There’s been some shocking revelations this week about the number of people who either don’t know or don’t believe that the Holocaust happened.
While this is disturbing to say the least, because if you don’t believe that something this awful happened, perhaps because, maybe it is unthinkable or too awful to believe it’s even possible, then you won’t recognise the triggers that caused it, or could potentially cause something unimaginably terrible in the future.
That being said, we live in an age where, on the one hand, we have access to information and education, literally in the palm of our hand, but we also live in an age where the most powerful people; whether that’s wealth power or celebrity power; control the messages that are being shared. Fake news, manipulating social media algorithms, technology, whatever, we’re all at the mercy of being told what to believe by people who have their own agenda – and let’s be realistic, those that use their power to control the messages you hear are unlikely to do so in YOUR best interest.
I have always known, on a basic level that the Holocaust was something that happened during World War 2 when the Nazis killed the Jews. I couldn’t picture it, I accepted it as a fact but I had no real feeling other than, “God that’s awful”, but I couldn’t really imagine it. I believed that, because it was so awful and because people are more enlightened these days, more culturally aware and more socially conscious, that there is simply no way anything like that could ever happen again.
However last year I watched Schindler’s List. And it stayed with me for weeks. I felt almost bereft in some way. I felt remorse that I hadn’t really understood before what the Holocaust meant. I felt pain for all the suffering of the millions of Jews who were killed. I felt anger at the injustice of it all and finally I felt fear that this could happen again.
Some bloke with a platform and a prejudice, finding a common problem that his country can get behind and blaming all their problems on one particular race? Sounds a bit mad, but when you consider President Trump wants to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out… it’s not that much of a leap.
What got me the most about Schindler’s List was the apparent glee with which Nazi officers shot and killed people in the street for no reason. There’s a scene in which Amon Goeth (played by Ralph Fiennes) is shooting at Jews in the ghetto from his balcony. That these people treated it like a sport, is abhorrent. It is frightening just how much evil there is in the world and how quickly people would be willing to embrace murder and torture if it was suddenly legitimised.
A few months ago I visited Auschwitz. We toured Auschwitz 1 but we couldn’t face making the trip to Auschwitz 2. We’d seen enough. The vast piles of hair, the room full of shoes, the cabinet filled with glasses and other items left behind by those murdered in the gas chambers. It is, quite frankly, horrific.
But the reason I’m writing this is because, until last year, I didn’t really understand what the Holocaust was, because I simply couldn’t imagine it. I’m 41, I learned about the World Wars at secondary school, but it was pretty boring and difficult to take in. I forgot it all as soon as school ended. I don’t watch news or many documentaries. The masses, perhaps, don’t generally want to watch documentaries about things like war and politics – not when there’s a chance of watching a celebrity fall over on ice, or a chance to make fun of a kid who mistakenly believes he can sing.
The point is, I’m not surprised, the further away we get from the 1940s, the less people remember – or believe – that the Holocaust happened. We really must make sure that it is never forgotten, and that it is never allowed to happen again.