Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Europe’s Future, 70 Years After Wannsee Confererence

January 20, 2012 1:00 pm 0 comments

EU Flags. Photo: wiki commons.

On January 20, 1942, the Nazi leadership gathered in a villa on the outskirts of Berlin and adopted the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” The Wannsee Conference, as this became known, from the suburb where the meeting was held, formalized the process that exterminated so much of European Jewry.

As we mark the 70th anniversary of that 90-minute meeting in which 15 people condemned millions to death, there are many crucial lessons to learn from the Holocaust. I wish to highlight two.

Firstly, the killing of a people begins not with violence, but through race-based hatred, progressing to institutionalized discrimination and only then culminating in murder. This is why anti-Semitism, racism and institutionalized discrimination must be addressed, for if left to fester the consequences can be tragic, severe and widespread.

Secondly, the Nazis may have come to power hating Jews, and by the time they launched World War II virulent anti-Semitism was a central policy, but they neither came to power nor launched World War II with the aim of exterminating European Jewry. Hitler wanted Europe “Judenrein” but it was only after plans to deport Jews to places such as Madagascar failed and no one else was willing to accept these Jewish refugees, and only after the mass killing by bullets failed to raise the ire of the local international community, that the Nazis felt they had the green light to take genocide to an unprecedented place.

Today, as Europe teeters on the edge of an economic abyss, as the movement of refugees and asylum seekers literally racing to cross borders soars on a daily basis, and as anti-Semitism evolves and shows no sign of abating, it is imperative that the evolution, nature and consequences of the Holocaust remain clear. But Holocaust memory is under unprecedented attack. Crass Holocaust deniers like David Irving have been discredited since he lost his libel trial in London in 2000, but new trends in denial are alive and well in new-accession member states of the European Union, particularly the three Baltic countries, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, with much support from rightwing political forces in Hungary, the Czech Republic and others.

Articulated in the 2008 Prague Declaration, and actively pursued by the leadership of a number of Eastern European Union states, the “Prague Process” (as the Prague Declaration is referred to by its proponents) has been active in the European Union, most notably securing passage of a 2009 resolution calling for all of Europe to enact a single day of commemoration for Nazi and Soviet crimes. Other dangerous proposals being pushed include the effort to “overhaul” textbooks throughout the European Union to ensure “equal treatment” of Nazi and Soviet crimes, and efforts to criminalize the opinion that the Nazi Holocaust was the only genocide in 20th-century Europe.

HISTORICAL EXPERIENCE has made Jews empathetic to the suffering of others, and indeed the East European countries suffered brutally under four decades of Soviet rule. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs, were deported, were forced into labor camps by Communist regimes whose cruelty was beyond doubt, and far too many perished or had their lives ruined. Soviet crimes were nothing less than horrible and should be remembered in their own distinct way. But there was no Soviet genocide. There was no Soviet Holocaust.

By blurring the definition of genocide, that earth-shattering term loses its meaning. If everything is genocide then nothing is genocide.

To mark the anniversary of Wannsee and to counter the dangerous trends in Europe today, I have released the Seventy Years Declaration on the Anniversary of the Final Solution at Wannsee, together with Professor Dovid Katz, author of the DefendingHistory.com blog. The declaration has been signed by over 70 parliamentarians from 19 European Union countries, including three former Europe foreign ministers, two vice presidents of the European Parliament and a vice president of the Bundestag. In addition to remembering the Final Solution plan with “humility and sadness,” the declaration explicitly rejects the notion of “double genocide.”

Seventy years after the Wannsee Conference, the reconciliation process for the crimes of World War II is not yet complete, particularly in the Baltics. Accordingly, the declaration calls for EU member states to “continue efforts to acknowledge their own roles in the destruction of European Jewry” and the “need for ongoing genuine Holocaust education and memorialization across the European Union.” The rise of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and xenophobia in general, and the implementation of double genocide policies in Eastern Europe, makes this an urgent imperative.

Unfortunately most global Jewish organizations and the relevant branches of Israel’s government have yet to invest their resources in countering the threat of double genocide, which is necessary in order to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.

The time has come for them to join the European parliamentarians and put their names to this task. The way the Holocaust is remembered, and the success or otherwise of the Prague Process, is central not only to Europe’s past, but also its future.

This article first appeared in The Jerusalem Post.  The writer is an associate professor at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia and a documentary filmmaker whose latest film is ‘Rewriting History’ (www.rewriting-history. org). He can be reached at danny@identity-films.com. The 70th anniversary declaration can be viewed at www.defendinghistory.com.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Opinion Perspectives on the Middle East and Islam (BOOK REVIEW)

    Perspectives on the Middle East and Islam (BOOK REVIEW)

    Nothing Abides: Perspectives on the Middle East and Islam, by Daniel Pipes. Transaction Publishers, 2015. More doggedly than any other expert on Middle East affairs Daniel Pipes has riveted his attention upon the threat that radical Islam poses to civilized life in nearly every corner of the globe. The Boston Globe was not indulging in hyperbole when it stated, “If Pipes’ admonitions had been heeded, there might never have been a 9/11.” He is the polar opposite to the willfully […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Home of Freud and…Pita? Israelis Make Culinary Mark in Vienna

    Home of Freud and…Pita? Israelis Make Culinary Mark in Vienna

    JNS.org – Several Viennese Jews have made a lasting impact on the world. Sigmund Freud’s investigations changed the face of modern psychology. Composer Arnold Schoenberg’s innovations in atonal music changed the face of music. These days, even more Jews — in particular, Israeli Jews — are changing the face of Vienna’s culinary scene with innovations in…the art of the pita. Freudians may find a psychoanalytic motive for the local appeal of the Israeli eateries popping up in the Austrian capital. Walk […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion In Iraqi Kurdistan, a Genocide Before Our Very Eyes

    In Iraqi Kurdistan, a Genocide Before Our Very Eyes

    The two bullet casings are already beginning to rust. Sheikh Nasser Pasha plucks them from the ground. “Look, one is from an AK-47, one from an American M-4.” The casings are strewn on the ground atop a long mound of dirt with a few bits of white sticks on it. It would appear unremarkable if one were walking by it. A closer look, however, reveals the white objects are pieces of human bone: arms, legs, and a single human skull. […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    JNS.org – About two-dozen people file into Dodd 175 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus on a Thursday night, scouting out seats and picking at the kosher pizza in the back of the lecture hall. Miyelani Pinini knows the drill. A former student president of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, she’s attended and even organized her share of free-pizza events. But now she and a fellow South African student leader were the stars of this […]

    Read more →
  • Food Spirituality/Tradition The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    JNS.org – It’s widely known that Israel has penetrated the wine market, with some of its sophisticated Israeli blends surpassing historically excellent wines from areas such as the Napa Valley or Bordeaux. But what about beer? For decades, Israel has offered solely the Maccabi and Nesher brands. Not anymore. “There is a huge push of people making beer at home. The country is approaching over 30 craft breweries in the last year or two, making nearly 200 beers,” says Avi Moskowitz, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Actress Natalie Portman acted like a typical “Jewish mother” on the set of her latest movie, Jane Got a Gun, the Israeli-born star told the New York Post‘s Page Six on Sunday. The 34-year-old, who also co-produced the western, said she made it her job to look out for everyone involved in the project, because the film has had to overcome “so many obstacles,” such as losing its director early on. She explained: “Actors changed. We suffered financial and legal challenges. We endured so many replacements. There were delays. […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    “We’re looking very much forward to coming back to Israel this summer,” said the lead singer of the German rock band Scorpions in a video on Monday. “Make sure you don’t miss it because we rock you like a hurricane!” said a jovial Klaus Meine, quoting the band’s seminal 1984 anthem, “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The hard rock band lands in Israel for a show at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena on July 14 as part of its 50th anniversary tour. It will be the band’s third time […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel were the two most immediate and authentic literary voices who gave witness to the Holocaust. Wiesel was an extrovert and a very public figure who wrote initially in French. Levi was a modest retiring chemist who wrote in Italian. Whereas Wiesel was rooted in the Eastern European Jewish Hassidic world, Levi was the product of an assimilated, secular Italian society that saw itself as Italian first and Jewish as an accident of birth. As Levi himself said, “At Auschwitz I […]

    Read more →