Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, specifically the remembrance day for the Jewish victims of genocide, is tomorrow. Every year that passes takes us further away from the generation that witnessed and experienced such horrors.
For many people, the Holocaust is something that happened a long time ago and is not particularly relevant now. When Jewish people bring up the Holocaust, we’re often told that we’re unnecessarily dredging up the past, trying too hard to be oppressed, or distracting everyone from the “real” problems going on in the world. Antisemitism, apparently, is just a case of a lot of Jews being too sensitive. It’s not a real thing.
For something that’s not real, antisemitism sure happens a lot around here. According to the FBI, the majority of religiously motivated hate crimes are committed against Jewish people. On Western Washington University’s campus, anti-Semitic incidents occur on a regular basis, and the administration rarely does anything but shrug its shoulders. Maybe religiously motivated hate crimes don’t matter as much as racially motivated hate crimes.
Oddly enough, the discrimination I’ve faced on campus for being Jewish wasn’t about my religion. It was about my race.
The Holocaust is often painted as a religiously motivated crime, but to describe it in such a way is to ignore the true intentions of the Germans who orchestrated the genocide. Jews were seen as inhuman by the Nazis. Not subhuman — inhuman. We weren’t people to them, and our existence threatened the purity of the German bloodline and the strength of the German nation. The Holocaust wasn’t about religion so much as it was about racism. And that same toxic mix of religious and ethnic hatred still exists in the Western world today.
I talk and write about antisemitism so often that I’m starting to sound like a broken record. I’m sure it’s become easy to tune out, just like it’s easy to tune out other Jewish people when they sound the alarm. Most people don’t even know that the second Holocaust Remembrance Day, the one for Jewish people, exists — and if they do, it’s likely because they have a Jewish friend who posts about it.
Jewish people are treated like we’re being hysterical when we bring up antisemitism. We are treated like we’re overreacting when we admit that we’re scared by the uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes.
"What are you afraid of? The Holocaust can't happen again!"
Nobody thought it could happen the first time, either.
This year, for Yom HaShoah, learn something about the Holocaust. Listen to survivors. Talk to Jewish people about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences of antisemitism in an age that’s supposedly left that behind. Learn about a victim. Remember their names. If you have a Holocaust museum or memorial nearby, visit it.
If I said that history was repeating itself with regard to antisemitism, I’d be labeled as a hysteric and an alarmist. That said, another Holocaust won’t be prevented by telling Jewish people to sit down and shut up. The only way to prevent such an atrocity from taking place is to take the responsibility for preventing it into your own hands.
I take responsibility for the survival of my own people and of the other groups targeted by the Nazis. This Yom HaShoah, I’d like you to do the same.