Never Forget

What happened on December 7th? I’ll give you a hint, it was called “the day that will live in infamy”... No clue? Okay, how about: what genocide started in 1915? Who was Josef Mengele? Who was Pol Pot? It’s okay if you don’t know; most people don’t.

 

Most of us learned about the Holocaust in high school history. Maybe you read theDiary of Anne Frank or Night, maybe you watched Schindler’s List or Boy in the Striped Pajamas, or maybe you were lucky enough to have a Holocaust survivor visit your school. Yet somehow after all of this effort on behalf of society, the lesson is lost on us. This is evident by unforgivable acts like the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, the popularizations of Holocaust jokes, drinking games, general ignorance and lack of conscientiousness by younger generations. Recently a picture of high school students at Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, California went viral because they were playing a drinking game at a party that involved a swastika of red solo cups and all of the students standing in a “Heil Hitler” salute. This particular picture, though not unique in any way, has sparked conversations across the internet and has even garnered the attention of Eva Schloss. She is a Holocaust survivor and Anne Frank’s stepsister. A rabbi in the Southern California community arranged a meeting with Schloss and these particular students to “seize this dark moment and use it as opportunity to illuminate Newport Beach as a whole; but specifically, to positively transform the lives of the erring students. We are working closely with the leadership at Newport Harbor High School to facilitate greater awareness, Holocaust education, and encounters with survivors to engage with students on an ongoing basis.” Though even in the face of such forgiveness, these students seemed determined to perpetuate hate. After Schloss’s visit on March 7th, swastika posters were found plastered around the school.

 

This trend isn’t just in our affluent high schools. Between 2016 and 2017, incidents of anti-Semitic hate crimes rose by 37%. Just last year there was a shooting at a synagog, the most deadly anti-semitic attack in US history. That is, if you don’t count the US sending thousands of Jewish children to certain death by refusing their refugee status before WWII as an anti-semitic attack.

 

We are slowly forgetting genocides like the ones in Rwanda, Cambodia, Armenia, and Nazi German, and massive tragedies like the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

Just last year I was in a store on 9/11 and the man behind me in line was wearing a shirt that said “Never Forget”. The cashier asked him what the shirt was about. When he said, “9/11” she said, “oh, yeah that’s today isn’t it?” Our soldiers in Afghanistan today were born after the war started in 2001. They were not even alive when 9/11 happened. And that was only 18 years ago. Can we honestly expect people to remember tragedies that happened fifty or a hundred years ago? We live in a selfish time in which it seems that people really don’t care about things that do not directly affect them. 

 

This is how it happened in Germany and how it could happen again. We forget the past, we think that we know better and that this time is different. We get caught up in the energy and excitement of the moment. 

If you went to school in California you probably learned about “the wave”, a perfect example of how easily any of us can join a fascist movement like the Nazi party and commit unspeakable acts without a second thought. Because although we talk about the Nazi party like it came out of nowhere and took over Germany, it was actually a slow process built on anger that had been stewing for generations. The economy was stagnant, people didn’t have jobs, and the national identity was dragged through the mud after WWI. Jewish people had been persecuted throughout history, and as a minority they made for an easy target. Things happened slowly; people had to be registered, then had to wear stars. There were curfews and regulations, then people were moved into ghettos, and on and on. The Holocaust did not just happen overnight, and it certainly didn’t happen without the permission of the general population. Up until the end, the rest of the world was either pretty accepting of or pretty oblivious to everything the Nazis were doing; Hitler was even named Man of the Year in 1938. I think we all should be a bit more cautious, rather than cocky, when it comes to our own abilities to see evil when it is right in front of us.

 

The further we are seperated from these events, the more likely we are to misinterpret them or forget them entirely. When we call for a registration of Muslims, when we limit people’s ability to travel or find work, when we lock people in facilities without trial, and when we celebrate xenophobic and nationalistic ideals of leaders like Donald Trump we allow ourselves to be more comfortable with crimes against humanity. We take another step closer to repeating history. 

 

I don’t put links in these article for my own amusement. They are there for you, the readers, to educate yourselves. What I write is not absolute truth, it is mostly my own opinion and therefore not the only one out there. The only thing that will save us from ourselves is information; a well informed populace is less likely to make harmful and dangerous decisions. I must also recommend that you VOTE, as the famous poem First they came... warns, if you do not take action when you see wrong doing upon others you won’t be able to do anything when it happens to you.