Holocaust remembrance, Holocaust forgetfulness

By Globe Columnist 

Today is Yom HaShoah, the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls every spring during the week that follows Passover. As the son of a Holocaust survivor — my father and his family were transported to Auschwitz in 1944, and only he emerged alive — I have been acutely aware of the Shoah since I was a small child. It is a topic I have written about often over the years. To me, questioning the reality of the Holocaust — the industrial-scale murder of two-thirds of Europe’s Jews during World War II, one of the most exhaustively documented events in history — seems as lunatic as questioning the reality of the Atlantic Ocean.

Yet the world is increasingly full of Holocaust doubters and deniers. In 2014, a landmark survey of more than 53,000 people in 102 countries found that only 54% of the world’s population had ever heard of the Holocaust — and only 33% believed it has been accurately described by historians. In other words, after more than 70 years of Holocaust “remembrance,” two-thirds of mankind either doesn’t know that the Holocaust happened—or denies it.

I used to be a great believer in the imperative of “Never Forget.” I used to share the view that ultimately nothing could shield us from the building of a new Auschwitz except our undimmed rage and grief for the old Auschwitz.

But the years have persuaded me that I was wrong. Despite two generations of earnest attempts at Holocaust remembrance — the proliferation of museums and memorials, documentaries and oral histories, lectures and books, high-school courses and elaborate websites — the Holocaust is being forgotten. And the hatred of Jews that fueled it, far from being extinguished, continues to blaze.

I will be giving a lecture — “How the World Forgot to ‘Never Forget’” — as part of the Yom HaShoah commemoration this evening (Monday, April 24) at Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass. The program is free and open to the public, and if you will be in the Boston area, I invite you to attend.