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Quick Takes: Holocaust Memorials Without Jews

Ralph Seliger
October 11, 2017

by Ralph Seliger

REMEMBER THAT Jew-less statement from the Trump White House on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, dated January 27, 2017? Its actual wording wasn’t terrible:

It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.

“Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest.‎ As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.

“In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”

What made it an object of protest, derision and suspicion was that it came from Steve Bannon and company. And who could blame those of us on the left who felt that way?

The context was quite different, however, in the recent case of a new Canadian governmental Holocaust memorial that didn't mention Jews on an entryway plaque. This time it was partisans for Canada’s Conservative party opposition who cried foul. But again, I was struck by how this plaque seemed neither untruthful nor offensive in what it did say:

The National Holocaust Monument commemorates the millions of men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust and honours the survivors who persevered and were able to make their way to Canada after one of the darkest chapters in history. The monument recognizes the contributions these survivors have made to Canada and serves as a reminder that we must be vigilant in standing guard against hate, intolerance and discrimination.”

An opinion piece by Mira Sucharov, a political scientist at Ottawa’s Carleton University and a columnist for Haaretz, and Bernie M. Farber, a former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, persuasively reassures readers that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government had no ill intent in this omission. Sucharov and Farber point out that there are a number of explanatory plaques inside the monument that explicitly spell-out the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust; one is even contrite about the appalling record of Canada during the Holocaust years in closing its doors to Jewish refugees (not that Canada was alone in so doing). Trudeau’s government has moved quickly to replace the offending plaque.

A final note: Many people hold that there were 11 million people murdered during the Nazi Holocaust, including five million non-Jews. My feeling, however, is that only Jews and Roma (so-called Gypsies) were subject to wholesale genocide, i.e., slated for total annihilation. This did not make the millions of non-Jews and non-Roma any less the victims of Nazi barbarity, of course.

Ralph Seliger, a JC contributing writer, is a veteran editor, freelance writer, and blogger. He edited Israel Horizons from 2003 until 2011, when it was discontinued, and currently co-administers The Third Narrative website.