Holocaust Memorial Day Auschwitz children
Meditation and Reflection

The Holocaust should not be syncretised: it was a unique glimpse of hell

“I am sure that Members across the House will wish to join me in marking Holocaust Memorial Day this Sunday,” proclaimed the Prime Minister in PMQs on Wednesday. “It is an opportunity for us to remember all those who suffered in the holocaust and in subsequent genocides around the world. It is a reminder that we must all challenge and condemn prejudice and hatred wherever it is found.”

“Sunday is Holocaust Memorial Day,” the Leader of the Opposition reiterated, “a time for us all to reflect on the horrors of genocide and to recommit to never again allowing the poison of antisemitism and racism to disfigure our society in any way.” Then he added, extempore: “The Prime Minister was also right to acknowledge the other genocides that have happened since the second world war. It is up to us to try to prevent such horrors from ever happening again anywhere in the world.”

And Jeremy Corbyn went on to tweet: “Let us never allow antisemitism or any other form of racism to disfigure our society.”

There’s a problem with this syncretised virtue-signal. The Holocaust takes the definite article for a reason: the scale of suffering and sheer brutality arising out of man’s inhumanity to man assault the senses with a quite unique intensity. Certainly, there are and have been many other genocides – from the Aboriginal Tasmanians and Yazidis, to Bosnia and Darfur, to the Assyrians and Rohingya – and no one can deny the concurrence of evil and human violation common to these atrocities. But the Holocaust – the Shoah – is of a different order of evil. The Final Solution to the Jewish Question is magnified by the sheer numbers. All evil is evil, of course: the murder of one or two Jews in the 11th arrondissement of Paris is evil, but the systematic slaughter of six million European Jews is a quite different image of horror; an apocalypse of hell, from which God’s children were not spared, and the love of God seemed to die in a dominion of darkness.

It is all the worse for emanating from and within the Christendom of enlightened modernity, as though Europe’s spiritual heritage of God’s sovereignty and providence had been vanquished by a swarm of antichrists. Didn’t we leave these medieval tribulations behind us as we looked for signs of Jesus’ Coming? Yes, we were told of wars and rumours of wars, and of nation rising against nation, but nobody mentioned that the Devil would walk in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and that the divine secrets revealed to the Elect would lead not to their glorious conversion and regeneration in Zion, but to their cremation at end of the world.

Yet it must be remembered that the death marches of the Holocaust were not reserved to Jews, though their suffering was preeminent in scale, but Roma, Serbs, Poles and Soviet prisoners of war were shot, starved to death, or had their heads sawn off while they still looked and breathed: “The Ustashe carried out the most gruesome of killing methods including and not limited to: mutilating parts of the body including plucking out eyeballs and beheading, tightening chains around ones head until the skull fractured and the eyes popped, cutting off female victims breasts and also, cutting out wombs from pregnant women…”

The Holocaust is a myriad of genocides and racist endeavours, but then there are the homosexuals. Somewhere between 5,000-15,000 wearers of the pink star were dispatched to concentration camps: “The Gestapo raided gay bars, tracked individuals using the address books of those they arrested, used the subscription lists of gay magazines to find others, and encouraged people to report suspected homosexual behavior and to scrutinize the behavior of their neighbors…”

And then there are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whether it was 2,000 or 10,000 wearers of the purple star who died, we simply don’t know. But they were sent to concentration camps “where they were given the option of renouncing their faith and submitting to the state’s authority”. Those who declined the invitation were likely to meet the same fate as 6,000,000 Jews.

The Holocaust was not exclusively a racist endeavour, though it was principally so: it was a unique apocalypse to cleanse the Teutonic Reich of all who were considered ‘undesirable’ – ethnically, sexually, religiously; not forgetting the sick and disabled. When politicians commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day by conflating it with “any other form of racism” in an attempt to signal a much wider virtue, they omit “any other form of prejudice”, which would, of course, relativise the Shoah to the point of meaningless postmodern notions of ‘hate’. They might not care much very much about a few thousand distributors of The Watchtower, but they might take a moment to remember those who had their testicles boiled off in hot water, or their groins cut open and metal tubes inserted in order that they might be ‘cured’ of their asocial, unmasculine reproductive incapacity.

In 2005, the European Parliament marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz with a minute’s silence and the passage of a resolution which included the following text:

..27 January 2005, the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Nazi Germany’s death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where a combined total of up to 1.5 million Jews, Roma, Poles, Russians and prisoners of various other nationalities, and homosexuals, were murdered, is not only a major occasion for European citizens to remember and condemn the enormous horror and tragedy of the Holocaust, but also for addressing the disturbing rise in anti-Semitism, and especially anti-Semitic incidents, in Europe, and for learning anew the wider lessons about the dangers of victimising people on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion, social classification, politics or sexual orientation…

That’s the meditation: the mass extermination deriving from Jew-hate was a cosmic offence which transcends “any other form of racism”, but we have a moral responsibility to all Holocaust victims to tell their stories and let their spirits speak to ours: the evil which was not restrained in the past may yet serve God’s purposes in the present age.