The world collectively paused to honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day, but shocking questions over the relevance of the Holocaust today make the challenge of spreading awareness even more important.
The world paused for a moment on Tuesday to mark 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz and 10 years since the UN resolution to establish International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Thousands of events took place in more than 100 countries, attended by tens of thousands of people, including at the sites of former Nazi concentration camps in Europe. Of note, was a ceremony held in Wroclaw, Poland to return academic degrees that the Germans had taken away from Jews during World War II.
At all of these events, emphasis was placed on transmitting Holocaust remembrance to the younger generation, from elementary- school children to university students.
Anti-Semitism, nevertheless, remains rampant worldwide. As Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said at a special session on anti-Semitism last Thursday: “Seventy years after the Holocaust ended, European Jews are once again living in fear. Two weeks ago, we watched in horror as innocent Jews were murdered in a Paris grocery store…. Violent anti-Semitism is casting a shadow over Europe.”
A BBC talk-show host, however, chose to observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day by raising the question: “Is the time coming to lay the Holocaust to rest?”
The host, Scottish journalist Nicky Campbell, asked whether there was “any point” in prosecuting “old men” who were Nazi war criminals.
A member of the audience accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders of “using the Holocaust very cynically” by taking visiting dignitaries” to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum to show them what happened to Jews….as a preventative critique for any Israeli policy.”
Justice is Still Relevant
Regarding the issue of bringing war criminals to justice, prominent historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says the question is not whether to remember, but what to remember.
Blogging on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day for the Holocaust Educational Trust, he explains that the answer is not simple. Unlike other aspects of Holocaust remembrance, education, and commemoration, the issue of elderly Nazi war criminals will no longer be relevant in the near future.
“A surprising number of Holocaust perpetrators are still alive and in reasonably good health,” he notes.
Zuroff demands justice, saying: “There is no reason to ignore them [merely] because they were born many years ago. In that respect, the passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the killers and old age should not afford protection to murderers. They are, moreover, the last people on earth who deserve any sympathy, since they had none for their innocent victims, some of whom were even older than they are today.”
Zuroff believes that bringing these people to trial sends a powerful message about the enormity and severity of Holocaust crimes, “a message that seems increasingly important, the more time that passes since they were committed.”