Monday, January 27, 2020

  • Monday, January 27, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon

This past Shabbat, the Park East Synagogue held an impressive Holocaust commemoration together with the UN and participants from many countries.

Park East synagogue's Rabbi Arthur Schneier is a Holocaust survivor and prominent speaker who pulled this event together. The synagogue featured the haunting recently colorized photos of Auschwitz.

Since it was held on Shabbat, there is no video, but the speakers and participants included Colonel Oliver Nurton of the UK, as well as speakers from the military attaches of the US, Russia and France, who read Pslams 23.

Also in attendance were representatives from China, Turkey, and the Vatican. Two representatives from Morocco spoke about how that country is opening synagogues and is open to Jewish visitors.

Israel was represented by Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon and Consul General to New York Dani Dayan who spoke forcefully about the need to combat Iran's desire to start a second Holocaust.

The featured speaker was UN Secretary General  António Guterres, who gave a forceful speech against antisemitism (although he unfortunately only emphasized the right-wing flavor.) Excerpts:

Intolerance today spreads at lightning speed across the Internet and social media. Hate groups use social media to link up with like-minded bigots across borders. And hate is moving into the mainstream – as major political parties incorporating ideas from the fringes and parties once rightly considered pariahs are gaining influence.

We should not exaggerate the comparisons to the 1930s, but equally we should not ignore the similarities. Hatred is easy to uncork, and very hard to put back in the bottle.

Some of you may know of the recently rediscovered 1924 Austrian silent film, “The City Without Jews”.  It was featured this month at the New York Jewish Film Festival.The film is based on a book from 1922 – in other words, even before Mein Kampf.  In Vienna, in Austria, the city of Rabbi Schneier.

A country’s economy is in tatters.  Opportunistic politicians need a scapegoat.  And so they say:  let’s blame the Jews. Jews were hounded, harassed and ultimately expelled.  They were forced to leave in masses, by train and on foot.

At the time, such imaginings might have been dismissed as the height of absurdity.  New York’s local newspaper called it “one of the most fatuous productions imaginable”.

Yet within years, cinematic satire turned to real-life prophecy.Today, the film has taken on a new life as a warning to act early, before the unthinkable fiction becomes all too real fact.

Ladies and Gentlemen, This is the painful backdrop for today’s observance marking the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

We are together to honour the memory of the six million Jews and millions of others who were systematically murdered. Our urgent challenge today is to heed the lessons of a period when human dignity was cast aside for a racist ideology.

I was disturbed to learn that a recent poll in Europe found that one third of people say they know little or nothing about the Holocaust. Among millennials, some two-thirds had no idea Auschwitz was a death camp.

We are also seeing attempts to rewrite the history of the Holocaust, and to sanitize the wartime records of leaders, citizens and societies. As the number of survivors dwindles, it falls to us to carry their testimony to future generations.

And so my answer to Rabbi Schneier’s question as to who will speak on behalf of the survivors, is: we will. Education is crucial.  We must teach our children to love before others teach them to hate.

The United Nations is strongly committed to being at the forefront of this important work. Our Holocaust Outreach Programme has activities in dozens of countries. I have just asked my Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide to mobilize the whole UN system and devise a global plan of action to deepen our efforts to counter hate speech.  
The UN may be a cesspool but Guterres is the most pro-Israel, philosemitic Secretary General that organization has had in many decades, if not ever.

(h/t Rabbi Elchanan Poupko)

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