With antisemitism on the rise, it’s important to be aware of mentalities threatening the memory of the Holocaust.
27 January marks the annual Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD), the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, in which almost a million Jews were murdered, alongside tens of thousands of Roma and Sinti, and thousands of others. HMD is a day to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust along with genocides committed in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia, and South Sudan. This year’s anniversary follows in the wake of the siege of a Texas synagogue in which the attacker believed that Jews controlled the US government, a popular ideal amongst the Nazis. 77 years later, the living memory of the Holocaust is slowly fading, with less and less opportunity to hear from survivors, but with the pain still being felt keenly across Jewish communities.
A recent survey revealed that an estimated half of UK residents are unaware that more than 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. A significant amount were also uninformed about other key aspects of Britain’s role in the genocide, with 67% believing that Jewish refugees were welcomed here, when in fact they were actively rejected. Aside from the Kindertransport, the UK was no Jewish safe haven and, arguably, that legacy continues to this day. Intergenerational trauma is real, even for those who are not direct descendants of Holocaust survivors.
Since my last article for Holocaust Memorial Day, antisemitism has risen exponentially and Glasgow is no exception. I have been personally targeted by a lecturer, been told by a classmate that Jews run Wall Street, been told that the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab countries was an act of expelling “colonisers” and was not antisemitic, my stance on Israel/Palestine has been demanded during conversations of antisemitism and I’ve had friends dismiss the severity of neo-Nazi propaganda. All this compiled alongside the fact that the University’s Jewish Society have to keep their HMD events private prove it’s clear that Jews do not feel safe here. I have never been more hyper-alert about my ethnicity than whilst studying at Glasgow, and many of my Jewish friends feel the same. Most of us are scared of wearing anything that would visibly identify us as Jewish; we hide our Jewish identities, our Magen Davids, kippot. As a politics student, I’m often wary about the personal views of lecturers, as antisemitism in academia is not uncommon.
The epidemic of Holocaust denial continues its frightening ascent. Of course, we should rightfully be terrified of the Nick Griffins and the David Dukes of the world, but we also need to be wary of those who are regarded as supposedly “respectable” public figures. As I have previously stated, director Ken Loach is guilty of such; peddling soft Holocaust denial by claiming that “history is there for us all to discuss” regarding a “debate” on the Holocaust in a Labour fringe meeting. This is alongside his other extreme comments claiming that Jews are manufacturing claims of antisemitism because Jeremy Corbyn supports Palestine. Carlos Latuff, a political cartoonist, participated in Iran’s 2006 Holocaust Cartoon Competition and has compared Jews to Nazis, effectively suggesting that Jews were in collaboration with the fascist regime. Latuff’s cartoons are widely shared in many left-wing circles and by many politicians, Corbyn included. Neither Holocaust denial nor antisemitism is a preserve of the far-right, and to argue otherwise is blatant historical revisionism. Former Labour Party member Jackie Walker complained that HMD only focused on Jewish victims. Walker, who had already been suspended, was quickly corrected, and reprimanded by Jewish groups for her false claims.
Holocaust denial is very specifically rooted in antiquated antisemitic ideologies; that Jews are exaggerating the Holocaust for their own gain. Denial of genocides by perpetrators is still commonplace; at the onset, the Sudanese government refuted the levels of violence that were reported on. The Rohingya genocide was consistently played down by Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi. The 20th century alone was a hallmark of genocides; the Armenian genocide, the Guatemalan genocide, the Rwandan genocide, the Herero and Namaqua genocide - these are only a small handful of examples of human brutality. We all have a duty to educate ourselves about the Holocaust, particularly when Holocaust denial and trivialisation is so normalised. We also have a duty to educate ourselves about other horrific human rights abuses across the globe. The threat of genocide did not begin nor end with the Holocaust.
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