Dropping International Holocaust Memorial Day Would Be World’s Final Insult To Survivors; Would Spur New Wave of Anti-Semitism

Dropping International Holocaust Memorial Day Would Be World’s Final Insult To Survivors; Would Spur New Wave of Anti-Semitism

By Rabbi Abraham Cooper*

As the International Holocaust Memorial Day beckons this week, we are confronted by the sad reality captured in the just-released report by longtime human rights icon Natan Sharansky that European anti-Semitic incidents in 2009 were highest since the Holocaust era. Sharansky pointed to an era of new “blood libels,” including the recent canard promoted on Youtube accusing the Israelis of harvesting the organs of the Haitians, an echo of Israelis wrongfully accused of harvesting the organs of Palestinians.

This is a time of unprecedented attacks against Israel by a broad array of political, diplomatic, academic and religious forces who seek to demonize and isolate the Jewish state and supporters of Zion.

Meanwhile, denial of the legacy of the Nazi Holocaust, history’s greatest and most documented crime, remains a potent weapon for Jew haters and a source of unfathomable pain for aging Holocaust survivors. Now there’s a campaign to drop the International community’s day to remember the Holocaust. We cannot let this happen!

Holocaust revisionism and denial traces back to just after World War II. It gathered steam in the 1970s, embraced by a new generation of ‘neo’-Nazis and pseudo-intellectuals who brazenly railed against the truth and the overwhelming evidence of history’s greatest crimes. Later, the denial of the suffering of survivors became a staple for some elite in Arab countries as a way to strike back against their hated enemy, Israel. This proved such a potent psychological weapon, that in recent years, Holocaust denial was raised to statecraft by the 'Mullahtocracy' in Iran.

European leaders and the United Nations, to their credit, have actually tried to stem the willful ‘historic Alzheimer’s' by declaring, and annually commemorating January 27th, the anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz -Birkenau Death Camp in 1945, as International Holocaust Memorial Day.

But now, even while survivors of Hitler’s final solution are still among us, there is a new effort to pervert, not deny memory, led not by neo-Nazis, not by frothing bigots or terrorists, but from leaders of sovereign, democratic nations. Latvia and Lithuania are in the forefront of a campaign that would drop January 27th, as International Holocaust Memorial Day and fold it into a new annual commemoration in August that would simultaneously ‘remember’ both the victims of the Nazi Holocaust and of Communism.

I wholeheartedly support a special day to remember the evil that was Communism and misery and millions of victims it wrought. The problem is that too many leaders in Lithuania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe have failed to honestly tackle and acknowledge the fact that many of their own countrymen helped mass murder their Jewish neighbors during the Nazi occupation before those societies came to suffer again under the yolk of Communism.

And how exactly, for example, would such ‘joint commemorations’ unfold in Lithuania? A moment of silence for Jewish citizens butchered by the Nazis and their local collaborators, followed by a moment of silence for these victimizers, later turned into ‘victims of Communism?’ I urge Lithuania and other supporters of this drive to drop their campaign and instead preserve the memory of the Shoah and the unique suffering of its victims that is commemorated on Holocaust Memorial Day.

The fallout from the failure to deal honestly with the past has already manifested. Most emerging post-Soviet era democracies have refused to try their Nazi War criminals. Worse still, in the case of Lithuania, authorities have sought to prosecute heroic Jewish former Soviet partisans, including Dr. Yitzhak Arad, the revered former Chairman of Yad Vashem. Such outrageous moves embolden those who identify Jews with Communism, by equating Communism with Nazism, they are saying; in effect that everyone is guilty of genocide.

I was in the audience at the annual Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem last month, when the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usacksas did say that the condemnation of Stalinism "should never be applied to diminish the moral and political lessons of the Holocaust," but frankly that is indeed the game plan. And I fear that if Lithuania doesn’t soon halt his government’s active support to relativize the Nazi Holocaust and degrade its uniqueness, the next Global Forum will have to deal with the inevitable anti-Semitic fallout, intended or otherwise-- from this outrageous campaign.

Post- World War II generations have been enhanced by the stoicism and humanity of Holocaust Survivors. As they prepare to leave the world stage, let us commit to each of them and their six million innocent family members who were murdered by the Nazis for the lone reason they were Jews that we will never allow anyone to pervert their legacy –ever.

*Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center