Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Memory and Justice

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                          Auschwitz entrance sign: "Work Sets You Free"

I grew up in the generation which heard a great deal about World War II,  some of through  the stories of parents and family members who served in that global conflict. Both my father and father-in-law served in the military. As kids derogatory terms such as Krauts and Japs were used without reservation. We watched war TV dramas such as Rat Patrol and Combat! There were even WW2 comedies including McHale's Navy and Hogan's Heroes.

We were also very aware of the atrocities perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazis. We learned that six million Jews were exterminated in what were euphemistically called Concentration Camps but were centres for mass murder of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others designated for annihilation by Hitler's regime. Jews were targeted for their ethnicity and religion and vilified as enemies of the state and humanity even though they contributed greatly to their societies in many ways, including political and military service.

Last week, on Holocaust Remembrance Day we saw images of Israeli's stopping whatever they were doing for two minutes at 10 AM. They stop their vehicles on highways and bear witness in the silence. I have been in Israel when this takes place and it is a somber and moving reminder of the Shoah, the Calamity.

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We also learned that an American poll of Millennials found that four in ten didn't know that six million Jews had been murdered during the war and two thirds didn't recognize the name Auschwitz as the Death Camp where a million Jews perished. It's chilling that this is the case, and a reminder that even the darkest events of human history can be forgotten.

I was encouraged to see that in Poland, a country whose government is systematically attempting to downplay its involvement in the extermination of Jews, there was what is called the International March of the Living to commemorate the Shoah. Young people and others from around the world gather to walk three kilometres from Auschwitz to Birkenau, another of the notorious camps.

We know that anti-Jewish sentiments continue to exist around the planet and often promulgated by fundamentalist of other religions. We can pray that education about the past will inform just and inclusive societies.

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