Seventy-seven years ago, the Soviet Red Army reached the Polish town of Oswiecim and broke through the gates of the camp that would become synonymous with the most heinous crimes of the Nazi genocide. Every year, on January 27th, the day that Auschwitz was liberated and the magnitude of its evil was revealed, the international community commemorates the Holocaust and commits once more to learning its lessons.
Both Jews and other peoples have suffered and do suffer greatly at other times and in other places. Not enough ink exists to describe the examples of callous cruelty visited by one person on another nor the way one people has profited from the enslaving and brutalization of another. And yet never before seen was the Holocaust’s mobilization of an entire society to reduce millions of its neighbors first to subhuman status and then to ashes.
The lessons of the Holocaust are universal, but the scope and breadth of what befell its victims is quite particular.
Remembering the Jewish victims of the Holocaust does not shut the door on recognizing evils perpetrated against others, whether by the Nazis or in our time. However, to truly not forget the Holocaust means to also be vigilant against the easy way in which some other acts or conflicts are easily compared with it.
War crimes, hatred, murder, discrimination. Each and every one of these is a great danger and an injustice that must be countered. Being inspired by “Never Again” is a powerful part of opposing these travesties, whether for Jews or others. But taking up the cry of “Never Again” does not mean that the injustice being fought against encompasses what the Nazis carried out and what they planned to perpetrate against their victims.
Achieving Never Again, in all its facets, begins with the commitment to Never Forget.
Michael Bernstein, a Rabbi, has served since 2009 as Rabbi of Congregation Gesher L’Torah, a vibrant and dynamic Synagogue community in north Atlanta where each person’s story is embraced and Judaism is personal. He was ordained as a conservative Rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in 1999. He and his wife Tracie have three children, Ayelet, Yaron and Liana.