Auschwitz60th Anniversary of Auschwitz Liberation remembered

They gathered from far and wide, the survivors, the Jewish community leaders, the politicians, the royalty and over 3,000 security staff, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by Red Army troops. Of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, 1.1 million died in Auschwitz, the most notorious of Hitler’s death camps.

The event was duly sombre. The rail lines leading to Auschwitz were lined in fire and watching this I couldn’t help but feel I was witnessing a religious ceremony. The analogy is very fitting – Yad Vashem and the Holocaust Museum in DC are very temple-like. Abe Foxman of the ADL and Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Wiesenthal center are accorded the respect and importance that was once the exclusive domain of Torah scholars. Jews everywhere use the Holocaust and anti-semitism as the primary focus and manifestation of their Jewish identity.

Frankly, death as religion sucks.

Despite the ceaseless refrains of “never again” it has happened again, Hello Serbia! Howdy Rwanda! How ya doin’ Darfur? We haven’t learnt a damn thing, it’s pretty obvious. And even if we did learn some little teeny thing, seems like we’re rapidly forgetting it:

… that grim chapter in history is nevertheless losing its capacity to shock.

Even the word Holocaust, … may have become diluted by overuse — and by history’s more recent horrors and genocides.

An Environics poll published earlier this week in Canada found 30 per cent of Canadians surveyed couldn’t identify that Jews were the primary victims of the Holocaust.

In Poland, that number rose to about half of the population, according to a recent survey conducted there.

The numbers weren’t any better in Britain. A poll conducted for the BBC found that 45 per cent of adults had never heard of Auschwitz. The figure rose to 60 per cent among women and people under 35.

Consequently, I’m kind of getting tired of the central role the Holocaust is playing in the Jewish world and in notions of Jewish identity. Judaism for me at least, is not about hatred and death – it’s about peace and love. I’ll let you all think about that because I have to go and enjoy Shabbat in Jerusalem. Shabbat Shalom!

About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


  • Death as religion does suck. Fortunately, for more observant Jews, even with displays like this one, the Shoah is a relatively minor part of Judaism. For those who only go to services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur … it is a major part. Too bad for them.

  • You pretty much have it spot on.

    The issue with this is that it is far too easy to make the Holocaust the central issue of being Jewish.

    Yes, it is a part, through the history of being Jewish, but it is not the theme.

    While we should never forget, at the same time, we need to be aware of others who also suffered as a result of Nazi persecution.

    We also need to focus a bit more of how the sephardis suffered and what happened to them. I hardly ever recall anyone talking much about the Farhud that happened to Iraqi Jews in 1941.

    I don’t recall much mention of the many freemasons that also were killed.

    I call this selective remembering and for the sake of all those who died, we need to move away from selective remembering and make sure all our remembered.

    There’s a piece I wrote about selective remembering.



  • For better or worse, actually it is always worse, the Shoah plays a major part in the psyche of 21c Jewish identity. This is a no-brainer. The world, not only the Jews, was radically affected by the radical departure from conventional warfare and the introduction of the mechanization of mass-death that characterizes Auschwitz Birkenau.

    Yes it sucks to have bus-loads of sleep deprived American teens in matching blue march-of-the-living-gang-wear, schlep the kilometer from Auschwitz to Birkenau and have them think that they are having their bar/bat mitzvah all over again. But you know what…for some of them it may be the most raw, most “real” Jewish/spiritual/religious experience they have ever had. Sad? Yes, but even imagined pain (not the blisters in their Sketchers, but death by gassing or starvation) can galvanize change.

    Who knows, maybe it will make them seek a real experience next?
    Sure death as religion sucks. But most Jews have no religion today.

  • Good points Ray – I don’t want to get into a cause and effect discussion here. Suffice it to say that I am pleased that some of our self-appointed leaders seem to be waking up to the reality of what’s going on out there. I see movement towards less dramatic long term educational initiatives and I think that’s a good thing. Does it mean we’ll have less heart warming photos of teary teens lighting candles on their Haj to Auschwitz? Maybe. But I can live with that.