The Line Which Cannot Be Drawn

Having watched Tony Lerman’s appearance on the BBC’s ‘The Big Questions’ and read his CiF column on the subject, I cannot describe either as particularly memorable. However many of the comments to Lerman’s article show only too well why Holocaust Memorial Day is needed and how ‘drawing a line under the Holocaust’ is more of a political campaign rather than the result of historical lessons having been learned.

SdeBoker

25 Mar 2010, 2:36PM

I saw the programme. it didnt discuss anything really. Steel was trying to be controversial i thought but no one took the bait. Actually what he brought up was far more worthy of discussion.

And for the record i dont see why there should be a national holocaust rememberance day. it should just be added in with the other rememberance day. as far as i am concerned theres nothing to be gained from going over old ground and i had hoped that when the final holocaust survivors passed on then that would be the end of it.

Namokel

25 Mar 2010, 2:43PM

The best sentence in this article:

Lord Steel, welcomed the fact that Britain had its Holocaust memorial day but said that “many holocausts” needed to be remembered and having just returned from Gaza he warned about a potential holocaust there.

Gangastaista

25 Mar 2010, 2:46PM

Agreed. There is no more need, requirement, or moral responsibility, for Britons to have a Nazi holocaust memorial day than a Sabra holocaust memorial day or a Shatila holocaust memorial day or an East Timor holocaust memorial day or an Amernian holocaust memorial day or a Rwanda holocaust memorial day, etc. etc.

Germany? Germany needs a Nazi holocaust memorial day. Israel? Israel needs a Nazi holocaust memorial day.

Britain? All it needs is a VE day.

SdeBoker

25 Mar 2010, 2:50PM

I tried to come back to the central question and said teaching the history of the Holocaust is essential and is being done,

i am not saying ignore the holocaust. if theres an opportunity for it to be studied as part of the history of WW2 perhaps then definitely. i dont feel there is much to be gained because no serious person is going suggest debating the pros and cons of the final solution. i also feel that we are fooling ourselves by thinking that remembering historical events has any bearing on whether or not similar things will happen in the future. we remember war and yet the world never rests from war. the other aspect is that i dont really think children should be taught about death in this way. i think there is enough misery in the world as it is.

goldmine

25 Mar 2010, 3:01PM

My daughter?s goldfish Percy died last week. Should Britain not have a Percy memorial day too?

A flippant comment possibly, maybe even in bad taste however, far more relevant to me than Slavery the Holocaust or any other humanitarian tragedy that happened in the dim and distant past which I had nothing to do with.

KrustytheKlown

25 Mar 2010, 3:21PM

It was a crime not far away,

Lots of crimes have been carried out ‘not far away’

.half a million Britons lost their lives fighting the regime that carried it out,

There are already days to commemorate those Britons who lost their lives in wars.

its placement of science, rational planning, and cold-blooded calculation in the service of genocidal insanity has no clear parallels

Even if this is true… so what? Why do the allegedly ‘unique’ aspects of the holocaust make it worthy of being uniquely commemorated? All historical events have their ‘unique’ aspects, that does not make them ‘unique’ in and of themselves (in the true sense, no historical event is ever unique in that there will always be some similarities – and some differences – with comparable events.) Besides, even if for the sake of argument we accept the ‘holocause uniqueness’ thesis, you could say that that makes it less, not more, worthy of exclusive commemoration. If an event is truly ‘unique’ then the lessons which can be learned from it, are, almost by definition, very few.

ragworm

25 Mar 2010, 11:09PM

@Antony Lerman

It is certainly right that the Naqba should be commemorated, but it would render the word ‘genocide’ meaningless if you were suggesting that the Naqba was a genocide. I don’t think it helps the Palestinians to mis-describe their

Yes, point taken. Though perhaps it’s best if the Palestinians describe their experience in their own words.

However, we have Holocaust Day here on the 27th January (and it’s not Genocide Day), we have a commitment from other countries to promote the message of Holocaust Day, we have hundreds of events across the UK and an enormous amount of publicity worldwide, and there are even laws in parts of Europe stating that Holocaust denial is a crime. Yet in contrast, the poor Palestinians are denied the right to commemorate their own catastrophe and Nakba denial seems to be an essential part of the Zionist narrative. Not that I’m making an equivalence between the Nakba and the Holocaust, of course not, but as a matter of principle the Palestinians should be allowed to grieve their tragedy too. That they’re not suggests Holocaust Day has become yet another representation of western double standards as far as Muslim and Arab communities are concerned.

I post quite often on the IP conflict, though I don’t have much of a clue how it might be resolved. However, the inertia borne from denial must be overcome, and it would be very helpful if Jewish Israeli kids were taught about the Nakba whilst Palestinian kids were taught about the Holocaust.

TonyLerman

25 Mar 2010, 11:46PM

ragworm
Thank you for conceding the point. In return I want to say that there is much truth in what you go on to write. I agree completely that Israeli and Palestinian children should be taught about each other’s tragedies. And I abhor the law that may be introduced in Israel which would effectively ban Israel’s Palestinian citizens from commemorating the Naqba. We have to get beyond using our historical tragedies as sticks with which to beat each other; we have rather to use them as tools for reconciliation. But that can only come after the Palestinians are given the opportunity to catch up by not only being free to tell their story, but also by Israel having the courage to recognize it and acknowledge its responsibility for what happened. I think that truth-telling would strengthen Israel, not weaken it as the dominant political trends in Israel now believe.

This last exchange between Lerman and Ragworm is in many ways more revealing than the original article. Notably, neither of them sees fit to mention the well known fact that Hamas refused to allow the subject of the Holocaust to be taught in schools under its control, calling it a ‘a lie invented by Zionists’. The ‘moderate’ PA is not much better either; Mahmoud Abbas called the Holocaust into question in his PhD dissertation, referring to “the Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that 6 million Jews were killed” and even within Israel itself, where it is not uncommon still to meet Holocaust survivors with numbers tattooed upon their forearms, a 2009 University of Haifa poll showed that 40.5% of Israeli Arabs do not believe that the Holocaust occurred. Across the border to the north, Hizbollah have had Anne Frank’s diary removed from a school curriculum. As for the Palestinians not being ‘free to tell their story’, I can only conclude that Mr. Lerman must suffer from some kind of sensory deprivation. Certainly in my part of the UK we heard of little else in the run up to Israel’s 60th anniversary and a march was held in the town to celebrate ’60 years of heroic resistance to the occupation’. (Note the ‘60’: that’s 1948, not 1967).

Many Europeans would be only too happy to ‘draw a line under the Holocaust’ and put those embarrassing memories behind them. Indeed some are exceedingly annoyed with the Jews for not allowing them to do so. We also constantly hear the Palestinian claims that they are ‘paying the price’ for the Holocaust; drawing that line would mean that for Europeans, as well as for Palestinians and anyone else uncomfortable with Jewish self-determination, there would no longer be a need to consider either the past or the future of the Jewish nation, affording obvious political advantage. The sad fact seems to be that neither Lerman nor many of the CiF commentators are capable of seeing that the ideology which paved the way for the attempted annihilation of the Jewish people is by no means confined to dusty text books. Closing that chapter of history, as some seen keen to do, means willfully ignoring the fact that the embers of that ideology are still alight, possibly in even more minds today than in early twentieth century Europe.

I found it particularly significant that quite a few of the comments to this article raised the subject of Roma suffering at the hands of the Nazis and yet not one person saw fit to relate to the abhorrent racist violence perpetrated by their own countrymen against Roma migrants to Northern Ireland just last year, let alone reach the conclusion that this is just one of many examples (and closer to home for many CiF readers than the Middle East) of why the Holocaust must continue to be remembered, taught and studied. Tony Lerman puts his faith in education, but when Roma families are driven out of Belfast because of pure racial hatred, one cannot afford to be complacent. Education is obviously of tremendous importance and some excellent work is being done in that field, but it is vital to appreciate that Holocaust education did not enter the National Curriculum in the UK until 1991 and Holocaust Memorial Day has only been marked since 2001; many of the country’s present leaders are from a generation for whom history lessons ended with the First World War.

I am always struck by the symbolism of the differences of commemoration of the Holocaust in Israel and in the other countries which mark Holocaust Memorial Day – and let us not forget that many countries do not. The official day designated by the UN is January 27th, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops. From a Jewish perspective, this always strikes me as a passive date in that it marks helpless Jews being saved by the powerful allies. By contrast, in Israel we call our commemoration ‘Remembrance Day for the Holocaust and the Heroism’ and mark it as near as possible to the anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. That’s a very different kind of symbolism; one which is active rather than passive and in my view, has within it a message for past, present and future regarding the importance of the Jewish people’s prime lesson from their collective experience of the Holocaust: never again will we place our fate in the hands of others. Maybe that is the lesson which people such as Tony Lerman have yet to learn.

“Hope without memory is like memory without hope”

Elie Wiesel

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