A Non-Jewish Holocaust Remembrance
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Considerable hoopla has developed over the White House’s statement last week issued on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. What stood out was that it neglected—or purposefully left out—specific reference to the six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust and referenced instead that eleven million people were killed. Aside from the fact that the renowned Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer has written that he told Simon Wiesenthal that the number eleven was erroneous, this statement was a callous affront to the six million Jews who died and to all Jews in the world. It would never have happened in a White House that was functioning properly and was not populated at the highest levels by Stephen Bannon; who, among others from the alt-right, does not accept the distinctly Jewish character of the Holocaust and the extent of Jewish victimization by the Nazis.
Some Jewish groups including the ADL, the Republican Jewish Coalition and even the Zionist Organization of America challenged the Trump Administration’s mischaracterization. Despite their response, the White House doubled down the following day on its statement. While they can still recover from this oversight on Yom HaShoah in April, there is an indifference to Jewish sensitivities here which ought not to be ignored; even if the President’s son-in-law is the grandson of Holocaust survivors. Sadly, so few rabbis viewed this oversight with the same concern as was their expressed elation at Trump’s pronouncement that he intended to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
There is an even larger lesson to be learned from this “slip-up”, which has very large implications. The failure to recognize the uniqueness of the Holocaust as a concerted event first and foremost to exterminate all Jews is appalling. In recent years, there has been a gradual erosion of the Jewishness of the Holocaust. The use of the word has been so trivialized for some time, even in Israel. This current oversight signals that the forces which are willing to permit the Holocaust to be homogenized are winning.