Photo: Reuters
מצעד החיים 2018 ב פולין אושוויץ בירקנאו צעדה יום השואה שואה
Photo: Reuters
Sever Plocker
Who owns the Holocaust?
Opinion: Israel has already forgiven Germany for the Nazi genocide of the Jews, and Bolsonaro's call should not have invoked the ire it did; remembrance is the great challenge of today, but whose duty is it?

Russian-Israeli poet Avraham Shlonsky, having read reports of the Nazi death camps, while WWII was still raging, wrote in his poem, The Oath:

I took an oath to remember everything.

To remember it all and not to forget.



Two lines directed at Israel and its people when dealing with the Holocaust.


A Holocaust survivor at the Auschwitz death camp (Photo: AFP)
A Holocaust survivor at the Auschwitz death camp (Photo: AFP)


Poets are precise. They are weavers of words. Shlonsky elected to write "Not to forget anything – until the tenth generation.” He could have written "to not forgive."


He knew we would forgive. He prayed we would not forget.


Israel forgave Germans for the Holocaust years ago. In 1952, seven after the end of the war, David Ben-Gurion pronounced a new, modern Germany was now in place, and forgave the country. That same year, the reparations agreement was signed by Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett on behalf of Israel and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer on behalf of Germany.


Forgiveness brought money. German-made cars filled Israeli roads, German appliances filled homes and airliners carried tourists to and from Germany.


Berlin has become the most popular destination of young Israelis.


It is not for us to attack Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who said it was time for forgiveness.


The Germans and collaborators who perpetuated the horrors are mostly long gone from this world. Their millions of victims will never get justice. Those actually prosecuted for their crimes are a drop in the ocean.


Morality does not burden the grandchildren with the sins of their grandparents.


There is no longer a question of forgiveness. There is only one of remembering.


Despite concerns, the memory of the Holocaust as a mass extermination, has not faded nor dimmed. In fact it's intensified and become iconic in modern history. It exists in the layers of Western culture, and even the popular Star War film series portrays its villains as Nazi-esque stormtroopers.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Yad Vashem (Photo: EPA) (Photo: EPA)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Yad Vashem (Photo: EPA)


So who's Holocaust is it? As it becomes a more universal story, Jews disappear from the discourse. It is up to us to preserve its importance for us.


But in Israel the memory of the Holocaust is encased in school trips to Poland, sirens on Remembrance Dday and the obligatory visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial by foreign dignitaries.


Universities in Israel hardly teach or research it, leaving the field open to non-Israeli institutions and scholars.


If we do not learn from and about the Holocaust, as Shlonsky warned in his poem, it really will become nothing but a string of ceremonies and text.  


פרסום ראשון: 04.21.19, 08:13
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