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75 years after liberation, have the lessons of Auschwitz sunk in?

To truly memorialize the six million Jewish souls murdered by the Nazis, museums are not enough. It must be brought into the education system and the religious experience. Yom HaShoah and Auschwitz Liberation Day are good starts.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland on May 10, 2017. Photo by Isaac Harari/Flash90.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland on May 10, 2017. Photo by Isaac Harari/Flash90.
Joseph Frager
Dr. Joseph Frager is a lifelong activist and physician. He is chairman of Israel advocacy for the Rabbinical Alliance of America, chairman of the executive committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and executive vice president of the Israel Heritage Foundation.

With the steep rise of anti-Semitism around the globe in recent years, one wonders whether the lessons of Auschwitz have actually sunk in.

My friend and benefactor, Jerry Wartski, has headed to Auschwitz, Poland, to be part of this week’s 75th Year of Liberation event there. Born in 1930 in Łódź, Poland, he spent his youth in Auschwitz before being freed on Jan. 27, 1945. He was one of the few children to survive; 232,000 Jewish children were murdered in Auschwitz. The Nazis killed more than a million Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Wartski and I have spent the past 35 years fighting anti-Semitism together, fighting for Jerusalem, fighting for the Land of Israel, fighting to make America great and to bring peace to the world. Indeed, my greatest supporters in these efforts have been Holocaust survivors, who witnessed for themselves the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis.

The anti-Semitism in America and the world today scares them, because they have seen it all before. If they are scared, we must all be very concerned—and determined.

With all the attention given to Holocaust remembrance, anti-Semitism should not be raising its ugly head. We all must do more in order to prevent another Holocaust. The Jews of Germany never suspected that a Holocaust would be the end result of their 1,000-year sojourn there.

In that regard, I must commend President Donald Trump on his “Proclamation on National Day Of Remembrance Of The 75th Anniversary Of The Liberation Of Auschwitz, 2020.

In that proclamation, President Trump states: “We have a fundamental and collective duty to ensure that each new generation knows the truth. The lessons of the Holocaust must forever be engrained in the consciousness of humanity so that we can fulfill our solemn and sacred promise that such evil and hatred will never again come to power.”

He concludes the proclamation with the establishment of Jan. 27, 2020, a “National Day of Remembrance of the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.”

Indeed, President Trump has done more than any of his predecessors to honor survivors, to commemorate the Holocaust and to stick up for the Jewish people.

In contrast, President Franklin D. Roosevelt could have and should have done more to save the Jews of Europe. At the very least he could have bombed the railroad tracks to Auschwitz.

The “assembly line” murder of European Jewry was overseen by Adolf Eichmann, who knew train routes through Europe like the back of his hand, having been an expert in delivering oil by train prior to World War II. He knew the fastest and most efficient routes, and used his expertise to kill Jews. He transported 20,000 Hungarian Jews in cattle cars daily to Auschwitz. President Roosevelt could have thwarted Eichmann’s plans had he bombed the railroad tracks. Countless lives could have been saved.

There are varying statistics as to how many Jews were killed in Auschwitz. Eichmann himself claimed that two million Jews were murdered there. Rudolf Hess said it was closer to 2.5 million, although he backtracked on that number later. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that 960,0000 Jews were murdered at Auschwitz. The museum claims 426,000 Hungarian Jews, 300,000 Polish Jews and 69,000 French Jews comprised the main groups of victims.

In order to truly memorialize the more than six million Jewish souls murdered by the Nazis, we must ritualize the experience to teach future generations. It is important but not enough to have museums. It must be brought into the education system and the religious experience. Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and Auschwitz Liberation Day are good starts. Each must do his or her part.

I have been working on one of the longest Holocaust documentaries ever created for over 10 years. It has been a real challenge. We must never give up. Anti-Semitism can be beat. The lessons of Auschwitz must not only sink in but be incorporated into our very being. The Jews must unite to make this happen.

Dr. Joseph Frager is first vice president of the National Council of Young Israel.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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