I finally got around to watching X-Men First Class, and found it not only an enjoyable superhero action movie and a satisfying prequel exploring the earlier lives of the X-Men, but also a challenging parable about the danger of history repeating itself when we most want to avoid it doing so
In the first X-Men movie, we briefly got to see Magneto’s power manifesting itself for the first time as he desperately tried to stop the Nazis separating him from his parents in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
In X-Men First Class, we see that scene and then the ensuing story, as a mutant working with the Nazis realizes that Eric’s ability manifests itself when he is angry, and tries to enable his use of it by threatening and then killing his mother. Eric is for a while simply out to avenge himself on his erstwhile captors and the murderers of his family.
But we also see him acting out of a concern to avoid seeing mutants hunted and exterminated in a similar fashion.
Visitors to Israel are often struck by the irony of the fact that there one can encounter both graffiti that says “Never Again” and graffiti that says “Gas the Arabs.”
The lesson from X-Men First Class and from the history of Israel seems clear to me. If one genuinely wishes to avoid horrors such as the Holocaust ever happening again, then simply perpetrating similar horrors on others can never be the means to that. Carrying out a Holocaust is by definition making that great atrocity happen again. And so if one genuinely means “Never Again,” then the answer can only be to work towards a world in which the dehumanization and demonization of others, xenophobia, and the scarcity of basic necessities that can lead people to turn on their longtime neighbors are eliminated.
Those are the two choices: never again, or ever again.