It was International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday, during a period when the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage. Humanity is united in the effort to battle the virus with vaccinations as we struggle to maintain our normal way of life. In facing the pandemic and its consequences we face the unknown power of nature, hoping science will be on our side as we aim to conquer the threat and its impact on our lives. Seventy-six years ago, humanity was fighting a challenge totally incomparable to the pandemic, the utmost evil of Nazism and its genocidal policies.
Οn January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was liberated from the Nazis and their collaborators, exposing the horror of atrocities taking place in that concentration camp and many others in the implementation of the Nazi policy of the “Final Solution” aimed at the elimination and liquidation of the Jewish people. The liberation of the camp, significant as it was in the fight against Nazi Germany and its many collaborators in Europe, symbolized an end to an era of racial laws, discrimination, disenfranchisement and the violation of basic human rights and dignity. What was exposed in the crematoria of Auschwitz brought to everyone’s attention and eyes what many refused to accept, let alone face in time. Those were atrocities aimed at Jews only because of our Jewish identity, heritage and roots – for no other other reason but hatred and prejudice.
It is beyond common wisdom and rhetoric that the tragedy inflicted on the Jewish people is the world’s own moral bankruptcy. The world and the international community did not react in time, did not stand up for basic human values and did not struggle to support the deprived, the defenseless and the victims. It allowed Nazi Germany to legislate and implement racist laws and treat the Jewish people as outcasts based on the fallacy that there can be inferior humans, as if humans of a certain origin, Jews, are less equal. Nazi Germany and its collaborators will bear the guilt for eternity. But the rest of the world, those who did not stand up to the Nazis, those who haven’t said no, cannot wash their hands of it (nor their conscience), as the responsibility is theirs for failing to act.
Seventy-six years later, the world has not stood still. Today there are new challenges, new dangers and new achievements, and there have been many revolutions in our way of life. We still need to pause and reflect on the dimension of the unthinkable which took place, the heinous atrocities no words can describe, the destruction of lives and the struggle of people trying to survive the inhumanity of the time, era and circumstances. This was the reality of Europe in the 1930s and until 1945.
Now we are facing a pandemic. We are taking precautions to protect our communities, countries and civilization. The lesson is to fight, to fight and win. We must remember the lesson of history and the call of duty. We must realize that it starts with us. Each one of us has the power and responsibility to make a difference. The world was paralyzed in the 1930s and 40s. We should never let it happen again.
Yossi Amrani is Israel’s ambassador to Greece.