On this International Day of Holocaust Remembrance, I join you in honoring the memory of the 6 million Jews who were victims of the Nazi Holocaust, and uphold the central lesson of the Holocaust: “Never Again.” Never again should the Jewish people be subjected to the horrific evils of genocide. To ensure that it never happens again, we should all be eternally vigilant whenever we see racist hatred rising against the Jews, and stand in solidarity with them to protect and defend them and loudly proclaim the sanctity of their lives.
On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, let us also remember the over 5 million largely-forgotten other victims of the Holocaust – gays and lesbians, labor activists, Roma (more often referred to as Gypsies), those with physical and mental disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses, communists, free thinkers, and political dissidents. Let us not forget that the evil that nearly succeeded in eradicating the Jews of Europe was also weaponized against myriad other vulnerable minorities. The underlying racist ideology of Aryan supremacy was a sweeping dragnet of horror. It was virulently antisemitic, but its murderous apparatus also targeted persons with disabilities, gays and lesbians, labor activists, Gypsies, opponents of the Nazi regime, and those with religious and political views considered undesirable. The evil of the Nazi regime was not limited to vile hatred of Jews; its hateful ideology cast a wide and merciless net.
German theologian Martin Niemoller captured this reality of the Holocaust in his famous warning, “First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Never again should anyone be subjected to the horrific evils of genocide. We should all be eternally vigilant whenever we see racist hatred raising its ugly head against any group of people, and stand in solidarity with them, to protect and defend them, and to loudly proclaim the sanctity of their lives.
A fuller reading of history teaches us that the Holocaust does not belong exclusively to the Jews. It belongs most properly to all of humanity, and its message is not only “Never Again for the Jews, but Never Again for Any People.” Sadly, in the decades since the Holocaust, this message has been rejected several times by tyrants and haters in the killing fields of Cambodia, the mass killings in Rwanda, and the terrors of the Bosnian slaughters. Yet each of their tragic deaths only adds to the urgency of the Holocaust message, and so we remember and honor all those additional victims we’ve lost to genocidal violence.
It would infuriate hard-core Zionists, but the Holocaust is not only a call to protect Jewish lives; it is also a universal call to protect the sanctity of of all who are created in the image of God, all who possess the unassailable dignity of the children of God. The broader implications of the message of the Holocaust apply every bit as much to the Palestinians as to the Jews.
I absolutely love that our progressive Jewish siblings are reminding us that Jewish safety will never be born out of hate, supremacy, and mass atrocities, that they do not conceive of their safety as an isolated thing, a special phenomenon, completely unto itself. Dr. King reminded us of the inter-related structure of reality – that we are all “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” What happens to one affects what happens to the other, and so we are inextricably bound together. Jewish safety does not depend on collective punishment and wiping out Palestinians. Jewish and Palestinian safety depends on creating conditions that honor the lives, dignity, rights and futures of both peoples.
We face a situation of great urgency. Palestinians in Gaza make up 80% of all the people facing famine or catastrophic hunger in the world, according to the United Nations. This famine is engineered by Israel. Hundreds of thousands could die from starvation in the very near term unless the genocide is halted. We gather as people of conscience – Jews, Muslims, Christians, adherents of all the world’s religions, and people of no religious affiliation – to show our solidarity with the Palestinian people in their darkest hour. Out of our unspeakable sadness, our exhaustion, our outrage, and “the fierce urgency of now,” we say “STOP THE KILLING!! STOP THE GENOCIDE!!. We demand a ceasefire! An immediate and permanent ceasefire! We demand an end to U.S. military aid to Israel!! We demand massive, expedited, unimpeded humanitarian assistance to save lives in Gaza! “Never Again IS Now.” Free Gaza! Free Palestine!