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BURDEN OF HISTORY: THE HOLOCAUST

 

The Holocaust – the systematic murder of six million European Jews by the German Nazis and their collaborators during the Second World War – is an enormous topic hovering over our understanding of contemporary antisemitism.

 

This topic deserves more attention than we can give it in this resource. For our purposes, though, it is necessary to address some aspects.

 

No reasonable person questions whether this terrible history took place. Historical revisionism, especially Holocaust denial, must be rejected and condemned.

 

But other approaches to the Holocaust, including the misuse of Holocaust history, are also problematic. Whether this treatment should be narrowly defined as “antisemitism” may be irrelevant. The following examples of mistreating the memory and history of the Holocaust are things in which people of goodwill should not be engaged.

 

Dismissal – Some people argue (implicitly or explicitly) that the Holocaust should not be considered as a factor in consideration of contemporary Jewish concerns, either because it is too cataclysmic a fact to introduce into the discussion or based on antisemitic premises that Jews are engaged in a “competition of victimhood” or otherwise exploiting this history for advantage. It is not appropriate to argue that a historical event that took place within living memory, and which has imprinted intergenerational trauma on millions of Jews, should be disregarded or dismissed.

 

Abuse of Holocaust Memory – Employing the memory of the Holocaust to make a political point is almost always inappropriate. Far worse is accusing a group of exhibiting the characteristics of their oppressor, yet it is a too-common allegation that Jews or Israelis are behaving like Nazis.

 

Falsely linking the Holocaust with the founding of Israel – We must contest the offensive and ahistorical idea that the state of Israel was a “consolation prize” for the Holocaust, or that, as is too often said, Zionism represents “Arabs paying for the crimes of Europeans.” Zionism is the fulfilment of the Jewish people's right to national self-determination in their homeland. Moreover, to imply that Israel was “given” to the Jewish people denies the reality that, after the 1947 Partition Resolution vote, the Jewish people received effectively no assistance or support from the outside world, including when Israel was attacked at the moment of its inception by the combined militaries of every neighbouring country. The chronological juxtaposition between the end of the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel is problematic for people who do not understand this history. Jewish self-determination was as legitimate in 1938 as it was in 1948. The Holocaust has a huge impact on all of this history – but it false history to suggest that it was the reason Israel was created.

 

These are the barest guidelines that people of goodwill should consider when discussing the Holocaust in the context of contemporary antisemitism.

This page is part of BE AN UPSTANDER: HOW ALLIES CAN RECOGNIZE AND CONTEST ANTISEMITISM.

 

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