Following are excerpts from an article by Dr. Klieger which appeared as a Ynet opinion, 27 January, 2008. Dr. Rieger views with alarm an education system that leads Israeli children to the conclusion that history cannot repeat itself, that the Holocaust was a unique event in history. I totally disagree both with the assumptions and the conclusions. I wrote two Talkbacks challenging Dr. Klieger's thesis, both of which follow his comments.
We must teach our children that Israel will not allow another Holocaust.. Some of the findings of a recent poll about the Holocaust truly stunned me. In the framework of the survey, about 400 students and soldiers were asked, among other things, whether the Holocaust can happen again, what is the best Shoah studies method in their view (classes at school, documentaries, or visits to death camps in Poland,) and what is their attitude to Holocaust survivors.
As it turned out, 82% of respondents said that another Holocaust is a possible scenario.
This figure is worrisome… The Shoah, as I have been emphasizing for dozens of years, was not “just another genocide,” like the ones we have seen before and still see today. It was a calculated, thoroughly planned mass murder that was methodically implemented by hundreds of thousands if not millions of Germans and their helpers from various nations; step by step, with determination, based on a master plan.
Therefore, the Holocaust cannot repeat; because Israel, the Jewish people’s state, will be able to contend with such new evil plan, if it indeed emerges.
If only the world were as simple as Noah Klieger believes. If only Shoah were the unique event in history that he and most of us make it out to be. If only the Jews of Germany had overcome their wish-based faith in their fatherland, their belief that so civilized and cultured a people and civilization, where Jews had lived for more than 2000 years, and come to their stay-or-go decision based on history rather than faith, how might history have been different. Instead they based their decision, as does Klieger, on the evidence of their present, a present where to their eyes, Jews were more accepted, assimilated and intermarried than in any other country in the world. They reassured themselves that surely a country whose prime minister before Hitler was a Jew, as was the author of Germany’s democratic constitution. Certainly, like Krieger, they could reason that the good and cultured German people would quickly come to their senses, would realize that the rabble-rouser and his thugs do not represent Germany; that Hitler must soon be thrown out of office.
But reliance on belief betrayed them. And their trust in their civilized and cultured Diaspora homeland cost not only their own lives, but those of their children and, very possibly, provided the Nazi visionaries of the Holocaust the time and cover to move their dream of a world judenrein from idea to near-reality.
Jewish Denial involves convincing ourselves, Israelis as well as Jews who choose the convenience and familiarity of life in the Diaspora, that the normalcy we see around us, the smiling faces of our neighbors and co-workers, the platitudes of world leaders about the “tragedy,” that all that appears is real and forever. And it is, for as long as Forever does not hit a major crisis, such as a severe economic downturn, so long as the unemployed do not see immigrants or those seen as Other amongst themselves as competitors for scarce resources and jobs. Because when conditions change, so also does Reality. Then, as with individuals in crisis, society seeks to target frustration and blame away from self; to find a target, an obstacle which if removed, might set things right. And for western civilization the traditional obstacle, Christendom’s Other, is The Jew.
The Holocaust is today 63 years in our past, a historical event no more real or immediate, than those other atrocities perpetrated by Christendom on our people during Inquisition and Crusade; no less legendary those whose lives were taken because their neighbors believed Jews murdered Christian children in order to provide blood for our Passover matzot; or for poisoning the wells of our Christian neighbors thereby spreading the terrible plague of the Middle Ages (projection is the turning of one’s own guilt on to the object of the guilt!); or, frenzied by the gospel charge of deicide, that the Jews murdered Jesus, the pogroms sure to follow Easter services. I raise these atrocities not to incite, but to point out the obvious: we have been murdered and tortured and expelled and still convince ourselves that things will always turn out because a beneficent pope or town bishop or local king would at some point intervene to save us. Was that not evidence that we were secure and protected in our homes? Until, of course, the next famine or plague or celebration of Easter again brought down the wrath of our neighbors.
The problem with Mr. Klieger’s humanistic plea, his concern that those 83% of our youth who accept the verdict of history where their parents are unable, or choose the comfort of Denial and look away from reality; that somehow acceptance of historical reality by our children is the problem and not the holocaust to come. Like Mr. Klieger our German relatives chose the “goodness and common sense of their neighbors” to support their comfortable lifestyle, at terrible cost. Perhaps had they accepted the obvious lessons of our history in Diaspora, had they accepted the offered assistance from our other communities concerned by the steadily increasing, if non-lethal antisemitism then, rather than sending the message that Hitler was a temporary phenomenon they might have sounded the alarm, a publicly broadcast message of warning. they might have alerted our communities in Poland and Rumania and, yes, the United States of the real dimensions of the danger. Perhaps had they overcome their Denial the full force of the Holocaust might have been blunted, or, by early public disclosure, even avoided.
On re-reading, there are just too many misunderstandings, misrepresentations to allow them to stand. The most obvious disqualifier to Klieger’s thesis is his complete failure to see the contradictions in his own interpretation of the genesis of the Holocaust. How conclude from his correct observation that, (it) was a calculated, thoroughly planned mass murder that was methodically implemented by hundreds of thousands if not millions of Germans and their helpers from various nations; step by step, with determination, based on a master plan,” that “Therefore, the Holocaust cannot repeat…”? Were Israel the paragon of commitment to the Diaspora that Klieger suggests, and most Jews would hope for, but which evidence contradicts, how would a country of only 5 million Jews credibly protect the Jews of a far larger, wealthier and more powerful country by threat? Let us assume, for arguments sake, that the locus of the next such threat was, say, the five million Jews of the United States (plus how many others disappeared by conversion; certainly the German single grandparent law would be resuscitated next go-around). Israel would be lucky to be able to defend itself from the ripple of such a massive danger, to say nothing of intervene to protect those threatened, that, to quote Klieger again, “that the State of Israel is the absolute guarantee to the Jewish people’s safety.”!
Far from the problem in education Klieger identifies, a problem I also assumed, but for opposite reasons, it appears Israel’s education of our children is succeeding in instilling in them a healthy respect for history, an ability to see beyond the appearance of normalcy surrounding us, and upon which we can constructs our denial, fantasies such as that promoted by Noah Klieger.