I wanted to contemplate the lessons that we should learn from the Holocaust, especially with the far right on the rise across Europe. While sadly we can never say never again (we can hope of course but history does tend to have a cruel way of repeating itself) we can be more wary and more conscious of the warning signs. Perhaps if each and every one of us learns at least one lesson from the Holocaust, then maybe we really do stand a good chance of preventing this happening again.
- The power of propaganda. Propaganda was at the heart of everything the Nazi Party did and it successfully used this to whip up the already festering anti-semitism.
- We shouldn’t allow racism to fester. Long before the Nazi Party swept its way across Europe, anti-semitism had began to rear its ugly, bigoted head and throughout the early twentieth century the Jews were persecuted with increasing anger. The Nazis did what far right parties always do, they took an existing victim, redesigned the myths and added some extra detail. It’s dangerous to allow any kind of prejudice to fester, a little comment here or a little stereotype there can soon turn in to something far more dangerous.
- The danger of turning a blind eye. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” said Edmund Burke and how right he was. Of course not everyone turned a blind eye to the Nazis atrocious actions, 24,356 people have been awarded Righteous Among the Nations for helping to save the lives Jews and there are many more that are other unknown or unrecognised. If every person had helped save one life or had refused to follow the Nazis murderous plan, the Holocaust would never have happened. One person is only one person but if a million individuals had stood up against the Nazis, then perhaps I wouldn’t even be writing in this post.
- The danger of state sponsored scapegoating. Extreme outbursts of racism tend to follow a similar pattern, an economic collapse which is followed by hardship and the seeking out of someone to blame for the seemingly unjust conditions. It happens time and time again but instead of blaming the government or the people actually responsible for the problems, we seek out someone more vulnerable and generally that tends to be someone that the media or government has chosen for us.
- The importance of education. Knowledge and education are the most powerful tools we have in the fight back against prejudice, we can empower people to fight back by educating them and warning them of the possible consequences. As the late Tony Benn once said “an educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern”.