World Jewish Congress leader marks tomorrow’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
On Jan. 27, the date on which Auschwitz was liberated in 1945, many European countries mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In addition to the standard memorial ceremonies, more than 200,000 people around the world in recent days have posted on social media pictures of themselves accompanied by the words, in dozens of languages, “We Remember.”
The online campaign — #WeRemember — was launched by the World Jewish Congress.
The Jewish Week spoke with Betty Ehrenberg, executive director of WJC North America.
Auschwitz was liberated nearly 75 years ago. How near are we to “Never Again.”
I think we’re very far away from “Never Again.” If you look at the situation in many parts of the world, there’s still so much hatred, there’s still so much killing. There have been mass murders in Africa, in Asia; there is the scourge of terrorism that is affecting so many countries.
Humankind really hasn’t learned the lesson.
We’re seeing a worldwide resurgence of anti-Semitism. Is that a surprise?
Yes and no.
It is a surprise in the sense we had thought that since the tragedy of the Holocaust, humankind would be loath to be anti-Semitic ever again.
However, it is no surprise … it seems that anti-Semitism is always bubbling beneath the surface. Every so often again it rears its ugly head.
In Israel, pro-Palestinian proponents consistently deny the historical veracity of the Holocaust, or claim that Zionists have used the Holocaust as an excuse to displace Arabs from their lands. How much does this attitude add to the problem of anti-Semitism, let alone hurt the outlook for a Middle East peace settlement?
It does add to anti-Semitism, because it casts the Jewish people in the role of claiming something that is not historically theirs. The Jewish people have returned to their homeland, which dates back thousands of years. Zionism is not about the Holocaust; Zionism is about the return of the Jewish people to this historic homeland.
Some critics of the new administration say they fear an increase in danger to Jews in this country – in addition to antagonism towards other minority groups. Do you agree with these concerns?
We have been seeing anti-Semitic statements and anti-Semitic actions, including on [college] campuses, for years. There have been swastikas drawn on synagogues and on other Jewish institutions for years. We have seen anti-minority slurs and attitudes for a long time. This is nothing new.
The WJC’s commemoration this week is focusing on Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Shoah. Why that topic?
We’re focusing on rescuers because there were so many Jews whose bravery and willingness to risk their lives to save their brethren has not been sufficiently recognized and has not been sufficiently celebrated – we can be grateful to those Jews who sacrificed for their brothers and sisters. It is only fitting that the Jewish people recognize the non-Jews who did this, but we should not take for granted Jewish people who did the same.