The Fifth World Holocaust Forum is taking place in Jerusalem at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center, under the sponsorship of the President of Israel, Reuben Rivlin. Its title is “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism.” A record number of leaders of 49 countries are in attendance. It commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp 75 years ago by soldiers of the Soviet Red Army, where 1.5 million Jews were murdered. Imagine what the victims of this crime would say of they could be here today to witness this gathering in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish State of Israel.
I was not able to witness all the speeches given, including those of Pres. Putin of Russia and Pres. Macron of France. Representing the British people, Prince Charles spoke about his grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who saved Jewish families by hiding them in her nunnery in Greece. He also mentioned Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who survived Auschwitz and then moved to Britain and helped found the English Concert Orchestra, of which he is a sponsor.
But, the speech of Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany was most impressive. He started and finished with the “shechechiyanu,” the prayer in Hebrew that translates as “Thank you God for allowing us to live to see this day.” He unequivocally took responsibility for the Holocaust, the greatest crime in history, on behalf of the German people that he represents. Israeli PM Netanyahu spoke movingly and raised the issue of Iran. US Vice Pres. Pence in his speech stated that there is only one government in the world today that officially supports antisemitism and disputes the Holocaust, and that is Iran.
Although the Forum was supposed to tackle the issue of current day antisemitism, most of the focus was on the Holocaust. However, this was crime that is sui generis, a terrible genocide that was the policy of a major government that took place during a major war. The Jerusalem Post printed a magazine especially for this Forum, and many of the articles referred to education as the main solution to the problem of current day antisemitism. Yes, but, although education is clearly necessary, I am afraid that antisemitism is too deeply rooted in European (and Muslim) culture as to be impossible to overcome.