The United Nations established International Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27, 2005, as a day to commemorate the systematic genocide against the Jewish people, which was perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II. It was on January 27, 1945, that Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the death camps of the Nazi regime, was liberated by Soviet troops.
Over six million Jewish people lost their lives, along with over one million children, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled, along with nine thousand homosexuals. Many countries have conferences, symposiums, discussion groups, performances, songs, and musical recitals to commemorate the event.
Last year, at the music school in which I work, young musicians met with musicians who had survived the Holocaust. They learned their songs, in the languages in which they had been written, and performed them in a moving ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem. At the end of the performance, the survivors hobbled on stage and were greeted with thunderous applause.
The world has seen the atrocities of the Holocaust and it has all been documented, thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Steven Spielberg. How then, is it still possible that the disproportionate response of condemnation toward the Jewish state seems to be a sport and taken for granted by the U.N.? How is it that the Jewish nation is under the world’s microscope, examined, turned this way and that, and found guilty, tried and convicted of crimes and the breaking of international law? The United Nations adopted twenty anti-Israel resolutions in the year 2016 alone, with North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Russia receiving only one condemnation each.
I have lived in Israel for twenty-five years. For twenty-five years my children, in kindergartens, schools, army, and finally at their universities have been commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day. We have seen the movies, sung the songs, and tried to learn about the slippery slope of dehumanization that can and did lead to such an atrocity.
We have discussed the lessons until we know them in our sleep. We say “Never Again” and we mean it, but we know we are only as strong as the country in which we live and that the world is always ready to blame, condemn, and crucify the Jew. The Syrian War rages and refugees flood into neighboring countries, yet the world meets in Paris to denounce Israel?
To be balanced, I, too, long to see an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But even for someone who is balanced or perhaps left-leaning, the emphasis on tiny Israel seems absurd. Just last week, we buried four soldiers who were killed while they were on a tour. They were run over by a truck and run over again just to make sure they were properly dead. Others struggle for their lives in hospitals.
I do not mean to sound cynical, nor to disparage the necessity of remembering the horror of the Holocaust. To think that anti-Jewish sentiment has gone away is to be naive. In the United States of America, Nazis are planning to march, and all over Europe we can see Nazi symbols in cemeteries and Jewish day schools.
Education is the key, and that is why every year on Holocaust Memorial Day I instruct my students to respond to the following quote by Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.”
Let us not do nothing. Let us do something so that the enemies of all that is holy and peaceful and sacred do not triumph ever again.
May the memory of those who perished be a blessing.
This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion, January 26, 2017, and reposted with permission.