Our new friends at Judapest – a site that stands out for its beauty and content even if one doesn’t speak the requisite Hungarian – and I were having a brief chat where one commented that living in Eastern Europe at this time evokes cognitive dissonance (here, ck: www.dictionary.com 😛 ). It came up because one of their authors lives in a house that was a safe house during the war. However, there is no plaque to commemorate the location.
I thought about that today as the UN commemorated 60 years to the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviets. Kofi Annan said to the General Assembly,
“The tragedy of the Jewish people was unique,” Annan said. “Two thirds of all Europe’s Jews, including one and a half million children, were murdered. An entire civilization, which had contributed far beyond its numbers to the cultural and intellectual riches of Europe and the world, was uprooted, destroyed, laid waste.”
The UN is not the only body to commemorate this event. In France, a new Holocaust memorial has been built in Paris. In Poland, they are planning to host an international gathering of leaders to thank the Soviets for freeing the camp. Putin will be there as well.
There are articles about the soldiers who were there to liberate the camp and who still cannot forget the horrors they found upon entering the camp and the barracks. Little children perished inside a gas chamber is a memory one doesn’t easily forget, I guess.
There’s even a feel-good Vatican photo-op and interview with their most famous Jewish convert to Catholicism, Lustiger, who tells us how horrible it is to go to Auschwitz. Oddly he does not mention Pope Pius’s letter ordering Catholics to keep any Jewish children they may have helped or saved who had been baptized.
So the dissonance?
Well, we’re on the Internet, so a brief visit to any number of ultra-Right or pro-Palestinian sites will reveal modern day antisemitism. But it’s not just in anonymous spaces like the Internet any more. Today in Russia, a group of parliament members asked that all Jewish groups be disallowed from operating because they cause antisemitism.
In Britain, a coalition of 400 Muslim groups banded to boycott any commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz on the grounds that it is discriminatory to have a commemoration for this Holocaust while not commemorating other genocides. Of course, they threw in the Palestinians for good measure:
We said the issue of the Holocaust is not really the concern. But we have now expressed our unwillingness to attend the ceremony because it excludes ongoing genocide and human rights abuses around the world and in the occupied territories of Palestine
In Germany, the government in power expressed sorrow for what happened in Auschwitz, but some right wing members of parliament walked out rather than stand for a minute of silence for the victims of their former regime.
Throughout Europe and the world, for that matter, we see a significant rise of antisemitic incidents. Some take place in predominantly Christian countries and some in Muslim countries.
Even in the US and Canada, we now see Left wing academics and activists use the Arab-Israeli conflict as a cudgel to hammer away at Israel and “its supporters” (Indymedia and Juan Cole, anybody?). Reading them leads one on a path of conspiracies and allegations against the Jewish community in North America, its allegiances, its power, its “prejudices,” and even its causing of the current war in Iraq.
I could go on, but the list is endless. The list is, however, meaningful, because it represents far more than paranoia on the part of Jews. It represents tangible evidence that while there may not be a Nazi regime around, perhaps many of the sentiments that led to its rise still exist in greater degrees than we would imagine.
We have a Jewish state now. My family and most Jews I know in North America probably enjoy greater freedom and opportunity than most Jews ever have within the range of known Jewish history. And yet…something is very wrong. There is a turbulence beneath the fabric of many societies; a turbulence that goes deeper than the conflict with the Arab world, or even the war of parts of the Islamic world on the West and on America, where the world’s second largest Jewish community resides.