Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it..

-George Santayana

For the past week or so I have been seeing many Holocaust remembrance posts, like the one below, in my Facebook feed. We are urged to “Never Forget.” I wonder, however, if the people posting these remembrances truly understand what it means to “never forget.” As a Jew, whose grandfathers lost everyone they loved to Hitler and his henchmen, I feel as though the adage of “never forget” isn’t just a battle cry of “we’ll never let this happen to us again.” It is, or should be, I believe, more of a call to all those who have a unique understanding of the kind of devastation that hate, fear and anger can wreak on an entire group of people, simply because they are different, to never let this happen again – To anyone.

I believe, we should strive to learn from history. Never forget what happened. Never forget HOW it happened. Never forget that it happened because one man spewing hate-filled rhetoric chose a few minorities to use as a scapegoat to rally together a nation searching to regain its former ‘greatness’ into thinking it was okay to murder millions of men, women and children. It happened because a frightened and angry populous bought into that rhetoric because it was easier to believe that these minorities were the cause of all that ailed their country than the idea that they themselves were to blame for their misery.

In Hitler’s Germany it was the Jews, the Gypsies, the homosexuals and the infirm who were punished for the crime of not being “true” Germans  – even if they were born in Germany – even if their families had lived there for generations, fought in their wars and contributed to their society. The violence and hatred towards these minorities then fueled the German populous to be rid of these ‘inferior’ beings, not just those in Germany, but all over the world.

This violence and murder was fueled by one man’s quest for power – Nothing more and nothing less. This man spoke to the most base of the populous. To some, he spoke the gospel. He spoke to their deep seeded bigotry. Anti-Semetism has been around for ages. It still is. But there was a larger population of Germans who didn’t hate Jews.  They had friends who were Jews. Some of their children had married Jews. No one believed that this funny little man with the funny little mustache would ever really make good on his promise to get rid of the Jews. But little by little, like a cancer, the hatred spread. People were scared. People were hungry. People needed a scapegoat. Hitler gave them the Jews. People came to his rallies, enthusiastically cheering him on as he promised to “Make Germany Great Again.” There were even, despite all the evidence that he’d not be good for them, Jews who supported him.

All it took was one man who knew how to speak to the anger and restlessness of a country full of people who felt they deserved better, for no other reason that their prominent history dictated it, to cause the Holocaust.

The thing is, most people who have studied history KNOW all of this. We can look back and talk about Hitler and why and how he managed to get the German people, and many people from countries he conquered, to go along with his diabolical plans. And we swear, we’ll never let it happen again.

Each year we, the descendants of the survivors of that nightmare, swear to never forget. But I see way too many of these same descendants  allowing themselves to be swept up in hatred and rhetoric spewed against minorities in this country. I see the same people who post ‘never forget,’ regurgitate hate-filled rhetoric, reminiscent of all the anti-semetic propaganda of Nazi Germany, in reference to other minorities. These same people whose parents and grandparents suffered due to the ignorance and hatred of others seem to have no problem blaming others for their own misfortune and the supposed disintegration of ‘American exceptionalism.’

We should never forget. But more importantly, we should never allow it to happen to anyone else. Just because this time the hatred isn’t directed at us, (for the moment anyway), doesn’t make it any less heinous or any less dangerous. If we do nothing, we have learned nothing. We HAVE forgotten.  And this time? We are no better than the hapless Germans who didn’t hate the Jews, they just didn’t care enough to help them. This means this time, we would have to share the blame.

I’m not okay with the idea that a generation or two from now, I will have to answer for the crimes I permitted to happen because my people didn’t learn from their own history. I don’t want blood of the innocent on my hands.

You may laugh at my profound dislike of a certain presidential candidate. You may think he’s a joke or see his rhetoric and proposals as impossible. You may think his followers are no more than a bunch of ignorant morons who still hold KKK meetings.

And while it can be amusing to laugh at Donald Trump and his idiotic supporters, just remember, folks laughed at Hitler once too.

 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. – Pastor Martin Niemoller

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