In most civilized countries, Monday, April 28, was remembered as Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Various events commemorated the 6 million who died at the hands of the Nazis. However, the remembrance is much larger than what happened to the Jewish people. One and a half million Armenians died at the hands of the Turks. The multitudes who died in the killing fields of Asia still haunt the world. The list goes on an on.
This Remebrance is a time to stop and reflect on how precious life is and to commit ourselves to attempting to halt wars and stop the deaths of our young people who walk in harm’s way. Obviously, halting gunfire and assault of artillery is a noble idea beyond our reach, but we can commit ourselves to at least trying to do what we can to improve the contour of a warring world.
Every year fewer Holocaust survivors remain. Most first-hand witnesses are now in their ‘70s at best and most are in their ‘80s. Last year I atended a Holocaust survivors conference and listened to their stories. Individuals shared how after 70 years, they are still panicked by black boots, German Shepherd dogs, the sound of sirens, and the list goes on and on. These survivors remain an important rebuttal to Holocaust deniers who resist the truth for their own political reasons.
An important reversal of events has just occurred in the Holy Land. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has recognized the death of the 6 million as “the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era.” His acceptance of these facts is an important step forward.
Abbas had been vilified as a Holocaust denier because in l963 he wrote his doctoral dissertation challenging the number of Jews killed. In l983, the dissertation was published as a book also claiming Zionist had collaborated with the Nazis to send more people to Israel. The result of these works hung the title of anti-Semite around his neck.
Marc Schneier, an American Rabbi, had talked with Abbas for 40 minutes about a number of concerns when the issue of recognizing the Holocaust came up. Abbas immediately recognized the significance of releasing a statement on Holocaust Day and his positive approval was released.
Of course, severe issues remain in what was formerly negotiations between the PA and Israel. After a seven-year hiatus, the PA moved to repair fences with Hamas. This gesture was only another nail in the coffin for resolutions of issues between the PA and Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that the charter of Hamas is anti-Semitic to the core.
These important issues aside, recognizing the terrifying reality of the Holocaust can help the world to stay focused on the necessity of finding alternatives to the taking of human lives. War has never been an answer for anything except killing. In the Middle East and across the world, let’s continue to find a better way.