This past week I presented the flag to the family of a U.S. Army nurse who had helped liberate Dachau. With her passing, there was one less person to recall the horror of those camps. One less person to stand against the Holocaust deniers. One less good person who could speak up and say, in truth, “Never again.” Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans are dying at an alarming rate. How will we remember the Holocaust after those lived it are gone?
Who controls the narrative
This question becomes all the more pressing with antisemitism on the rise. Narratives are created through the stories we tell, and through the stories that we allow to be told. Once these narratives take hold, it is very difficult to get rid of them. As an example, the Myth of the Lost Cause was allowed to arise in the post-Civil War era under the guise of Reconciliation. We now live in a world where it has been normalized. We cannot let the Holocaust go the same way.
Christians must fight antisemitism
It is not enough to sit back and say “Antisemitism is wrong.” We cannot merely be passive bystanders. It is incumbent upon Christians – and Catholics, especially – to fight it where it appears. The priests and clergy who opposed the Nazis and then died in the death camps demand this of us. We must fight the dog whistles, the slurs, and the other small acts that lead towards reshaping the narrative.
The Holocaust did not just suddenly “happen.” It occurred through small acts of hate and discrimination over many years before it actually exploded into violence. Society allowed it to happen and turned a blind eye from the atrocities. It occurred in a nominally Christian culture. The Holocaust is a dark stain on the soul of Christianity and must never be allowed to happen again.
Someday, soon, we will live in a world without living witnesses to one of the greatest atrocities in history.
How we go forward in that world will be a measure of our humanity.
Featured image: Polish hostages (including Roman Catholic priests) at Old Market Square in Bydgoszcz. September 1939.