I learned about the Holocaust in school. I think everyone should learn about it long before that, but that’s when I was exposed to it.
I was introduced to the book Night by Elie Wiesel. I read through it, and I think that this was the first time that I was numbed into shock by horror. I remember feeling dry and grey inside after finishing it. My jaw still twitches with nausea when I remember it some of the things I read.
(Book cover, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1464977)
This book, and other books and accounts by Holocaust survivors are vital to us now. I was raised to think that one of the worst things that you could be was a Nazi. Apparently other Americans were raised with the opposite idea, that the worst thing that you could be was one of the people that the Nazis murdered; otherwise we wouldn’t be dealing with the rise of White Nationalism, the Alt-Right, Fascism, and actual Nazis in our own federal government and on our streets.
People will write this off as “just politics”. They’ll tell you not to be so concerned because America, because that could never happen here, because “politics” is something distant.
Politics killed over six million people during World War 2. It killed them, not on the battlefield, but in the most awful and inhumane ways possible. Politics killed Jews, it killed Romany, it killed queer people across the rainbow spectrum, it killed intellectuals, it killed Catholics, it killed unions members, it killed everyone who didn’t fit in with the Nazi ideal
Individuals did the killing, of course, but there’s no denying that the genocide was politically motivated. The individuals became (or unveiled themselves as) monsters, but they were lead to by hateful ideologies that we are watching rise, every day, across this nation.
Not wanting to be political killed them too. Not standing up and stopping it by whatever means was at their disposal puts the blame on the German folks didn’t want to “get involved”. Who were afraid of rocking the boat. Who threw up their hands and asked “What Can I Do?”
This is a refrain I hear again and again in Paganism (and Heathenry). “Don’t get political.” “Stop bringing up politics.” People, politics is who-has-mortal-power-over-you. Politics is who is allowed to sanction your life – and death. Politics can save people, and it can kill them in ways that most people wouldn’t kill animals. Do you really think that the very Christian White Nationalists are going to support Paganism (other than Heathenry, and even then, likely not)? Do you think that they won’t care about you because you’re white also, when your Gods (or in some cases, lack thereof) fly in the face of their faith?
I remember seeing Elie on the TV in the ’90s, during the genocide of Bosnian Muslims by the Serbian forces. He wept. He wept for Muslims on national television, saying “It’s happening again. It’s happening again.”
What would he be saying now? What would he think of the rise and normalization of white supremacy and Nazism in the US? We don’t know, because he passed away last July. He was spared this, and I’m glad for him. I wish he was there to speak still, but we have the words he gave during his life, and the words of many others besides.
(Hungarian Jews being sent to the gas chambers. An elderly women and children. This could be your kin, past or future. A reason not to forget. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
“Never Forget” the world said. “Never forget”, but unless we’ve forgotten how could this be coming to pass? How could white supremacists and their ilk be holding office if folks remembered? How could we be giving them room to speak, treating their views as normal, as anything other than something to be ashamed to even hear? How are we not doing everything we can to stop this?
Night has fallen, and it may get as dark as Elie’s Night. It likely will, unless we remember, and do everything we can to stop it. Six million people, mostly Jewish but many others, were murdered through inaction, after being vilified publicly for years for crimes that they didn’t commit, and used as scapegoats for failed political policies. What will you do to stop it from happening again?