For David Karpel the answer is, “Never Forget.”
Like many American Jews of my generation, being educated about the Holocaust was much like a religious education. At home, at Hebrew school, at summer camp, it was taught through books, pictures, brave visiting survivors, and black and white documentary films. In 1987 I went on the first March of the Living, an unforgettably searing experience, the zenith of my education about the Holocaust.
And what is the lesson everyone is ultimately taught? Never forget. And what has that done to prevent ethnic or racial or religious hatred and intolerance and massacres from happening around the world? Absolutely nothing.
In fact, anti-Semitism, having never really gone away, is on the rise again around the world, especially in Europe. In France, a comedian who jokes about the Holocaust invented the quenelle, which has become a fashionable “anti-establishment” gesture rife with obvious anti-Semitic intent. Europeans of all stripes have gone so far as to take pictures of themselves at sites associated with Judaism and the Holocaust performing the gesture.
So, what now?
To never forget is to remember is to teach is to act is to inspire. Despite the failure of humanity over and over again, it is a human responsibility to continue to try and affect positive change through education and acts of kindness, as well as through acts of strength in the face of all forms of racism and ethnic or religious intolerance and hatred.
Here’s one place to start. In all the years I’ve been educated on the subject, I have rarely seen more powerful imagery than this video recently profiled at The Jewish Press. There is something profound about the colorization of a video that was so familiar in the black and white. Here we see the aftermath of the liberation of Buchenwald and Dachau. Notice the locals forced to tour the camps, to witness the atrocities committed by the Nazi military in camps not far from their own homes. Watch, if you can, until the end, where the final seconds of film poignantly stay with the young Polish boy, tears welling in his eyes. They will mirror your own.