Today – January 27 – represents International Holocaust Memorial Day. This day was chosen, because on January 27, 1945, the Red Army, sweeping westward across Eastern Europe – arrived at the Polish town of Oświęcim- or Auschwitz as the Nazis called it – and discovered the
What the soldiers discovered – and recall that many of them had been involved in the brutal rearguard action that the Soviets fought to expel the Nazi aggressors from their homeland – was scarcely imaginable. In the 21st century – through movies and tv – we have an idea of what a Zombie apocalypse might look like – they experienced it first-hand. They found corpses, tens of thousands of them, they found evidence of medical experiments, gas chambers, crematoria (or remnants of them) and meandering about them, the walking dead – humans reduced to skin and bone.
As the Russians moved further westward and as the Allied forces conquered increasing swaths of mainland Europe, evidence of the Nazi atrocities became ever-more apparent. When the war was finally won, in the U.S.-controlled part of Germany at least, General Eisenhower made a point of herding German civilians to the camps the American G.I.’s liberated to show them what the Nazis had done. The Americans did not want a situation to develop where anybody could deny the atrocities that took place.
In the intervening 74 years, a very different world has emerged. There are certainly cranks and virulent revisionists who either deny that the Holocaust – the mechanized attempted annihilation of the Jewish people – took place or greatly underestimate the numbers.
A BBC survey published to coincide with today, found that 1 in 20 people deny that the Holocaust took place. As the number of survivors decreases rapidly on a daily basis – and the connection with first-hand accounts of the crimes diminishes – we can be almost certain that this number will continue to rise.
Is it too provocative to ask whether the Holocaust had occurred to any people other than the Jews, we would be encountering such claims? Many parts of the modern political world – both on the left and the right – will not and no longer countenances the destruction of European Jewry.
It’s Israel’s fault, they claim; because of the way the Palestinians are “treated” it trumps all other considerations. The creeping desire at least of the last decade, but probably since the turn of the millennium is to try and make International Holocaust Memorial Day one that commemorates all genocides. Maybe the thinking goes, “there go those Jews again… trying to be particular.” It certainly sticks in the craw when figures such as the U.K.’s Labour Party leader – who may claim not to be an antisemite – but who freely consorts with them – delivers platitudes to the U.K. Jewish community. It certainly does not help that his political backers and ideological fellow travelers so routinely try and intimidate – both online and with physical threats – members of the Jewish community who call out their antisemitism.
So, what for the future of International Holocaust Memorial Day? It will continue to be used as a political tool; a back-door way to attack Jews and Israel.