-Belsen and Mauthausen, which are the three concentration camps I have been to so far in my life, other measure will have to be taken. There are all the films which the Nazis filmed themselves, since they contrary to the neo-Nazis, gladly wanted to document what they were up to. And there are all the court records to read from all the war crimes trials. And when all of those have been plowed through, there are oodles and oodles of eyewitness accounts from survivors.
Unfortunately, my last words will have to be translated from my Swedish edition of Laurence Rees’ book “Auschwitz”. That man really knows how to say things to get the point through: “Soon the last survivor and the last culprit from Auschwitz, will have joined the ones who were murdered in the camp. There will not be anyone on Earth who has personal experiences from the place. When that happens, there is a danger that Auschwitz will evaporate in to the past and become just another horrible event among others. There have been gruesome cruelties before, like when Richard the Lionheart massacred Muslims in Akko during the crusades and Djingis Khan’s genocide in Persia. Maybe future generations will consider Auschwitz on the same level – like just another evil thing of the past, rather than a living memory. But this can not be allowed to happen. We have to judge behaviour after the circumstances of the time. And if you look at Auschwitz and the Nazis’ ‘Final Solution’ in connection with the sophisticated European culture existing in the middle of the 20th Century, then it becomes the worse deed in history. Through their crime, the Nazis made the world aware of what educated, technologically advanced people can do, if they are ruthless enough. When this knowledge has been brought to humanity, it must never be forgotten. It will lay there abominable and idle, waiting for every generation to discover it. A warning to all of us and our descendents.” According to ADL’s report, we are already there. People denying it happened altogether and people saying numbers are over-exaggerated. Where did 6 million Jews go then? Abducted by aliens? Because after the Nazis were done with them, they sure was not on this planet anymore!