Today, at sundown, begins Yom HaShoah. It is the day set aside on the Jewish calendar to remember the Shoah, the Holocaust. The thing “the world” swore would never happen again, a promise that failed to take into account human tribalism and the excuses that history provides to people who want to do evil acts in the name of “righting past wrongs.”
The Holocaust was the best documented mass-murder in history. The shelves in government archives groan under the weight of all the forms, paperwork, reports, budget requests, lists, and schedules that were not destroyed at the end of WWII. To go through even a tiny sample of them is… Numbing is not the word I want to use, because the magnitude of the evil does not diminish as you read, but shock shifts to dismay and near-tedium as page after page of bureaucratic minutia pass under your eyes. I lasted about an hour and quit, since that was not what I needed to be spending archive time on, and because my stomach and heart and brain all said, “Enough!”
Why the Jews? Because they were the disguised Other. Their culture was not “pure Aryan.” They did not produce for themselves, but lived off of others’ hard work. They had no defined homeland, no real place to which they belonged. They were not really German, or Russian, or Polish, or French, or English, or American, or… In a world of growing blood-and-soil nationalism, that alone probably would have caused persecution, all else aside. But there was more, the old whispers about the Blood Libel, about Jews murdering children in order to use their blood in unleavened bread, a whisper that has reemerged as a rumor that Israelis steal organs from Arabs to sell on the international market. Anti-Semites believe in recycling, it appears.
After the Holocaust, and the new word coined to describe it, “genocide,” the murder of an entire people, western powers swore that nothing like this should ever be allowed to happen. And for a while it appeared that the Shoah was a one-time aberration, especially if one ignored or was unaware of what the Ottomans did to the Armenian Christians during WWI. Tribal warfare did not count. What Muslims did to Hindus and vice versa apparently did not count, at least not during the chaos that accompanied the Partition and later the creation of Bangladesh. What the Arabs attempted to do in 1948-49, 1963, and came close to managing in 1973 didn’t count, because the west was not as aware of certain verses in the Koran that can be taken as a call for eradication of all Jews (unless they convert, of course.)
The first genocide I was really aware of, other than the Holocaust, was in the Balkans in the early 1990s. The excuse was religion and a battle in 1389, the Battle of Kosovo, of the Field of Blackbirds, where according to Serbian tradition, Prince Lazar chose martyrdom over an earthly kingdom, the Ottomans defeated the last major Serbian army, and everything went downhill. So, five hundred years later, eradicating Muslims and their supporters, and any Catholics who happened to disagree with the Serbs and lived within the wrong areas, was only fair and just. After all, you couldn’t easily expel the Muslims because they looked just like Croats, Slovenes, and Serbs. Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, other less famous places, massacres, rapes, all in the name of historical wrongs and religious cleansing. I’m not certain anyone but the Slovenes came out of that with clean hands.
And then Rwanda. And now all Christians, Yezidis, Alwaits, Druze, and any Muslim who is not Muslim in the right way for ISIS and Al Qaeda, the Afghani Taliban, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, Pakistani university students… I’m certain that there are others in other places who would dearly love to wake up one morning and discover that all the [insert tribe/faith/skin-tone/preference of ice-cream flavor] in their patch of the planet had vanished overnight. It would solve all the world’s problems, if [group] disappeared down to the last fingernail. Or so it is nice to believe for those looking for someone, anyone to blame for something.
There have been days when I wished certain individuals would disappear in a puff of perfume, gone somewhere else, anywhere else, just out of my life forever. Individuals, note. Every group has members that are jerks. Evey group has members who are great people. I loath George Soros for what he has done over the years. I also flinched when I read a blog commenter talking about “Get ride of the Jew Soros and a lot of problems will be solved.” “The Jew.” I’d like for Soros’s influence in the world to disappear, preferably yesterday. But not because he’s Jewish. And given the speed with which Anti-Semitism returned to the surface in Europe, and how little governments are willing to do about it, hammering someone like Soros because he’s Jewish makes me nervous. Hammer him for his deeds, not his faith. There’s nothing in Judaism as I understand it that encourages currency speculation to the point of destroying national economies and currencies, for example.
Never again, “the world promised.” I fear the world meant well, but underestimated our capacity as humans to hate, to find ways to declare someone “Other” and to justify their extermination.