All things pass, but decades later Jewish survivors still vividly remember the Holocaust. Memories of Nazi Germany’s cruel attempt to annihilate the Jews are still raw and painful, but when these survivors leave this world to join their forebears, digital and written records of this shameful period in history will be all we have.
This week is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and international Holocaust Remembrance Day. At the same time as we reach this milestone, anti-Semitic hate crimes are rising. In the United States:
“The recent anti-Semitic assaults in New York and nearby suburbs have attracted less attention than they deserve and require.
Reliable statistics on hate crimes are notoriously difficult to come by because they tend to be underreported. (Many people would rather forget being spat upon, or having their shtreimel knocked off, or being sucker-punched by a total stranger. And who wants to risk retaliation by people prone to violent hatred?)Washington Post
In France, a man who tortured and murdered a 66-year-old Jewish woman in 2017 was not charged with her murder on the grounds of insanity due to his marijuana habit.
“In France, perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks claim insanity to elude justice. The mental illness defense has become more prevalent when it comes to hate crimes in France. And it seems to be working.” — Shirli Sitbon, Haaretz.”
“When Kobili Traoré finally surrendered, he said, “I killed the sheitan” (Arabic for “Satan”). While torturing his victim, he said, he had recited verses from the Qur’an, and the Qur’an had “ordered him to kill a Jew”. He said he had spent the previous day in a nearby mosque. He was placed in a mental institution, where he told the psychiatrist who examined him that he smoked marijuana.
The murder was not mentioned in the newspapers. A French Jewish organizations spoke of a “distressing anti-Semitic crime” and organized a silent demonstration in front of Halimi’s building. It was only then that a few articles were written. The French presidential election was about to take place, and journalists from the mainstream media apparently did not want to speak about an anti-Semitic murder committed by a Muslim.
The judge assigned to the case, Anne Ihuellou, at first refused to acknowledge that the murder had been a hate crime. It took the Halimi family’s lawyers more than six months to get her finally to concede, on February 27, 2018, that the motive for the murder had in fact been anti-Semitic.”Gatestone
According to Haaretz anti-Semitism is rising worldwide, particularly in Poland, South Africa, Ukraine and Hungary – countries that should know better given their histories of violent racism.
New Zealand politicians and the Human Rights Commissioner have plenty to say about “hate speech” but nothing about hate crime. SB writing for The BFD asks why is NZ absent from Israeli commemorations of the holocaust?
Olivia Pierson writing for the BFD’s Insight Magazine says controversial French author and philosopher, Renaud Camus, was convicted and sentenced for “public incitement to hatred or violence by reason of origin, ethnicity, nation, race or religion through words, writings, images or public media by electronic means”. Viewing this conviction alongside the anti-Semitic murderer going unpunished demonstrates just how fixated the French are on punishing “hate speech” whilst ignoring hate crime.
We need to move past pointless attacks on “hate speech” and address the issue of actual hate crime. A look back at how the Nazis implemented the Holocaust reveals non-Jews were far from innocent bystanders in rounding up and transporting Jews to death camps such as Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen and Treblinka: their primary function being Jewish genocide. Jews that remained in the ghettos, towns and villages where they lived were also rounded up and exterminated with assistance from the ill-fated Jews’ friends and neighbours.
Father Patrick Desbois and his team spent ten years researching and interviewing neighbours of more than 2,700 Jewish mass grave sites. His book In Broad Daylight is a horrifying collection of eye witness accounts revealing Nazi Germany’s systematic mass murder of Jews using conscripted local labour to dig graves, transport clothing and jewellery and fill in the mass graves of their former Jewish neighbours.
“Father Patrick Desbois documented for the first time the murder of 1.5 million Jews in Ukraine during World War II. Nearly a decade of further work by his team, drawing on interviews with neighbors of the Jews, wartime records, and the application of modern forensic practices to long-hidden grave sites. has resulted in stunning new findings about the extent and nature of the genocide.
In Broad Daylight documents mass killings in seven countries formerly part of the Soviet Union that were invaded by Nazi Germany.
It shows how these murders followed a template, or script, which included a timetable that was duplicated from place to place. Far from being kept secret, the killings were done in broad daylight, before witnesses. Often, they were treated as public spectacle. The Nazis deliberately involved the local inhabitants in the mechanics of death—whether it was to cook for the killers, to dig or cover the graves, to witness their Jewish neighbors being marched off, or to take part in the slaughter.
They availed themselves of local people and the structures of Soviet life in order to make the Eastern Holocaust happen.
Narrating in lucid, powerful prose that has the immediacy of a crime report, Father Desbois assembles a chilling account of how, concretely, these events took place in village after village, from the selection of the date to the twenty-four-hour period in which the mass murders unfolded. Today, such groups as ISIS put into practice the Nazis’ lessons on making genocide efficient.”Amazon
Initially, eye witnesses were reluctant to testify about the murders they witnessed and some were shamefully reluctant to admit that they actually assisted.
Ignoring seemingly innocuous hateful actions such as defacing Jewish cemeteries and painting swastikas and anti-Semitic messages, is an indication of our inoculation against recognising depravity. Our current fixation on closing down “hate speech” does not address hate crime at all. Germany had “hate speech” laws when Hitler rose to power that did nothing to hinder Jewish genocide.
“There were hate speech laws in the Weimar Republic, including against “insulting religious communities”. Hundreds of Nazi affiliates were prosecuted under these laws.
Police also cited possible disruption to order as a reason to shut down meetings where Hitler was to speak. The National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party was banned from speaking in all German states before it rose to power.
Hate speech laws did not work.”A Newspaper
Hate speech law shuts down free speech, but free speech is essential to countering hate crime. If we don’t penalise hateful actions we countenance the growth of hateful groups.
The law says we are individually equal under the law and each deserving of common decency and respect – regardless of race, religion or anything else. If we do not address the current threat against freedom of speech it is because we are blind to hate crime, leaving ourselves open to the possibility of another holocaust.
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