07 June 2009

Holocaust n+1

With D-Day commemorations, discussions of the swastika (on JSBlog and here), it's timely to be reminded by Thinking Through my Fingers that the holocaust in which Nazism killed six million Jews is one among many, and that we continue to tolerate them still (TTMF's word is "endure", but I personally think "tolerate" is more to the point – perhaps "condone" would be even more honest, and on occasion "encourage" or "invite").

Even within that one holocaust, we rightly remember the Jewish genocide but tolerate forgetfulness of the "other half" – millions of Communists, the disabled, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Romani, Slavs, socialists, trades unionists...

It's also as well to remember that D-Day had nothing to do with the holocaust. History draws patterns over the mess and chaos of the past, attempting to give it meaning and dignity which was never there at the time. D-Day was about winning a total industrial war between great and declining powers, and deciding who would own the biggest pot when it ended, not about righting wrongs. Nobody made much mention of the holocaust while it was happening; only afterwards, when the newsreels and photographs of the camps provided a post hoc moral face for it all ... just as weapons of mass destruction were used to dress up a politicoeconomic invasion of Iraq in advance, and previously disregarded human rights hurriedly rushed out into the limelight after the WMD failed to materialise.

And even as we dressed in the clothes of holocaust horror, in 1945, we were not sufficiently horrified to do anything much by way of helping the survivors. The Communists, the disabled, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Romani, Slavs, socialists, trades unionists were just as reviled as before the war (though several of those groups had, through resistance action under allied direction, played significant rôles in the winning of it), while our refusal to let most of the Jews go anywhere at all led to the sixty year (and counting) smash up which is the middle east.

We will really have made some progress since 1945 when, and only when, we take an international action purely on humanitarian grounds, for no other reason than that it is the right thing to do and human suffering will thereby be reduced. It has never happened yet; I live in hope, though I'm not holding my breath.

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