Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Today is Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Day. Officially the day's name in Hebrew is Yom HaShoah WeHaGvurah, the Day of the Holocaust and of the Courage/Heroism. In English the official name is even longer, as you can see above. Personally I am not a big fan of the use of the word 'martyrs' to describe those who were murdered by the Nazis and their helpers. Click here for more information about the day ( I noticed at least two mistakes: in contrast to the day of remembrance for those who were killed in Israel's wars, the siren does not blow at sundown on the evening before Yom HaShoah, and this morning it will blow at 10.00 AM, not 11.00 AM ). This year for the first time I had to explain to our daughter ( she is in first grade and the subject has been dealt with at school in a number of ways in the past week ) what the Shoah is, why some people hate the Jews so much, etc. I used the story of Haman and Purim, one of the most frightening parts of Jewish history with which children become familiar at a very early age, to tell our daughter about Hitler and the Nazis. Probably because the events of Purim happened so many years ago the story does not scare children, and from experience I know that when you present Hitler as a kind of super-Haman children do get the message and receive answers to their questions without developing unnecessary fears. Of course our daughter asked if her grandparents "were in the Shoah", and she showed a kind of pride ( something that I witnessed with other grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of survivors and victims ) when she heard that they were. She was a bit sad when she heard that the father of savta was deported and murdered, but then - after we finished our little talk - she returned to her dolls and continued to play. I wrote an article in Dutch about Holocaust Day ( I am trying to get it published ), and about the fact that while we should refrain from making unhistorical and hysterical comparisons there is one lesson that can be learnt from the Holocaust: we should take seriously any national(ist) leader who openly threatens Jews with annihilation while at the same time doing his best to achieve 'means of mass aggression'. In the end aggressive anti-Semites threaten all of us, Jews and non-Jews. After all, six years after Hitler openly threatened the Jews in the Reichstag in one of his famous speeches - more than half a year before WWII had officially started - not only six million Jews but also tens of millions of non-Jews had lost their lives because of his and the Nazis' vicious visions. You cannot compare Nazi-Germany with Iran or Al-Qaida or any other militant Muslim organization or state, but there is one parallel between Nazism on the one hand and Islamism and other forms of militant Islam on the other: for both Jews are only the first on a long list of targets that can and must be eliminated. While Israel started its yearly day of remembrance for the six million last night, terrorists ( most probably - sent or hired by - members of some Islamist terror group ) made that clear once again in Dahab, Egypt.

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