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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 27-01-2023 00:44

Consequences and causes

Do not put the carriage before the horse, writes Dr. Ariel Gelbung is an column marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Like every January 27 since 2006, today we celebrate the International Day of Annual Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

This was resolved by the UN General Assembly on November 1, 2005 – a full 60 years after the defeat of the Nazi regime.

United Nations Resolution 60/7 upholds that “…the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one-third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice.”

For this reason, in addition to establishing this day of commemoration, it urges member states to teach about the Holocaust in order to prevent new genocides, rejects the total or partial denial of this historical fact, commends the states that preserved related sites, condemns the expressions of religious bigotry and the incitement, harassment or violence against individuals or communities based on their ethnicity or religion and requests the UN secretary general to spread and adopt measures that will impact on civil society.

Since then –– and we deeply value it –– some 18 years on, a large number of national and provincial states, cities and civil society groups are carrying out official ceremonies of commemoration and memory of the victims.

At all these events we will see high-ranked officials remembering the pre-meditated and planned massacre of the Nazis: the extermination of six million Jews of which 1.5 million were children, honouring the survivors and lighting candles.

The ceremonies will hold a minute of silence to honour when, on the same day in 1945, the surprised Soviet soldiers who were going on a forced march towards Berlin found by chance what were little more than skeletons left to their fate in a concentration camp.

 

Causes

Unfortunately by the end of today, in many of these public spaces, the goal of truly commemorating the horrors of the Holocaust will not have been achieved.

Does this cause surprise? If so, here is the reason.

The Holocaust, dear readers, was the consequence of an anti-Semitic policy established long time before: planned, outlined and executed from the very beginning alongside hate speech that, after being naturalsed, discriminated against a specific group before dehumanising and finally exterminating it.

If public policies are reduced to commemorating the consequences without studying the causes, the cycle can easily repeat itself. Daily, we see the same people who are publicly horrified at the images of Auschwitz support an openly discriminatory policy against Jews just the next day.

The same governments that are going to light six candles in memory of each of the six million who were at first victims of discrimination, before being dehumanised and finally exterminated, are able to treat in a radically different way the only Jewish state in the world. These governments treat Israel as morally and legally unalike from its peers, demanding a different attitude from that expected of other countries and plainly calling for its destruction.

And even worse, those same governments are seen supporting votes against the country q5 the United Nations, the same institution that instituted this day 18 years ago, precisely to avoid these kinds of actions. 

The installation of the International Day, as Resolution 60/7 itself says, is intended to avoid the causes that caused the Holocaust. It is there that the actions of the state members must be focused.

Simon Wiesenthal summed it up by arguing that "What begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews." History and numbers prove him right. When anti-Semitic state policies are carried out, the numbers of non-Jewish victims are greater than the Jewish ones. You only have to compare the six million against the more than 50 million that World War II claimed.  

This commemorative day must highlight the real policies that seek to fight against anti-Semitism today, so that the memory of the dead serves to care for the living.

In Latin America, it should be noted that the Organisation of American States (OAS) not only adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, but also, in a joint document with the Wiesenthal Center, urged all countries in the region to do the same. The OAS also created the post of commissioner for the monitoring and combat of anti-Semitism in Latin America. Uruguay, Argentina, Guatemala and Colombia make up the club of countries that adopted the said measure.

As for Argentina, progress has been so much greater than in the rest of the continent. In Brazil too, they understand that Holocaust denial is a crime. The rest of the region has a lot to work on, starting with the recognition of anti-Semitism, which is present among us all, and not trying to sweep it under the carpet so as not to accept the dirt in the living room.

We as a country and region must work on recognising the causes and not just the consequences. We already know that to put the carriage before the horse is for the stubborn.

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