Tuesday, January 27, 2009

When History Becomes Extinct

Today marks the 64th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz - the notorious Nazi death camp that has come to symbolise the 'final solution.'

It was in camps like Auschwitz that between 9 and 11 million 'undesirables' were exterminated during the Second World War, as part of Adolf Hitler's plan to 'cleanse' his Third Reich of 'inferior' human specimens.

Today is marked by the UN as a memorial for all the victims of this Holocaust.

Survivors of the camp are still alive, making the Holocaust living history - but the way that history's being treated sends a shiver down my spine. What happened during the Second World War was, quite simply, the most horrific moment in modern history and one that we, as human beings, deserve to have seared on our collective memory for centuries to come.

Yet, already, the 'history' of the Holocaust is becoming lost. As more of the survivors succumb to old age, the factual evidence of what transpired behind the gates of Auschwitz (emblazoned with the cynical logo ARBEIT MACHT FREI - Work Makes you Free) is being lost.

First, there's the common perception of the Holocaust in the Western World. Ask anybody about that period in history and nine times out of ten, you'll get this answer:

"The Holocaust was when Adolf Hitler exterminated 6 million Jews."

Which is absolutely true - except the death toll of the Holocaust could have been as much as double that. Although Jews were the foremost target of the 'final solution,' up to 5 million other people (intellectuals, homosexuals, Poles, Russians, Gypsies - even redheads) were put to death in the camps as well.

Yet their murders have largely been forgotten. In less than two generations, we've rendered insignificant the extermination of as many people as currently live in Los Angeles and Houston combined. That's unforgivable.

I understand that the Holocaust (or Shoah as it's referred to in Israel) has immense cultural and historical important for the Jewish people. It represents a concerted effort by a regime to wipe out their race in it's entirety. In many ways, it's entirely appropriate that the Holocaust is considered a part of Jewish history above all else.

However, I think it's immensely disrespectful that we choose to forget millions of other victims. Their callous extermination has become a by-line in the history books. That is unacceptable. we should be ashamed of ourselves for letting that happen. The next time somebody tells you that the death toll of the Holocaust was 6 million - for God's sake correct them!

But even more terrifying, there's a populist movement across the middle east to deny the Holocaust entirely.

Islamic nations are teaching their youth that the Holocaust was a conspiracy - a made-up event created in order to give Jewish people the 'moral authority' to occupy Israel.

Islamic 'scholars' (an oxymoron) are creating a swath of misleading and false 'evidence' to suggest that the number of people murdered during the Holocaust was vastly exaggerated. Some even claim that the holocaust didn't occur at all.

This is considered 'standard teaching' in many Islamic schools. A whole generation of children are being taught that the Holocaust was a great Jewish conspiracy - brainwashed into believing a lie for the sake of murderous political expediency.

It's even occurring in the West. Islamic schools in France and Britain have already been criticized for leaving out the Holocaust during history class, because mention of this 'Zionist conspiracy' might offend parents.

This is mind boggling; wretched and totally unacceptable. Rewriting history is a crime many religions and regimes have been guilty of (the foundation of the Catholic church was based on such activity) but to so while the victims of the Holocaust are still alive is just disgusting.

The mentality that history is open to 'creative revision' is shocking to me (I'm a historian, after all.) I understand that facts can be interpreted in different ways, but the whole concept of Holocaust Denial is absent of facts. It's filled with lies and half-truths. The fact that they're appearing in Middle Eastern textbooks merely gives them the appearance of authenticity.

Revisionist history is something we are having to tackle with in the West, as well. Thirty years ago, 'creation study' and 'intelligent design' would have been unthinkable areas of 'study,' yet such religious propaganda is finding its way into the classroom thanks to the efforts of hard-core religious fanatics. It's this mentality - that history is malleable - that terrifies me.

So do your bit to honor the memory and significance of this date. Remember how many people really died during the holocaust - and make sure that you pass on an accurate account to your children. As their generation grows up, it'll be their responsibility to make sure the facts and details of the most infamous event in modern human history is never forgotten.


Paul Burston said...

Did you see that awful Channel 4 doc on the Crusades last night? Apparently, the events of 900 years are the justification for Islamic fundamentalism today. Who knew? Frigging disgraceful. px

Kevin said...

At a party some years ago, the conversation turned to the war. I asked a friend how many people were killed in the war and he immediately said 'six million'.
We all waited, then he added 'Oh, there were others'
Actually, about ten times that many others.
His first answer exactly showed the real tragedy of the Holocaust, the fact that we can't learn from it. We have evolved tribal instincts so powerful that we don't seem to be able to overcome them.
From my friends point of view, though he would admit that the goyim were people, he wasn't really able to think of them that way.
The denial of history is what allows it to repeat.

Essin' Em said...

Thank you. Thank you for saying something, for remembering.

My grandfather was liberated from Auchwitz, having also spent time in Bergen-Belsen and another camp. My grandmother, liberated from Treblinka, shortly after having been transferred from Buchenwald.

Every time I see him, see the number on his arm, hear his stories, I vow never to forget. It is now my responsibility to keep others from forgetting too.

And you know, he is an amazing man. My sister is dating a goy (non-Jew), and of course, my grandfather wishes he was Jewish. But then, he took me aside, and told me of a German man, a civilian worker in a factory that had helped him out, and saved his life more than once from the SS. He told me "Ess, you cannot blame the German people. There are many Jews who are not so good, and there are people who are not Jews, who are very very very good people. It is ok she is dating a goy, as long as he is a good man."

Woah tangent. Sorry, but again, thank you.