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Holocaust memory as a fig leaf for modern hate

I thought the post below from The Times of Israel is absolutely pertinent to the BDS cabal using International Holocaust Day as an opportunity to further demonise Israel. It is another context but is only too relevant to our circumstances.

I have been invited by Politicsweb to write a short series (probably 3) articles on Israel to initiate a debate. I hope to finish it this weekend and of course it will be published here. A shortened letter of mine was published yesterday in Business Day and I have submitted another today.

BTW Sydney Kaye got a short but effective letter into the Cape Times dealing with the difference between the legitimate loyalties of Ben Levitas and the illegitimate bias of the media.

Mike Berger

Holocaust memory as a fig leaf for modern hate
The fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989 aroused a euphoric debate about the city’s post-
Communist future. In a Die Zeit op-ed entitled “Berlin as Federal Capital of Germany, Yes
or No,” I argued that political functions should remain anchored in the western city of
Bonn, thereby decentralizing any resurgent phantom German ambitions; that Berlin should be the
cultural mecca, capitalizing on the best of the Western and post-Soviet liberationist creativity of the
Eastern sector; and that federal power should be further diluted by the autobahn democracy linking
Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg as financial capitals.

Indeed, such bifurcated capitals are common: Washington/New York, Ottawa/Toronto,
Canberra/Sydney, Brasilia/Sao Paolo, Jerusalem/Tel Aviv etc.

The title of the article became a seminar at Eichstedt University in Bavaria, at which the foreign
participants expressed apprehension at Berlin’s reunification.

Over two decades later, I admit that I was wrong. Berlin is a success story culturally and politically.
It has also made huge commemorative and pedagogical efforts to honor the victims of the Nazis’
crimes. This process of active memorialization corresponded with the arrival of thousands of
Soviet Jews who have revived the city’s communal institutions. The outdoor Topography of Terror
museum, The Jewish Museum, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe — all have
become stops on the tourist itinerary.

The European office of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre participated in the return of the 1930s
Institute of Sexual Sciences, today’s Gay Museum, just as we were present, last October, at the
inauguration by Chancellor Merkel of the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe murdered
under the National Socialist regime. The last victimology in the Nazi chain of horror – the
extermination (euphemistically named “euthanasia”) of the disabled – is planned to have its own
memorial very soon.

At each of these signposts, survivors have spoken, victims were mourned and political leaders
have denounced the perpetrators. Yet, the massive investment in memory has neither prevented
nor mitigated the resurgence of anti-Semitism, gypsophobia, homophobia or even skinhead
violence against the disabled. Dare one suggest that mourning for the victims of 70 years ago is
so much easier than defending the same victim groups of today?

As part of the Roma and Sinti ceremony, a book tribute was made to 90-year-old Reinhard Florian,
deported in 1941 to the Auschwitz Zigeunerlager. A play was performed about “the Gypsy Boxer”
of the death camps and a newly discovered film of brutalized Roma child victims was screened at
the opening of Israeli artist Dani Karavan’s magnificent memorial to the murdered Gypsies.
Yet, today, gypsophobia is on the rise. Pogroms against Roma are increasing in Eastern Europe
while they are deported in the West from Dale Farm in England and murdered in villages across

Every November, European anti-racism movements mark “Kristallnacht” (the Night of Broken
Glass pogrom prelude to the Holocaust). And yet, their outrage at the synagogues destroyed in
1938 was unmatched in November 2000 when synagogues across Europe were attacked as
blow-back from the Middle East Intifada.

Twenty years ago, the Museum of Deportation and Resistance was opened in Lyons, France. At
that time, Germany was rife with racist attacks. Suzanne Lagrange spoke in Lyons of her
deportation together with her father from Paris to Auschwitz, where they were separated on arrival.
She recounted how she waved to her father through barbed wire, and a German guard who told
her she could embrace her father then shot him in the neck.

A young German student stood up to apologize. Lagrange told him to sit down. “There is no
intergenerational guilt.” she said. When he sat down, she then rebuked him, saying, “Now
apologize! Not for the crimes of your parents, but for the attacks on migrant hostels and the
desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Germany today…. There is no intergenerational guilt, but you
bear the burden of intergenerational shame and responsibility to act today.” The audience was

Jews and Gypsies today share a contemporary victimology. The prejudice of indifference and
moral disengagement. Few express outrage at jihadi anti-Semitism against Jewish targets or at
Hundary’s neo-fascist Magyar Garda Youth or its sponsor, the Jobbik party’s incitement against
Jews and Roma. The Gypsy groups at the 2001 Durban United Nations World Conference against
Racism were among our few allies at that Judeo-phobic hatefest.

A new moral re-engagement for today’s victims demands that memory and pedagogy be
recoupled and applied to the fate of the children and grandchildren of the Jewish Holocaust and the
Romani genocide. Otherwise, as the United Nations marks International Holocaust
Commemoration Day, memory can ironically serve as a fig leaf for hate.


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