The Great Catastrophe : The Legacy of Pathological Hatred, Genocidal Holocaust
"The deeper I get into this, the more problematic I see the issue of 'lessons'. I don't mean by this that one learns nothing from the Holocaust -- to the contrary, I've spent my whole career at it -- but I think it's impossible to distill a universally acknowledged set of lessons that people everywhere should accept, although many have tried."
"Professional historians no longer talk, as they once did, about the lessons of the French Revolution, or the lessons of the fall of the Roman Empire, or even the lessons of Canadian Confederation. But if you type 'lessons of the Holocaust' into Google, you'll get millions of hits. But what are these lessons? Who defines them?"
Professor Michael Marrus, dean of Holocaust studies, University of Toronto
|This photo has made the rounds after the recent passing of Rabbi Herschel Schachter, depicted leading this Shabbat service shortly after the liberation of Buchenwald. There is something beyond moving about this image that shows the prisoners, still in their garb, still in their prison, but liberated and celebrating the most important day of the week.|
Dr. Marrus hesitates to pronounce on the historical lessons that the fixation of Nazi Germany to destroy world Jewry even while they were bent on dominating the world, might possibly mean to succeeding generations. It is not as though it is an unknown element, the pathology that captured the imagination and determination of the fascist German Third Reich regarding the presence of Jews on the world stage to be tantamount to evil stalking the world.
At a time when a massive German offensive did represent the stark evil of civilization gone amok, the symbolism of destroying the threatening Jewish evil bestowed an air of patriotism and concern for humanity to an obviously cruelly malevolent regime. It gave purpose to the German people, a cause for them to subscribe to, the destruction of Jews in a nation that prided itself on its cultivation of the arts and love of animals.
The Nazi portrayal of the Jew as a messenger of Satan, a creed and an ethnic group that plotted to take over the world, and that it was the dutiful dedication of the Third Reich to eliminate that threat by destroying the lives of European men, women and children from all walks of life, all sharing the contempt and degraded oppression that took their humanity and made of them a pestilence long overdue for extermination succeeded in persuading anti-Semitic-drenched Europe that they were doing the right thing.
As for North America, and the military decisions mandated by governments and their military authorities, there was no point in wasting precious time and munitions needed for the war effort to save Jewish lives. Ironically, Hitler's minions were doing his bidding by wasting precious time and personnel and equipment that their own war effort needed as it became clear it was on the cusp of defeat, to destroy Jewish lives.
|This is actually a cleaned up version of a photo posted by u/FTZ on Reddit. It depicts his grandfather, recently liberated from the Holocaust, aiming a gun at a Nazi soldier. It’s hard to know just what is happening in this photo or what happened afterwards, but it starkly depicts another side of the liberation of the Jews. Whether this photo inspires or depresses, it shows us just how complicated the idea of justice can be, and how Jews have still struggled with it so many years after the Holocaust.|
The lesson to be garnered and preserved of the Holocaust is that human populations are not sufficiently civilized, have no wish to extend themselves to salvage the lives of those unfortunate enough to become targets of extermination. They cannot imagine themselves in those desperate situations and feel that those targeted must of necessity have earned the deadly animus that propelled an agency of war and destruction to highlight the vulnerable population to mass slaughter.
It was a not-unpopular move in any event, one that experienced few irritating problems enlisting the aid of other ethnic and religious groups as Holocaust enablers.
The lesson is not only that evil wears a both a sanctimonious and a humble face when it suits its purpose, but that it takes an effort of some dimension to view other people as having value, as deserving of the privilege of life as they themselves may be. That not to make an effort to deny those accusations that rendered Jewish life expendable and readily disposable made of the unconcerned onlookers partners to genocide by their very disinterested inaction.
"People have misused the Holocaust by imputing to this human catastrophe directions in public affairs that happen to follow their own inclinations", avers Profesor Marrus of the dichotomy in reaction between those who believe that Jews will always face anti-Semitism and cannot rely on the goodwill of non-Jews to help save them from the destruction imposed upon them by the outside world. It is to themselves they must look, and it is their own auspices that must be honed to defend themselves from threats, because no one else will.
|This image is of a man in the Jewish Brigade, a segment of the British Army that fought the Germans in Italy in 1944. The rocket says “Hitler’s Gift”.|
As opposed to those who believe the Holocaust is a lesson teaching that for any minority group the threat of victimization is a reality, that there is an obligation inherent in being a larger group within society of offering protection and security to smaller groups, a kind of noblesse oblige. Nice, except that it hasn't worked up to now and likely never will work. The example of the United Nations' adopted 'Responsibility to Protect', when states turn against their own, is a primary lesson of failure.
It failed in Rwanda, and in Darfur and it has failed in Syria, and beyond that the plight of Christians, for example, and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria mirrors what occurs to minority ethnic and religious groups when majority groups hold them in contempt with the more orthodox among them feeling the need to obliterate the offending presence of the groups that do not adhere to their own brand of religious devotion. The lessons are there: the difficulty is heeding them, caring about outcomes, making the effort to be a decent human being.