How much can we forget? On Holocaust Denial

Written by Irina Krasteva |

The hunger and thirst for knowledge are forgotten. Sometimes, our generation is comfortably blind to what had happened less than a hundred years ago. On the 27th of January 2019, the Holocaust Memorial Day, The Guardian wrote that one in 20 Brits do not believe that the Holocaust happened. The shocking poll was commissioned by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

The entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Words mean: “Work sets you free.”

A sensible reaction to people questioning the genocide would be anger and I have to admit that I experienced it. I blamed the deniers for their lack of empathy. I could not believe that it is possible for somebody to question such events, but we should not allow our frustration to transform itself in hate otherwise the history may repeat itself.

“The Holocaust was the attempt by the Nazis and their collaborators to murder all the Jews in Europe. From the time they assumed power in Germany in 1933, the Nazis used propaganda, persecution, and legislation to deny human and civil rights to German Jews. They used centuries of antisemitism as their foundation.”

– from Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

A Holocaust Memorial in San Francisco. Photo by Wally Gobetz.

If we think of the most vulnerable groups in our society, those which are more likely to be manipulated, we would say that those are the “outsiders”; people who live on the edge, people who can be easily influenced by radical ideas. We won’t ever think that some of “us” can be so easily misled, yet here we are, not knowing what the Holocaust means, afraid to admit that we do not have enough information, convincing ourselves that everything is at a click’s distance and there is no such thing as fake news.

We are trying to forget the catastrophes of yesterday in order to build a brighter future. Unfortunately, we do not realize the mistake we are making by doing so.

The Dachau concentration camp.

On 29th November 2018, The New York Times published an article about spray-painted swastikas in Jewish professor’s office in Columbia University. Fifteen days later the same newspaper reported that 37 tombstones of Holocaust victims in France had been defaced with swastikas.

Unfortunately, those are not the only attempts of Neo-Nazis disrespecting and spreading hate. They are organizing protests and events in which they are trying to attract new people. It sounds outrageous and impossible but with the current political state of Europe and USA, it is easier than ever for the far-right groups to convince others that people with certain ethnic backgrounds are the ones to blame for all mistakes and insecurities.

The flag of the National Socialist Movement, a US neo-Nazi party. Photo by John Kittelsrud.

Education is what we need to prevent such misinformation. Obviously, school lessons are not quite enough to persuade young minds of the necessity of knowledge and to develop the ability to process the information we receive correctly. What we need is to be open about such delicate subjects and to pay attention to each other’s personal experiences. There are still survivors who remind us what had happened. Steven Frank, one of the only 93 children who survived the Theresienstadt camp, said:

“At one of my talks, I met someone who said the Holocaust didn’t happen. The only way to fight this kind of denial and antisemitism is with the truth – I tell people what happened, what I saw and experienced. If we ignore the past, I fear history will repeat itself.”

I cannot help but ask: shall we go down the same path we once did, or do we finally learn and grow out of our misjudgements?