A Time for Remembrance, a Time for Action

The 27th of January marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, spoke at a remembrance ceremony to bring attention to this pressing global issue.

“For a time, we thought that the hatred of Jews had finally been eradicated. But slowly the demonization of Jews started to come back,” Lauder said. “Once again, young Jewish boys are afraid to wear yarmulkes on the streets of Paris and Budapest and London. Once again, Jewish businesses are targeted. And once again, Jewish families are fleeing Europe.”[1]

Photo courtesy of  Paweł Sawicki, © 2008, some reserved
Photo courtesy of Paweł Sawicki, © 2008, some reserved

This is an especially important commemoration because it is most likely the last major one many survivors will be able to attend due to their age. Most survivors were children during the Holocaust, so the youngest are now in their 70s. However, even though that horrible tragedy happened decades ago, the recent attack on the kosher market in Paris show discrimination and terrorism are haunting Jews today.

Last month, in the beginning of January, terrorists attacked the Hyper Cacher grocery store, a kosher market, in Paris and killed four of the people who had been taken hostage. Al Qaeda has since claimed responsibility for the attacks.

What should be a time for commemoration has become a forum for addressing the current hostilities in the world. Many hope the attention the liberation of Auschwitz commemoration will receive can act as a reminder for younger generations of future horrors we could experience if we are not careful to respond to the violence in Paris. “We do not want our past to be our children’s future,” a Holocaust survivor pleaded in response to the tragedy in France. [2]

The attack on the kosher market in Paris eerily mirrors the discrimination Jews faced when the Nazi party gained control in Germany. Hitler systematically destroyed German Jews’ rights. Many of their businesses were destroyed or boycotted, they lost their jobs, and they were considered second-class citizens.[3] The present-day violence towards the kosher market and the Jewish people in Paris unfortunately sounds all too familiar.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, spoke at a march in Paris after the attacks on the Paris market and said any European Jews wishing to immigrate to Israel during this time would be warmly welcomed and protected. Over the past few years, the discrimination European Jews have faced has led to a significant rise in the number of immigrants to Israel. According to end-of-year figures released by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Immigration Absorption in December 2014, immigration (aliyah) to Israel hit a 10-year high, with 26,500 immigrants arriving to the state. Of all the new immigrants, those who listed France as their country of origin proved to be the largest group of immigrants, with 7,000 relocating to Israel in 2014. Some people feel countries like France are unsafe for Jewish people and Israel’s military and government is better equipped to safeguard them.

Again, this rhetoric seems to evoke the feelings of the Holocaust. Israel was created in 1948, soon after the persecution of Jews throughout Europe. Suggesting European Jews immigrate to Israel implies that once again Jewish people are under attack and need to band together for safety. “The Jew isn’t safe in France. You go to buy food, and you’re dead,” said a fearful Frenchman in the wake of the kosher market attacks. Another predicted “if you think a lot of Jews left France last year, this year the number is going to be five times higher”.[4] Netanyahu’s suggestion about immigration is similar to when a number of Jews fled Germany and Europe when Hitler’s regime began.

The contrast of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz with the attacks on the kosher market in Paris emphasizes the severity of the threat the world is currently facing. However, leaders seem to be divided on how to respond. Some have criticized Netanyahu for suggesting European Jews should consider immigrating to Israel. If there were a mass exit of Jews from Europe, those communities they had built in places like France would be destroyed. A huge relocation to Israel would also be seen as advancing the cause of the terrorists. Governments and world leaders are juggling trying to ensure Jewish people feel safe in their own countries and homes, while not allowing this type of violence to control peoples’ lives.

Politicians and world leaders may disagree on public announcements like those Prime Minister Netanyahu made, but everyone seems to recognize a bigger problem is afoot. In the 21st century, in such a global and interconnected society, and in the wake of the most recent terrorist attacks it is impossible to deny that action must be taken. For example, David Cameron has announced the British military will be on alert to help find and bring to justice the terrorists responsible for these recent terrorist attacks.[5]

The commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz 70 years ago bring attention to the need to stop repeating history of decades past. Leaving Europe, like some are considering however, is not a long-term solution. The international community needs to band together to squash out this type of discrimination and terrorism.

The juxtaposition of the remembrance of the Holocaust and these recent attacks is very important. Survivors from the Holocaust are speaking out and urging the world to take notice. They do not want the past to be repeated and are wary because once again Jewish people are being forced to live in fear. While this time of tribute is being overshadowed by the attacks in Paris and the fear that has come out of them, the situation is highlighting the issues we still have to face as an international and increasingly interconnected society. The extra cooperation and coordination governments will be forced to undertake to combat these violent and horrific attacks will hopefully lead to progress on a large scale.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/leaders-mark-auschwitz-liberation-70-years-on-without-putin/2015/01/27/ec3f5de8-a5f7-11e4-a162-121d06ca77f1_story.html

[2] http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2015/01/27/leaders-mark-auschwitz-liberation-70-years-on-without-putin

[3] http://www.projetaladin.org/holocaust/en/history-of-the-holocaust-shoah/the-nazi-regime.html

[4] http://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-jews-shudder-over-being-targeted-for-attackagain-1420850789

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/12/cameron-intelligence-uk-response-terror-paris-shootings

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