This is a cross post from The Zionist
The International Holocaust Memorial Day is on the 27th of January each year. This is also the day Holocaust Memorial Day is held in the United Kingdom.
The 27th of January 1945 is the day the Red Army liberated Auschwitz, the death factory where 1.1 million lives were taken, approximately 960,000 of them Jews.
The Holocaust & the British
Holocaust history is contradictory when it comes to the British. Great Britain stood alone in the world facing Nazi Germany at one point. Instead of making the sensible decision to make peace with the military empire that now dominated Europe the British stood up to them and inflicted upon them their first defeat in the Summer of 1940.
The Special Air Service were the first British troops who liberated Bergen Belsen and the British authorities made sure that the world knew what the Nazis had done to the Jews. Richard Dimbleby’s radio broadcast from Belsen has gone down in history as one of the most powerful communications there has ever been.
The British fight against the Nazis though is somewhat separate to their fight against the Holocaust. Great Britain didn’t declare war against Germany after the Nuremberg Laws were passed, nor after the Night of the Broken Glass. Great Britain went to war when Germany invaded Poland.
The British White Paper of 1939 condemned innumerable Jews to death. Their policy was carried out so vehemently that even refugee ships that had managed to escape Nazi occupied Europe to arrive at the shores of Palestine were turned back towards certain death. In 1939 the mandarins in the British civil service would have known that they were shutting the door to the Jews at the time they needed it the most but they did it anyway.
The only sovereign British territory occupied by the Nazis were the Channel Islands. Just like on occupied soil everywhere else in Europe it was the local British police who arrested their Jews and handed them over to the Germans.
Churchill knew about Auschwitz by 1943. The camps weren’t bombed. Nothing specifically to disrupt the killing of Jews was undertaken by the British military during World War II.
Many German Jews who managed to escape from Nazi occupied countries went on to fight with distinction in every part of the British military and in every theatre in every arm of service. There were Jews in Arnhem, in El Alamein, in the commandos in the SAS, in the Air Force and the Navy doing their part to destroy Hitler under the flag of Great Britain.
We owe Great Britain a debt for being able to regain our self respect and dignity for that. They owe us for fighting for them.
We owe them for fighting the modern day Haman with everything they had and sacrificing their blood in a fight to liberate Europe that also liberated the concentration camps.
After the Second World War the British still maintained the White Paper. This guaranteed that Holocaust survivors with nowhere to go would be forced to remain in the liberated death camps even longer.
The British established internment camps on Cyprus where they forced Jewish Holocaust survivors behind the barbed wire once again for the crime of making their way to Palestine.
So while the British prosecuted the war to the fullest effect, they could have done more to help the Jews. Ultimately Ben Gurion summed up the way the Jews of Palestine reacted to the British by saying;
“We shall fight the war as if there is no white paper and fight the white paper as if there is no war.”
Part of this strategy saw 20,000 Jews from Palestine join the British armed forces. It also saw a renewed effort towards illegal immigration of Jews from occupied Europe to Palestine.
So really the British effort during the Second World War is mixed. When it comes down to it countries act in the national interest. Today also we see countries refusing to intervene when countries slaughter members of their own populace or people who are under their control.
The crematoria today are functioning outside Damascus. No one has bombed them. We should remember that before being too harsh on the very nations who banished the Nazi army from the face of the earth and saved European Jewry from turning to ash.
Holocaust Memorial Day 2018
For the Jews living in the United Kingdom and participating in Holocaust Memorial Day in 2018 there is a dilemma. By the nature of the politics involved in commemorating the holocaust it is inevitable that there will be an effort to universalise the Holocaust, to make it everyone’s tragedy.
What of the non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust? Gays, Roma, Gypsies, communists, disabled? Shouldn’t they be commemorated also? Well of course they should. And so in every mention of the Jews who suffered in the Holocaust these others are mentioned too. And we can see all over social media people questioning why the Jewish genocide is commemorated so prevalently and alluding to Jewish power and a hierarchy of victims.
Personally I think it’s fitting that the British with the relationship to the Holocaust as described above do commemorate it above other genocides.
Nevertheless slowly the Jewish nature of the Holocaust diminishes and will continue to diminish in favour of more universal victims and lessons the government of the day feels the people need to learn.
And so it is that the real Holocaust. The attempt to turn the Jews of Europe into ash; from the Nuremberg Laws through to the Einstazgruppen and eventually to Auschwitz becomes something else entirely. The Jews are reduced to bit players in their own tragedy.
I won’t comment on the positives (of which there are some) or negatives of this expansion of the victim commemoration of what was a particularly Jewish tragedy, suffice it to say the commemoration of the Holocaust in Israel is not in danger of losing its focus on the reality of the tragedy and who the victims were.