So in amongst the one hundred and ninety eleven crazy things coming out of the White House was the President’s statement regarding Holocaust Remembrance Day. (I’d link to the official version but it seems to be removed from the White House site). The statement managed to omit any mention of Jews, genocide or anti-semitism. This is not an “honest mistake”, and no Trump spokesperson has since corrected the error. As Deborah Lipstadt wrote in the Atlantic;
The de-Judaization of the Holocaust, as exemplified by the White House statement, is what I term softcore Holocaust denial.
(It’s worth reading the whole of her article)
Indeed the White House statement refers to “innocent people”, here’s a screen grab I took from the video in the Times article linked above.
We all know that Jews were not the only people the Nazis sought to persecute and kill, the list of victims includes Roma, journalists, trade unionists, homosexuals, anarchists, priests, intellectuals, the disabled, and many others. The total death toll of the Holocaust is usually given as 11 million; roughly equivalent to the combined population of New York and Chicago. The White House seems to be trying to whitewash its message as more “inclusive”, but it cannot be beyond the abilities of White House staffers to write an inclusive message of remembrance and mention Jews. This was a conscious attempt to remove Jews from Holocaust Remembrance Day.
I write this sitting in Amsterdam, a city with a nickname “Mokum” that comes directly from Yiddish. The legacy of the World War II Nazi occupation of Amsterdam is visible throughout the city. Of the approximately 80,000 Jews living in Amsterdam in 1941 an estimated 80% were killed in Nazi death camps. I am a five minute walk from the house of the most famous resident to share that history; Anne Frank. The National Holocaust Museum is in this city, housed in a former theatre that the Nazis used as a holding centre for Jews about to be deported. There are monuments and subtle memorials around the city, on the Nieuwe Keizersgracht the names of those removed from their homes on the opposite side of the canal are set into the pavement. This is known as the “Schaduwkade”or Shadow Quay, alongside each name is the name of where they died; Auschwitz, Sobibor, Buchenwald. Places famous for their terror.
The near complete destruction of Amsterdam’s Jewish community is so well etched into the city’s history that I give a silent cheer when I see a menorah, or lights at Hannukah.
There is no forgetting here.
If the White House wants to remind us to remember other victims we can do that.
Under the Third Reich the Nazis;
- controlled the media
- censored the arts
- burnt books
- implemented a police state in which arrests were arbitrary.
- eliminated freedom of speech
- eliminated freedom of the press
- removed the functioning judicial system and established a court system that would deliver verdicts as instructed.
- arrested and killed those who opposed them, often without a fair trail (yeah, that happens in a police state).
- incarcerated millions of people and forced those they didn’t kill to live in starvation.
- labelled those incarcerated with a coded triangle to represent their “crime”.
- saw a mass exodus of Jews and other minorities who felt at risk from every territory they invaded, (and the world did not always accept those refugees, those who worked to get people to safety are remembered as heroes)
So yes Mr Trump and your cronies, on Holocaust Memorial Day we remember what was destroyed under the Nazi regime. All of it.
There will be other memorial days, most countries have their own war memorials and many Jewish communities around the world observe Yom HaShoah. The world is watching the US right now, in horror. I watch and hope that our descendants do not need to create new memorials for the outcomes of this current regime.
Post Script; I usually avoid politics and religion, but as I sat down to write a serious post on communication and technology this was the only thing that I could write about. Normal posting will resume next week. Maybe.
Image: Holocaust Memorial 2 | Ian Southwell | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0