The anti-Semitic hostage-taking in Colleyville, Texas on Jan. 15 brought to the surface bitter memories of the Holocaust: Jews being singled out simply because they were Jews.
Eighty years ago, on Jan. 20, 1942, the Wannsee Conference took place on the outskirts of Berlin. In 90 minutes, the Nazis planned the extermination of the Jews of Europe, calling it the “Final Solution.”
They intended to wipe out 11 million Jews across Europe, including in the Soviet Union, England, Ireland and Switzerland. The host was the Reinhard Heydrich, known as the “Butcher of Prague” and the “Hangman.” He was the S.S. chief, put in charge by Herman Goring, who had orchestrated Kristallnacht (Nov. 9-10, 1938) and who was killed five months after the Wannsee Conference in Prague during “Operation Anthropoid.”
Minutes at the Wannsee Conference were recorded by Adolf Eichmann, head of the department of “Jewish Affairs and Eviction.”
Eichmann knew the Jews intimately from his youth, having spent time in their homes. He later became the “master” of all the train routes throughout Europe, which had been used to transport oil in the most efficient fashion possible. When he became a Nazi, he used his expertise to send Jews in cattle cars from all over Europe to the death camps via those very same train routes.
He was so efficient that Jews were murdered at a rate of more than 15,000 per day from Aug. to Oct. 1942, after the Wannsee Conference gave him the impetus. He organized the deportation of 424,000 Hungarian Jews in eight weeks in 1944. According to Yad Vashem, 565,000 Hungarian Jews were killed.
This was Eichmann’s specialty and why he was brought to trial in Israel for perpetrating the worst, most intense and hideous genocide known to man.
During that three-month span listed above, Eichmann arranged for 480 cattle-car trips from 393 Polish towns to the death camps in Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka.
Unfortunately, the Holocaust is being forgotten. According to one survey, 63% of millennials under 40 did not know six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. More than half of this group thought the number was under two million.
Although other surveys have lower numbers, 90% of Americans in this survey said there was indeed a Holocaust; 7% said that they weren’t sure; and 3% denied that it ever happened.
Clearly, social-media misinformation is having an impact on Holocaust denial. One Pew poll found that only 43% of Americans knew that Hitler became chancellor of Germany through a Democratic political process.
Alex Hider of ABC News wrote that 41% of Americans could not identify Auschwitz, where more than a million Jews were killed. He found that 31% of adults over 40 and 41% of millennials believe that only 2 million or less Jews were killed in total. In the same survey, 58% of Americans agreed that “something like the Holocaust could happen again.” That is a very frightening assessment.
As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, keeping their stories, their miracles of survival and their profound terror alive is a daunting task.
Unless Holocaust education becomes part of the curriculum of all schools, Americans’ knowledge of the Holocaust, which is already “shaky,” will continue to lapse and falter.
The focus and goal must be to make sure to attain a level of understanding of the Holocaust to prevent another. Museums can only do so much. The same can be said for books and movies. They are all helpful, but understanding the political process of how a Hitler can come to power as a Democratically elected official in an advanced society is the key to making sure it does not happen again.
The United Nations General Assembly resolution passed last week condemning Holocaust-denial is certainly a step in the right direction. The 2005 U.N. resolution establishing International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27 of each year commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz was also a step in the right direction.
Unless anti-Semitism is brought under control, and members of Congress who get a free pass for spewing it almost daily are reprimanded, censored by their own party and ultimately voted out, the lessons of the Holocaust will have been forgotten and in vain.
In order for the Holocaust not to be forgotten, the next generation must pick up the cudgel and do its part.
Every Jew and every human being has to be proactive. Silence was one of the main reasons that the Holocaust was able to happen. The human race can ill afford this ever happening again. Every day we must proclaim “Never Again.”
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.