I smiled briefly and told her: “No, this isn’t a phone number. It’s my number from Auschwitz.” She looked at me and said: “Auschwitz? What is that?” I told her it was a German extermination camp.
The waitress left my table and rushed to talk to a colleague standing not too far away. I followed her with my gaze and saw that the friend had no idea what I was talking about. When the two turned to the head waiter, the same thing happened. He didn’t know.
Suddenly, I realized what I should have realized a long time ago. There are billions of people in the world who never heard of Auschwitz and the Holocaust, and who will never hear about it; they know nothing about the German plan to exterminate the Jewish people.
Later, I also understood that for a while now I’ve been attempting to repress another fact. The fact that in a generation or two at most, Auschwitz in particular and the Holocaust in general will turn into just another event in global history in general, and in Jewish history in particular.
It’s clear to me that dozens of years from now, if not sooner, January 27th will no longer be marked as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, while Israel’s Holocaust Day will also gradually disappear from the calendar.
The extermination of six million Jews – two-thirds of the lively and creative European Jewish community – will be mentioned, if at all, just the way we mention Bar Kochba’s rebellion, the Inquisition in Spain, or the pogroms in Russia, Poland, and Ukraine. The destruction of the Second Temple is only being mentioned today because it’s a day of fasting and a religious holy day. Holocaust Memorial Day is neither a day of fasting nor a religious holy day.
On the day we, the last eyewitnesses to the greatest and most brutal genocide in humanity’s history, pass away, the issue will only be kept alive among some members of the younger generation, historians, and tour guides who will learn the subject. Yet they too will not last for many years, and the generation to follow them will not know of the Shoah. They won’t know about Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, and another roughly 1,500 camps built by the Germans in order to “solve” the Jewish problem.
As I wrote above, I’ve known this for a long time now, yet I kept on pushing these thoughts out of my head. For me it is of course difficult – and more accurately, impossible – to get used to the thought that one of these days the Holocaust will no longer be remembered or mentioned. The more I think about it, the greater my anxiety becomes that the Jewish people who survive the next generations will also no longer know about what happened to our past generations.