Today is Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a day to ponder humanity’s potential to commit evil, and to remember the 6 million Jews who died in the Shoah.
While Nazi Germany officially stopped hunting down Jews 77 years ago, there is still much to be concerned about in Europe and America. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has justified his invasion of Ukraine with the false accusation that it’s being led by Nazis – even as reports document Russian soldiers committing mass killings, and executions of Ukrainian civilians. Meanwhile, far-right political parties spouting antisemitism have significant strongholds in Hungary, France, Italy and Spain. France just dodged a far-right bullet this week with French President Emmanuel Macron holding off Marine Le Pen.
And in Germany, residents seem less interested than others in learning from the horrors inflicted by their forefathers. A World Jewish Congress Poll released this winter indicated that antisemitism is still a big part of the country’s culture: One fifth of all respondents said that Jews had too much influence in the areas of finance, politics, media or in conflicts and wars compared to other groups in society. One in five Germans believe that Jews receive a better COVID-19 vaccine and benefit economically from the pandemic. Many Germans also want to move on from the Holocaust: 30 percent of respondents think that Jews use the Holocaust to advance their “own agenda.” At the same time, a growing majority of Germans lack basic knowledge about the Holocaust: 60 percent were unaware that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.
As reported in this week’s Journal, antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high in the United States in 2021. In Massachusetts, the ADL reported a 48 percent increase in incidents in the past year. Incidents included a rabbi being chased and stabbed multiple times outside a Jewish day school in Brighton; a Duxbury football team using the word “Auschwitz” as a football play during a game; and a Lowell School Committee member calling a former city employee a Jewish slur on live TV.
While Jews have prospered in America, we need to take note that there will always be a charismatic leader, or hate groups, that seek to create a bogeyman in order to gain power. We must be proactive and understand their motives and counter them with real facts, backed by the support of government and law enforcement. History has shown that waves of hatred can lead to genocide. We cannot afford to be silent.