There was a ceremony to mark 80 years since the Nuremburg laws and 70 years since the Nuremburg trials at Jagiellonian University in Krakow Poland. The buildings were impressive, royal even. It was here that Nickolas Copernicus discovered that the planets revolve around the sun, and not the other way around. There isn't anything else like this which so embodies the Enlightenment and all of its glory.
Hundreds of years after Copernicus's momentous discovery, a short distance away form the university, one of the most effective mass murder machines in the history of man was in operation. It was an amazing combination of horror and technological progress.
If we are to believe that progress only brings with it good and justice, we are sadly mistaken.
People of culture, taste and sophistication, the educated elite, all of them joined in the Nuremburg laws and, later, in carrying out the horrors that followed.
Former Canadian Justice Minister Professor Irwin Coler says that the Holocaust didn't begin with the gas chambers; rather, it began with words. Almost everyone who researches genocide – not only the Holocaust against the Jews – discovers that hate filled discourse prepares the groundwork for massacre.
Right now, we're talking about demonization, but we forget that demonization is sometimes the first step. The first act in a three-act play.
All the right words were said by a wide range of individuals, which included Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Professor Alan Dershowitz, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, Former Supreme Court Chairwoman Dorit Beinisch, African judges, and many more.
However, it's impossible to ignore the huge gap between the lofty words and ideals, and what happens on the ground internationally. Dershowitz and others mentioned that the fact that so many international organizations remain utterly obsessed with Israel while atrocities go on around the world is simply morbid.
In the last decade, the UN General Assembly and the UN Council for Human Rights passed hundreds of condemnations – most of which were against the Jewish state. As former Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosner says, it is delusional to think that the world has learned its lesson. The supposedly free world has pledged itself to the states of darkness. The free world hardly says anything against the majority of darkness.
When the leaders of Iran and Sudan sit at the head of the most important human rights ocouncil in the world, it proves that the world truly hasn't learned anything. And when the mechanisms for demonization and calls for boycott start to operate in the free world, are we really supposed to turn to Iran and Sudan for help?
Almost every blood libel ever said towards Jews is now being said towards the Jewish state. The combination of progress and horror isn't just something which happened in the distant past – its also today's reality.
Former French Justice Minister Robert Badinter said yesterday that Germany used to be the most educated country in the world. We saw what happened to the most important educated people during the Holocaust period. We saw what happened to the nation which raised the largest number of Nobel Prize laureates in the world.
"How many of these educated people were against what was going on?" He asks. Neither the most educated, nor the most musically talented, nor even the most artistically talented were immune to the racism of the period. It's not enough to be educated Badinter says, one also needs to be a mensch.
Eduard Mossberg, who testified against Nazi war crimes, was also at the Holocaust Survivors Conference. He spoke passionately and charismatically – tears flowed from many of those in attendance.
"If Israel would have existed during the time of the Holocaust," said Mossberg, "they would have done what the Allies never did. Israel would have blown up the gas chambers, and would have stopped the Holocaust."
Mossberg isn't an Israeli – he went to the United States after the war. Yet he ended his speech with three words; "Israel will live."