Anti-Semitic practises have existed in Europe for a very long time. The 20th century saw the culmination of what was essentially the demonization of an entire religious sect, ultimately ending with the mass genocide committed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime – the Holocaust. This was a genocide of such magnitude that it is recognised as its own historical event within WW2, a collection of depraved and heinous acts towards humanity that there is absolutely no excusing or justifying. Mankind isn’t adverse to rearing its ugly head from time to time, but the utter depth of sadism present throughout the Holocaust really does create a case for the existence of pure evil. And whilst human nature dictates we must always try to see the positives to ensure ‘balance’, it is important to recognise that, sometimes, the positive simply doesn’t exist.
What can be done when faced with such a subject?
The most powerful approach involves education and the encouragement and teaching of empathy. It is not sufficient, or necessary, to constantly apologise for the actions of our ancestors, but we are responsible for ensuring that we do not repeat their mistakes. We do not need to suffer in guilt, but we do need to remain mindful as to how atrocities like the Holocaust came into being, if only to stop them from happening again.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy for some to label their fellow man as “the other”, and prejudices that lead to the Holocaust still very much thrive throughout the modern world. News stories detail current topics such as the Rohingya Crisis and the Calais Refugee Camp, thousands of people are still being displaced and persecuted based on religious and racial grounds. We hear of Gay cleansing in Chechnya, with accounts of intimidation, torture and murder being given by those able to flee. Even somewhere as Westernised and “civilised” as the States, gay conversion therapy exists’ and attitudes remain archaic. Far Right groups such as Britain First demonise those fleeing to the camps in Calais, such is the strength of this prejudice that persists, which all comes down to fear.
But, there is something stronger, and that is compassion. This too, is part of human nature and is proven to be an instinct in human beings. If we can really learn from the past and realise that we are all one of the same, then maybe we have a chance at getting this right. Remembering the Holocaust not only allows us to pay respect and mourn the heart-breaking losses, but it also reminds us that we, as human beings, can do better.
We are products of our history and there is no escaping that, but we can steer the present into a peaceful future, to a world that is free of hate, of violence and of unnecessary pain.