'May Their Memory Be for a Blessing'

Posted by Hannah Rosenthal
April 18, 2012
Candle Lit in Front of Holocaust Memorial Wall

On April 19, people all over the world will commemorate Yom Ha'Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Judaism, when we remember the dead we say "zikron l'vrach"-- may their memory be for a blessing. On this day, we stand united against one of the most sinister and evil chapters of history, scarred by the unthinkable deeds of governments and collaborators and the silence of so many.

In my job as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, two of the tools I use in my outreach to governments and civil society are education and dialogue. They are mandatory first steps to prevent and overcome ignorance and hate. We must advance the universal message that such evil must be confronted rather than ignored. We must forge connections between students, between communities, and between faiths.

In January, I was honored to attend a United Nations showing of the unique documentary film, The Last Flight of Petr Ginz. The film tells the story of an artistic Czech boy who was killed at Auschwitz. It focuses on Petr's short life -- how he wrote poems and novels while interned at Terezin and how strongly he wanted to live despite the horrors surrounding him. Watching the documentary, I was humbled by Petr's strength, much as I am humbled whenever I meet survivors, camp liberators, rescuers, and eyewitnesses of this terrible event. I am the child of a Holocaust survivor myself. Films like Petr Ginz, remind us of the power of the individual, the power of expression, the power of memory. It is a lesson we must all take to heart.

Despite our commitment to expose and educate about the killing factories and concentration camps of World War II, to our dismay, the Holocaust was not the final chapter on genocide and human hatred. The bigotry and ignorance that drove the Nazis still exists, and, in fact, thrives today. In Rwanda during the summer of 1994 almost a million people were murdered in only 100 days. In 1995, more than 8,000 were massacred in Bosnia and Herzegovina around Srebrenica. During the Khmer Rouge's reign in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, almost two million people were killed. Between 2003 and 2010, over 300,000 people died in the conflict in Darfur.

As we pause today to commemorate Yom Ha'Shoah, we must remember the six million Jews and other victims who perished during the Holocaust. And we must stay vigilant in confronting bigotry and hatred whenever we encounter it. Let us work together to create a more respectful world and ensure memories of the millions killed by the Nazis will be "for a blessing."Editor's Note: More information on Special Envoy Rosenthal's efforts to combat anti-Semitism can be found on the Department of State's website and on the Facebook page for the virtual campaign 2012 Hours Against Hate. To read Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's press statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, please click here.Stay connected with Special Envoy Rosenthal on Facebook.



April 19, 2012

W.W. writes:

Is a second one comin ?

A second Holocaust may or may not ensue. The debate about it has already become common in recent years. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was first elected as president of Iran in 2005 he has frequently called for the elimination of Israel. In practice, this can only be achieved by mass murder. However, developments in the nuclear field in Iran have turned his rhetoric of the past years into a serious actual threat.

At the turn of the century, the second Holocaust issue came up only infrequently in public debate. In 2000, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Muslim worshippers in Tehran while referring to Israel: “We have repeatedly said that the cancerous tumor of a state should be removed from the region.”

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Then-Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said in 2002: “If one day…the world of Islam comes to possess the weapons currently in Israel’s possession (i.e., nuclear weapons) - on that day this method of global arrogance would come to a dead end. This…is because the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam.”

Remarks made by Iranian leaders were not the only reasons for debates on this issue. As anti-Semitism increased, in 2002 American columnist Ron Rosenbaum stated that the “second Holocaust” was a phrase coined by Philip Roth in his 1993 novel Operation Shylock. Rosenbaum claimed it was realistic - rather than novelistic - that sooner or later a nuclear weapon would be detonated by Arab fundamentalists in Tel Aviv.

Writer Leon Wieseltier reacted to this and similar pessimistic articles by stating that the Jews had achieved both safety and strength. He concluded: “The Jewish genius for worry has served the Jews well, but Hitler is dead.”

Rosenbaum countered by claiming Wieseltier was fleeing into denial, as there were many Hitler-like examples of demonization of Jews in the Arab world. He referred to Palestinian justification of the Holocaust, Shoah denial by an Egyptian government paper while supporting Hitler if he had “indeed” exterminated the Jews, and a Saudi government broadcast of a cleric calling for the annihilation of the Jews.

Most people don’t care

Only in 2010 was a conversation between US President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger from 1973 published. It revealed that both men did not consider it important for the United States if Jews in the Soviet Union were to be sent to gas chambers. When these remarks became public knowledge, Kissinger apologized.

Not only those who openly threaten a second Holocaust increase its likelihood. Others are those who try to hinder Israel in initiating military action against Iran to prevent its development of a nuclear bomb. This includes American government officials who speculate about the nature, infrastructure and timing for a possible Israeli attack against Iran.

Presenting Israel as the aggressor if it takes action against Iran is another way of facilitating a possible second Holocaust. Its most prominent supporter is German Nobel Prize Winner Günther Grass, who hid for decades the fact that he was a fervent Nazi in his youth. One of his many false claims is that Israel will launch atom bombs at Iran in a possible attack.

His poem takes the lie even further by stating that such an attack would wipe out the Iranian people, not mentioning that Iran is close to five times the size of Germany. Furthermore, in the past many pacifists have provided indirect assistance to various degrees for potential murderers. This repeats itself in the Israeli-Iranian issue.

Increasing chaos in Pakistan could lead to a second Holocaust as well. The ongoing troubles there may lead to anarchy, as its president Asif Ali Zardari noted two years ago. Compared to this, the possibility that enough fissile material is stolen and an atom bomb is assembled almost pales. However, Israel a candidate as a “suitable” target in such case. Its small surface area is slightly above 1% of Iran’s.

The threat of a second Holocaust mainly worries Israelis and their friends. Former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar saw this issue, however, in a broader context and wrote simply: “If Israel goes down, we all go down.”

Most others do not care. Yet they may be wrong. Once atom bombs are in the hands of ideological fanatics, their calculations cannot be foreseen. They may prefer to use their lethal weapons against those who cannot retaliate. Most of the world’s countries fall into this category.

Maryland, USA
April 19, 2012

Melissa in Maryland writes:

Never again. Never forget.

April 19, 2012

David writes:

Given that the claim to the current Israel as being the ancestral home of the Jewish people as put forward in various religious texts - the issue of religion is put front and center on the table when it concerns Israel. Very few nations can claim their existence and legitimacy off of biblical texts. (how many can you name?)

This naturally will bring a considerable amount of religion to this situation - you would have to be an idiot to expect something different. Not a single Israeli or anyone else concerned with Israel should be surprised by this. Given the billions of people that are of one of the faiths of Abraham - Israel will remain an issue.

Now given the religious connotations one should be asking the obvious religious questions. If this is G_Ds Israel does it need nukes? If this is G_ds Israel then would he allow it to fall to anyone? If one would have true faith the answer clearly, to both questions would be - NO. The question I suppose for the Jewish people, particularly those in Israel is do they still have any faith left or only when it concerns land? Harsh words I know but words that need to be thought hard about.

WW2 stole more from the collective Jewish people than the lives lost in the Holocaust.One of the losses was a great loss; the other is a catastrophic loss - but as long as a single one holds faith - there is still hope. i personally believe a few good people still hold a genuine faith - perhaps quietly but none the less is still there.

I am of the view that if your faith is what gives you the certainty that you are right - then exercise that faith but dont claim faith on one hand and on the other act and claim faith is a fairy tale. All or nothing because you cant have things both ways.

Justice is important to the Islamic faiths and they are duty bound to uphold Justice. Israel must understand that it is imperative to become more just then what they demand for themselves - towards all others. The faiths of Islam are bound to protect justice. They may yet together find a better future together- if they both honor their faiths.

I find it sad the constant use of the holocaust as a tool for fear and war.

The Israeli PM is WRONG to use their memories in such a way. The dead Reich took their lives but those that live and the memories of those lost, are forever trapped by fearful chains.

Chains the Israeli PM seems bent on keeping rapped around the Jewish people and everyone else. Fear of G_D is one thing but fear of Iran is quite another. Every good Jew should fear G_D not Iran.

As long as the holocaust remains used as a tomb of fear; the dead Reich very much still lives, so too the threat - and that is a dishonorable way to remember. One might ask a very real question - has the holocaust ever ended if the fear of it burns so bright in the eyes of Israels leaders and seemingly the people who allow them to talk unchallenged?

It seems more appropriate to honor the memory of the holocaust victims by learning to live a life free from fear and injustice. Not using the holocaust as a call for more death for fear of death.

May G_D bless all nations that walk in peace and bring war to those that cry for it.

Hector U.
Arizona, USA
April 19, 2012

Hector U. in Arizona writes:

Sim Shalom aha va..!

Massachusetts, USA
April 27, 2012

Maureen in Massachusetts writes:

Marie Jana Korbelova you are so admired!

Prague Winter 1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright.

Coming this week,wow.

Thank you for your writing talent Special Envoy Rosenthal.

james s.
Papua New Guinea
April 29, 2012

James S. in Papua New Guinea writes:

I support every word of this article..in a small way how can i be part and partial of this group.im studying diploma in info tech.when i finished i hope i will av a place 2help israel in its fight against antisemitism. God bless Israel.

Massachusetts, USA
May 30, 2012

Maureen in Massachusetts writes:

An enormous accomplishment to Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, 2011 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient!

Each word spoken in the short video clip resonates yet this remarkable woman can be quoted on a daily basis at the local coffee shop or the local coffee shop, aillier.

"Once, at a naturalization ceremony, an Ethiopian man came up to her and said, 'Only in America can a refugee meet the Secretary of State.' And she replied, 'Only in America can a refugee become the Secretary of State.'"


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