The final solution: Auschwitz, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Buchenwald, Terezin, Chelmno, Sobibor, Majdanek, Belzec, Polish ghettos.
Adolf Hitler’s Nazis murdered some 6 million Jews — 6 million girls, men, grandmothers, babies, uncles, neighbors, women, fathers, friends, sisters, colleagues, cousins, lovers, boys, mothers, aunts. Six million human beings. Though Hitler’s main target was Jews, he also exterminated an estimated 5 million other people — mostly Catholics, homosexuals, gypsies and the handicapped — to support his master race ambition.
For perspective, and to humanize each of the 6 million victims, consider this: If you read each victim’s name — taking just two seconds per name — it would take you 139 days to complete the task. Start today and you will not finish until September. But that is only if you never stop to eat, drink or sleep, much like the conditions the victims endured.
Most perished (were murdered) quickly in the gas chambers, gallows or execution lines. The rest were forced to perform labor so excruciating that adjectives do no justice in describing. Then there were the rapes, beatings, heinous medical “experiments” and brutal, arbitrary tortures.
None of this happened by accident. Quite the contrary, it was planned, it was designed. It took the participation — or active indifference — of an entire country to accomplish, not the workings of just a few evil leaders. It happened in the “modern era” in the most civilized of countries, and it happened for only one reason: because they were Jews.
Somehow, a few survived.
Note, the above description is hollow, it is weak, it is inadequate. But it is all I can offer in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which began at sundown on Wednesday.
Amazingly, there is a group of individuals who deny the Holocaust occurred. They call themselves “Holocaust revisionists.” If they are Holocaust revisionists, I suppose someone who claims two plus two equals five is a “mathematical revisionist.”
Calling Holocaust deniers “revisionists” wrongly suggests there is room for debate. It lends credence to asinine assertions. We are talking historical fact, not policy debates or competing historical theories.
Ideally, the deniers would not warrant any attention. As my grandmother Baba Bella used to say, “If you argue with a fool, that makes two.”
Unfortunately, some of the deniers possess an air of credibility. Take Northwestern University engineering professor Arthur Butz, who penned a book in 1976 denying the Holocaust.
In a world that is often ill-informed, ignorance can pass as fact if left unchallenged. If supposedly credible individuals like Butz are not condemned, then the perpetual lie soon becomes “truth.” Our silence is the source of their strength.
Consider — for shock value — what the reaction would be if a group of “antebellum revisionists” claimed African Americans were never slaves? That blacks were never sold, lynched, beaten, raped and bartered? Suppose these “scholars” claimed the whole idea of a black slave trade was simply a hoax devised by blacks to garner sympathy. How would we respond?
I would like to think that I would be joined by all people, no matter their ethnicity, in obliterating such a lie. I would like to think that the revisionists would be called racists.
It’s been 74 years since World War II ended, and soon there will be no survivors left. The events will truly be “history,” meaning that the human connection for most of us will be no different than our connection to the Civil War.
Even so, the lessons of the Holocaust are hardly static. Today synagogues are vandalized in Europe. The Arab press publishes articles stating that Jews use the blood of Muslim children in Passover festivals. Arab children use textbooks that demonize Jews. Rumors persist that America and Israel orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
And now, here in America, we have the killings at Jewish houses of worship in Pittsburgh and outside San Diego.Likewise, the lessons of the Holocaust are not limited to Jews.
Throughout the world, over the decades since World War II, religious and ethnic groups have been persecuted and butchered — Christians in Sudan, Hindus in India, Tutsis in Rwanda, Muslims in Bosnia, the list goes on.
Millions killed not for anything they did, but simply because of who they were, including Sri Lankans on Easter Sunday.
I relish the day when Holocaust deniers can be scorned. Until then remember, two plus two is four. Do not forget it lest the victims of the Holocaust died in vain.
William Choslovsky is a Chicago lawyer.
Holocaust Remembrance Day begins at sunset Wednesday and continues until sunset Thursday.
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