This International Holocaust Remembrance Day, We’re Actually Forgetting: ‘Never Again’ Didn’t Last Very Long

This International Holocaust Remembrance Day, We’re Actually Forgetting: ‘Never Again’ Didn’t Last Very Long

Unleavened by Cindy Kaplan, TruthDAO columnist

The recent Anti-Defamation League’s topline findings in their Antisemitic Attitudes in America survey were wildly concerning. The survey of a representative American sample of 4,000 individuals, conducted from September to October 2022, revealed that 85% of Americans believe at least one anti-Jewish trope and 20% believe six or more. In the last survey in 2019, those numbers were 61% and 11%, respectively.

It's difficult to read statistics like these without calling to mind the last time nearly an entire country of people quickly turned against the Jews.

That is, of course, if you know what the Holocaust was and believe it happened. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t. A 2020 survey conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found rampant Holocaust denial, distortion, and lack of awareness among Millennials and Gen Z. Sixty-three percent of respondents didn’t know 6 million Jews were murdered, and 36% thought 2 million or fewer were killed. Forty-eight percent couldn’t name a single one of the death camps or ghettos. Eleven percent thought the Jews caused the Holocaust. Forty-nine percent of respondents had seen Holocaust denial and distortion online.

Indeed, a UNESCO study on Holocaust denial and distortion on social media analyzed 1,028 pieces of Holocaust-related content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, and TikTok between June and July 2021. Researchers found that 16.4% either denied or distorted the Holocaust, including nearly one in five tweets and 49% of all Telegram posts in the sample.

We rally around cries of “Never Forget” and “Never Again.” There are numerous Holocaust memorials around the world. Today, January 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. But we’re not really remembering at all. In fact, the data suggest an alarming future for Jewish safety.

One of the key findings of the UNESCO study was that the majority of denial/distortion social content fell into the category of “equating.” That’s when things that aren’t the Holocaust or similar to it (i.e., another genocide) are spoken about using the same emotional rhetoric and language of the Holocaust – for example, comparing COVID vaccine mandates to yellow stars. This undermines the unique, catastrophic impact and scale of the actual tragedy and softens what really happened, making it easier for other forms of Holocaust denial – like delegitimizing Israel by equating the government’s treatment of Palestinians with Nazis’ treatment of Jews, blaming the Jews for the Holocaust, omitting the hardest truths of the Holocaust in an effort to minimize the reality that Nazis weren’t a fringe minority, and ultimately, outright denying or celebrating the Holocaust – to take hold.

Some forms of Holocaust equating come from a well-meaning place, which makes combatting this force more difficult. “Punch Nazis” is a progressive rallying cry to combat hate – often cited as problematic because of its potential to incite violence. But it’s also problematic because it equates neo-Nazis and white supremacists with actual Nazis, and in an age of Holocaust denial, distortion, and misinformation, undermining the evils of actual Nazis is extremely dangerous. Nazis were the people who murdered my great-grandparents, great aunt, and great uncle, rendering my grandfather the lone survivor of his family after Auschwitz. Most of those murderers aren’t around anymore to be punched. Most white supremacists – awful as they are, and as devoted to fantasies about genocide as they may be – aren’t participating in the government-organized, systematic, mass murder and torture of millions of Jews.

This false equivalence is present in the recent ADL survey, too. Forty percent of respondents agreed to some degree that “Israel treats the Palestinians like the Nazis treated the Jews.” As with any government, there’s room to criticize and debate the Israeli government’s policies as they relate to Palestinians or anything else. However, analogizing Israel and Nazis is an antisemitic lie that stems from Holocaust denial and distortion. It also has very real consequences for Jews, many of whom know better than anyone what Nazis did and have experienced deep-seated trauma from it.

In a world where “Punch Nazis” is a rallying cry that refers not to actual Nazis, and Zionists are equated to Nazis, and Zionist is a euphemism for Jew, it stands to reason that punching Jews becomes acceptable, or even good. In fact, a cursory Google search of “jew punched” yields the following results – these are just the top 5, but the headlines continue for pages:

  • 11/9/22 “Gang knocks off hat of Orthodox Jew, another man punched” (The Jerusalem Post)
  • 8/2/22 “‘If I had a gun, I’d shoot you’ – Jewish man punched on NYC subway” (The Jerusalem Post)
  • 8/22/22 “Jewish man slapped in unprovoked attack in Williamsburg” (ABC 7 NY)
  • 5/28/22 “18-year-old Jewish man punched in Manhattan” (CBS NY)
    11/10/22 “Stamford Hill: Man guilty of attacking three Jewish people” (BBC)

The Holocaust ended 78 years ago this May. That in such a short period of time – a time when there are still living survivors, like my grandfather, who survived the camps, and my grandmother, who survived hiding in Siberia – the world is forgetting it happened is a crisis and a moral failing. With the speed at which false information and hate speech spreads online; with 85% of Americans already primed to believe antisemitic conspiracy theories; with the last remaining survivors in their 80s and 90s, it’s only a matter of time until society is doomed to commit another atrocity against the Jews.

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