1. In 1983 Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was invited by the Polish communist government to sponsor and partake in a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the uprising. Edelman declined, writing:
“40 years ago we fought not only for our lives, but for life in dignity and freedom. To observe our anniversary here, where enslavement and humiliation are now the lot of the entire society, where words and gestures have become nothing but lies, would betray the spirit of our struggle. It would mean participating in something totally the opposite. It would be an act of cynicism and contempt.
I shall not be a party to this, nor can I condone the participation of others, regardless of where they come from and whom they speak for.
The true memory of the victims and heroes, of the eternal human striving for truth and freedom, will be preserved in the silence of graves and hearts, are far from manipulated commemorations. “
Edelman’s words in Poland, 1983, are no less relevant in Israel 2012, where the memory of the victims was co-opted in order to wage war and justify war-crimes, and the survivors live in disgraceful poverty, while their names are used to gain diplomatic victories. In a country which builds ghettos and walls and dabs that security, in a country in which statement such as “Don’t rent your apartments to Palestinians”, “Don’t let your daughter mingle with Arabs”, “Refugees will infect your children with illnesses and disease”, are thrown casually into the air by common people and state officials, in a country in which the Other isn’t safe, but persecuted, marking Holocaust day is an act of cynicism and hypocrisy, because its main lessons have most clearly gone amiss.
“Sog nit keyn mol as du geyst dem letzten Weg,
Chotsch Himmeln blayene farstelen bloye Teg.
Kumen wet noch unser oyesgebenkte Schoh-
S´vet a poyk ton undzer trot- mir zaynen do!”
I’ve learnt my lessons from the Holocaust. I’ve learnt them from the partisans who fought in the forests, and from the Resistance movements in cities, villages in towns. I’ve learnt it from those who uprose in ghettos and concentration camps against all odds. I’ve learnt it from the farmer who hid Jews in his cellar, and from the nun, who hid them in her monastery. I’ve learnt them from those that offered a bowl of soup, a loaf of bread, or a pot of tea, which made the difference between life and death. I’ve learnt them from the Danish fisherman, and from the White Rose. I’ve learned from those who died for others to live, and those who refused to remain silent.
I’ve learnt my lesson from the Holocaust. I’ve learnt never to follow orders blindly, to disobey. I’ve learnt to fight fascism, and to oppose oppression whenever I encounter it. I’ve learnt to speak out against injustice, and not to be silent. I’ve learnt to stand up and resist. I’ve learnt my lessons from the holocaust – to be an activist, an anti-fascist, a conscientious objector.
3. “Never again” shouldn’t mean never again to Jews. It must be never again, to anyone!