BY NOGA GUR-ARIEH / AJT //
On this past Holocaust Remembrance Day, Channel 2 in Israel aired a special about modern day anti-Semitism. In a shocking segment, an interviewee made it clear that he thought Jews are to blame for all the world’s problems and that Hitler had been “too gentle.”
I got goosebumps listening to him, but what really shocked me was the fact the man wasn’t a rabid skinhead from Europe with a swastika tattooed on his head. No, he was a smallish, mild looking guy from America.
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I realized that this, in fact, was the face of modern anti-Semitism; a guy who could easily be your next-door neighbor, your bus driver, your child’s teacher.
I imagine that many of you have come across anti-Semetic rants online; the stuff is everywhere, from news websites to forums, social networks and other such digital places. And even though I’m used to them now, the comments always hit me in the gut.
“What a shame Hitler didn’t finish what he started,” one vile anti-Semite wrote.
“You’re a stinking Jew,” another offered.
I received those comments months ago, but I can’t get them out of my head. I’ve always figured the writers were European bullies whose grandparents had been Nazis; I was certain they had been filled with hatred and terror from an early age.
But still, I felt reasonably safe traveling in Europe; as long as I was careful and hid my Judaism, I’d be okay.
I also felt that I was safe because the world would protect me, that enlightened people would manage to keep the hatred under control. Good people simply wouldn’t let the Holocaust happen again, I said to myself.
But all of this thinking blew up in my face afer watching the documentary. In the moment that the aforementioned interviewee spoke, hope turned to fear and horror.
The mild-mannered guy seemed to be part of the “enlightened” world. He’s among those I was counting on to keep the world’s moral compass pointing “true north.”
But what’s even more frightening is that this man isn’t alone. I’m certain there are millions like him around the globe: normal people with normal families, but who also actually believe that everything bad – poverty, violence, the world financial crisis, you name it – was caused by Jews.
I know it all sounds ridiculous, even absurd. But it’s true.
At the beginning of the last century, one man managed to convince a small group of people that all the world’s problems were easily fixable: Simply destroy the Jews.
And these people started a movement that would eventually become a world power, Nazi Germany, that firmly believed that the “Final Solution” was the best solution.
It’s not clear, even today, how so many were convinced that such nonsense was the way to go. How can normal people from normal families believe in the fetid concept of racial superiority?
Maybe there’s no logical explanation. Perhaps this is just the way humans react when facing massive problems. But whatever the reason, I know Adolf Hitler only needed a few years to take over an entire nation and its people.
Imagine how quickly a tyrant could make such a move today – as we hurtle into the 21st century, information whips along at a pace that was unimaginable 70 years ago.
Holocaust survivors are growing old and passing on, and the world of Holocaust deniers is growing bigger and stronger with each passing year. Today – as in the early years of the 20th century – the world is struggling to recover from a financial crisis that has lingered for nearly half a decade.
It feels like a major war is just around the corner. People are once again in trouble and, as always, need someone to blame. It’s right about now that common sense takes a holiday and some people become willing to buy into just about anything…
Even the notion that Jews are the blame for everything. It’s a belief that zips about the internet at the speed of light, and it’s a belief that is growng.
That documentary opened my eyes and left me with little hope. Only a few days ago, I was certain anti-Semitism would never raise its ugly head again. But now, after hearing the man from America – small, shy, soft-spoken – I’m frightened.
So, my conclusion? Keep fighting.
Of course, I’m not at all certain that we can ever completely bury anti-Semitism – but we have to try. We need to recommit to the vow that was first voiced seven decades ago: to remember the Six Million and never forget.
We also need to be willing to share our views, to help those who have forgotten the truth to recall the dark days during World War II. We need to keep anti-Semitism where it belongs – in hiding.
Noga Gur-Arieh visited the U.S. to work at Camp Coleman after finishing her military service in the IDF. She is now back in Israel, working as a journalist.