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June 6, 2011 4:49 pm

Holocaust Memorial Museum Keeps the Vigil, Educates All

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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Hannah Rosenthal rang a warning bell noting the need to confront anti-Semitism before it gathers strength. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

What Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, told an attentive audience gathered to support the United States Holocaust memorial Museum should be a matter of immediate and active concern for every person of ethics, and of special importance for every  Jew with a sense of history.

On June 2, at a moving and sensitive gathering at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York hundreds, often in multi generational family survivor families and others who support the work of the Holocaust Memorial Museum. The evening honored Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Stanton who have underwritten the Museum’s   project, “Confronting Hatred:  Why the Lessons of the holocaust Continue to Matter.”  The project includes recordings of the voices of many contemporary heroes who convey his or her message.

Hannah Rosenthal is an exceptional speaker. In addition to inventorying the many forms of anti Semitism her work has chronicled, she discussed the easy ability of anti-Semitism to make inroads into a society, city or country.

Rosenthal said the “traditional” blood libel accusation has now “morphed” to claims against the Jews of organ theft, media and financial control and involvement in 9//11.” Old fashioned’ anti-Semitism, it seems, is alive and well.

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In addition, Holocaust denial and its awful sibling, Holocaust glorification.

Holocaust relativism and revisionism, often fostered by religious, political and academic leaders or neo Nazi groups, is rampant. Refuting these challenges becomes ever more complicated as “fewer survivors and liberators remain alive to tell their stories.” Consequently, the urgency to promote Holocaust education, create museums and memorials, and carry the memory and lessons of the Holocaust forward to the young generation is urgent.

Where government agencies, museums, academic research and the like are grouping, says Rosenthal, the lessons of the Holocaust – and other repressive regimes, especially in the Former Soviet Union.  While no one wants to get into dueling atrocities or victimhoods “…history must be accurate…instruct, and serve as a warning.  She complimented the Museum on its extraordinary ability to “balance these imperatives.”

Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Stranton were honored for their generosity that made the Confronting Hatred project possible. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Commenting on “modern: anti Semitism,” Rosenthal says of the 194 countries she monitors that “opposition to a policy by the States of Israel morphs into anti-Semitism easily and often to…. hatred of the collective ‘Jew.’…especially in the growing nationalistic movements which target ‘the other’ and the preservation of the purity of a nation.”  “Holocaust denial is not just a matter of defending historical truth, but a demand of conscience and an urgent necessity.”

At the State Department, these trends and activities in 194 countries are monitored and reported in two major annual reports:  The International Religious Freedom report and the Human Rights report.  “If we don’t chronicle or name it,” says Rosenthal, “we can’t educate about it or fight it.” She continued saying strengthening civil society is a priority. “We do not just confront intolerance, we actively promote tolerance.”

“State” uses the ART Initiative – Acceptance, Respect and Tolerance – to combat anti Semitism by building strong relationships with civil society, governments, opinion leaders, and finding ways to change a culture from “fear and stereotypes to acceptance and understanding, from narrow-mindedness to pluralism, from hate to tolerance.”

Complementing the Museum on its extensive work “to ensure that the Holocaust is never forgotten,” Rosenthal noted that more than 30 million have visited since its 1993 opening….  With anti-Semitism on the rise, our work together could not be more urgent.” Closing, Rosenthal revealed a personal episode.  Information in the Museum’s archives, found by her daughter, verified records of her immediate family’s “and now I can say Kaddish appropriately on their yahrzeit,” she said.

Never Again.

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