By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.
For the dead and the living,
We must bear witness.”
– Elie Wiesel
International Holocaust Remembrance Day has never been more important in since its inception in 2006 than it is in 2023, nor the pledge to “Never Forget” such an ominous warning. The dramatic rise in Anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate crimes over the past few years is to say the least alarming. Governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis who ignore public displays by NAZI and White Nationalist groups and the former President who publicly dined with them at his home, only emboldens their future objectives and validates their Holocaust denialism.
With deepest respect and admiration to Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel and due deference to a time-honored pledge, bearing witness and remembering are no longer enough. Today, we face conservative political forces actively banning books and passing laws prohibiting the facts of history be taught under the guise of indoctrination. While in other public schools they are required to teach “both sides” of the Holocaust, as if there’s a justification for genocide.
According to USA Today,
“Only 11 states require Holocaust history to be taught at schools. That may be part of the reason why a 2018 survey showed 66% of millennials could not identify the notorious Auschwitz – where 1.1 million people died, the vast majority of them Jewish – and 22% could not confirm having heard of the Holocaust. Significant gaps in Holocaust knowledge have been revealed by surveys in other countries as well.”
We also have an internet teeming with Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and people who propagate their delusion that the Holocaust never happened, claiming those who survived it, and those who saw it firsthand are lying. They call thousands of American soldiers who helped liberate the death camps, as well as General and later President Dwight D. Eisenhower, liars.
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we have the past to look back on, to learn from, to take heed from, and most importantly, to take action before it is too late. The NAZIs, White Nationalists, Christian Nationalists, and the others being given space by some must not be given a foothold by our complacency. We have witnessed what happens when hate holds power.
For the living and the dead,
We must stand up to hate.
“I come from a people that gave the ten commandments to the world. Let us agree that we need three more, and they are these: thou shalt not be a perpetrator; thou shalt not be a victim; and thou shalt never, but never, be a bystander.”
-Yehuda Bauer, Academic Advisor to יָד וַשֵׁם Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center