Never Forgetting Means Anyone

Yellow badge Star of David called "Judens...

Yellow badge Star of David called “Judenstern”. Part of the exhibition in the Jewish Museum Westphalia, Dorsten, Germany. The wording is the German word for Jew (Jude), written in mock-Hebrew script. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you who did not know, and I did not until this morning, today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is the day we remind ourselves: never forget. We must not forget, because what happened in Europe 70 years ago was one of the greatest horrors ever committed by one people on another. We must never forget, because we want to make sure it never happens to anyone, ever again. We have, unfortunately, failed repeatedly at that task several times since then.
I believe we fail, in part, because we do not honestly remember everyone who has suffered from genocide. We remember the 6 million plus Jewish people who lost their lives, but often speed over the equal number of Romani that were butchered in the camps as well, along the smaller, but still significant numbers of LGBT folk, communists et al. The final solution, while stoked by antisemitism, was not reserved to it. We ignore the Nazi’s complicity in the murder and enslavement of other people, notably the Chinese, by the Japanese (and of course gloss over that historical ugliness in general in the name of good relations with one of our favorite trading partners.)
It goes beyond the bounds of World War 2, however. We ignore the genocide of Africans by Europeans during the colonial years. We ignore the genocide of Aboriginals in Australia. We ignore the genocide of First Nations People here in North America by white settlers. Oh we remember them within small clusters of academia, or on special days, but by and large, we choose not to be reminded, or actually claim we are being victimized when someone does remind us.
Today we are complicit in mass killings around the world, either by turning a blind eye to the acts of our “allies” or by our indifference to the “collateral damage” (and doesn’t that sound so much cleaner than innocent men, women, and children blown to bits) in drone strikes. We have forgotten that most basic lesson of the Holocaust: that disregarding the value of another human being is utterly monstrous. The consequences are dire and self feeding. If the state has no regard for human life, how can we?
So let us take today to remember, and maybe the other 364 in the year. Even when we make this specific day about The Holocaust, let us never forget our own leaders’ complicity in that horror, as Jewish people were turned around at our borders, when it was known full well what they faced back home. Let us never forget our cowardice and own prejudices that led to the rise of that particular regime, because we could not care less about the suffering of others until it threatened us. Let us never forget the cost of our own willful ignorance, and self-serving interpretation and memory of history.


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