Opinion » Editorial

It's important to remember the facts of the Holocaust

by Rev. Irene  Monroe
Thursday Feb 2, 2017

Trump's public statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day omitted any mention of Judaism, anti-Semitism or the Nazis' systematic program exterminating European Jewry. The omission was not only hurtful to remaining Holocaust survivors, their families, and friends, but the omission is dismissive of its six million victims during World War II.

While the president's generic statement on suffering was intended to be an all-inclusive acknowledgment of other groups killed-gays, Gypsies, political dissidents, non-Aryans, to name a few- by the Nazis, Elie Wiesel, at the ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1995, stated it best that "It is true that not all the victims were Jews. But all the Jews were victims." In other words, eliminating Jews was the central organizing principal for the rise of the "Third Reich."

In this Trump era of "post- truth" politics and "alternative facts" that unabashedly challenges, exaggerates, lies and outrightly negates legitimate facts, orthodox interpretations, and overwhelming evidence, the president's statement acknowledging the Holocaust and not mentioning Jews and anti-Semitism is similiar to making a public statement acknowledging American slavery and not mentioning blacks and racism.

It is of my opinion that we have normalized anti-Semitism in this country to the point it is not only pervasive, but sadly it is also invisible to some. For example, during Trump's campaign he was condemned by Jewish leaders for what appeared on his anti-Hillary poster the Star of David layered over $100 bills. Trump barked back telling his critics the star was a sheriff's badge.

Since Trump has taken office, however, there has been a noticeable uptick of anti-Semitic assaults and sights of swastika signs across the country, even in an unlikely place like Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS), a bastion liberalism, tolerance and multiculturalism.

In early December, last year, the school newspaper "Register Forum" reported that swastikas were drawn on two bathroom walls. The third-floor boys' bathroom had a swastika next to the message "The power lost of this sign will be made great again with President Trump."

"I think we need to be realistic about the current trickle-down toxic messages seeping in everywhere, and in Cambridge, as we're seeing, their power to impede the commitment to social justice in our schools, and to test the fundamental values of "opportunity, diversity, respect " at CRLS," Elaine Schear shared with me, a parent of two CRLS alumnae, and co-Founder and
Exec Director of Friends of CRLS.
At best, Trump's statement reframes the Holocaust, highlighting the event but not the magnitude of its human carnage.

Along with the 6 million Jews killed Nazi Germany's extermination plan of gay men is a classic example of how politics informed their science. Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code differentiated between the type of persecution non-German gay men received from German gay men because of a quasi-scientific and racist ideology of racial purity. "The polices of persecution carried out toward non-German homosexuals in the occupied territories differed significantly from those directed against Germans gays," wrote Richard Plant in "The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals." "The Aryan race was to be freed of contagion; the demise of degenerate subjects were to be hastened."

Although laws against lesbianism had not been codified, and lesbians were not criminalized for their sexual orientation as gay men were, German women were nonetheless viewed as threat to the Nazi state and were fair game during SS raids on lesbian bars, sentenced by the Gestapo, sent to concentration camps, and branded with a black triangle. As a matter of fact, any German woman, lesbian, prostitute or heterosexual, not upholding her primary gender role - "to be a mother of as many Aryan babies as possible" - was deemed anti-social and hostile to the German state.

For Trump to not acknowledge the victims of the Holocaust but rather to reference them by stating "in the name of the perished" glosses over not only the Holocaust's distinct historical circumstances, like how already exiting prejudices and fears were stoked and amplified against Jews, but it also conceals and denies German Christian anti-Semitism, and it erases the unique stories of survival, bravery and resistance by Jews and their allies.

"Seventy-five years ago my mother's family was being murdered in Poland because they could not escape," Leora Tec shared with me. "My mother (Nechama Tec) survived the war in Poland posing as a Catholic girl and sheltered by a Catholic family. She wrote about such rescue in her book "When Light Pierced the Darkness."

Tec is the Founder and Director of "Bridge to Poland," which offers tours to Poland focusing on Jewish life before and after the Nazi's occupation.

It's important to remember the Holocaust because history has a funny way of repeating itself. Ironically, Trump's immigration ban on Muslims was issued the same day the White House released his Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. And like the many of Jews who perished in the Holocaust because the U. S. government wouldn't grant them asylum so too will many Muslims.


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