By chance I received two tweets on this topic in immediate succession. The first was to an article in the Independent, on the importance of remembering the Holocaust. The second was a link to a post about a quite appalling ‘joke’ made by a natural gas company in Estonia, who juxtaposed an image of the gate to Auschwitz with a chirpy recommendation to buy their product.
The executive director of the company had taken this photograph himself, and expressed no remorse for his actions, casually citing the fact that people make jokes about such matters as though to excuse what he had done.
The Independent article, by Melissa Pawson, is a reflective piece on her own experience of visiting Auschwitz, her disappointment and surprise at hearing that a friend knew nothing of the Holocaust, and her feeling that we should remember these events because terrible things have not stopped happening today – she refers to Breivik, Srebrenica and Rwanda as examples.
Although I would not take issue with the article on this account, I think it is also worth remembering that antisemitism in particular, as well as hatred and bigotry in general, have not yet disappeared. The Estonia story reflects this, and so, unfortunately, do some of the comments under Pawson’s piece.
Some assert that the Holocaust is used to justify Israeli aggression. A popular comment accuses the ‘Jewish Lobby’ of trying to stop the Armenian Holocaust being recognized. Someone else observes that: ‘More people know of Hitler’s genocides at Auschwitz than know of the Sharon’s genocides at Sabra.’ There is little challenge to such views on the thread, except of outright Holocaust denial.
I was particularly sorry to see the Porrajmos, or Roma Holocaust, invoked as a kind of weapon in this antisemitic discourse. I think people do need to be aware of the Porrajmos, particularly in the light of growing anti-Roma feeling in Europe, and there is in fact a great deal of cooperation between Jewish and Roma artists and activists helping to commemorate this aspect of the Holocaust.