A new generation must ensure Shoah memories are kept alive

By Darren Cohen, February 2, 2012
Mordechai Anielewicz

Mordechai Anielewicz

Time is running out. We must act now. This year's Holocaust Memorial Day marked 67 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death and concentration camp.

Holocaust survivors will not live forever. Our duty as students and Jewish ambassadors to ensure "never again" really means "never again" starts by ensuring that the very people who can testify to the horrors of the abhorrent era are heard.

Less well known is that it is now 69 years since Mordechai Anielewicz inspired Jewish rebellion against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto. The idealistic Zionist youth that constituted the Jewish Fighting Organisation (ZOB) had taken over the ghetto.

When the Nazis arrived to carry out the deportations on April 19 1943, the courageous Jews refused to be taken like lambs to the slaughter.

Holding out for three weeks, the heroic Jewish fighters ensured they were more than merely a footnote in history. Their will to die as human beings with Jewish spirit and not allow the systematic dehumanisation process to corrupt their souls is eternally inspiring. Today too, we should stand together against all forms of discrimination.

The incorruptible spirit of Anielewicz and others should encourage us to ensure that Holocaust education is an absolute necessity in every educational establishment. Holocaust denial is on the rise and we cannot allow the glorification of Nazi ideology to become acceptable in mainstream discourse.

Jews have a responsibility as ancestors of Shoah victims to educate in the same spirit as Anielewicz fought to defend Jewish dignity. No one should ever be able to say: "I didn't know."

This harrowing culture will transpire if we do not deem awareness and education paramount. The Holocaust Educational Trust does fantastic work, providing moving and brave Holocaust survivors to speak throughout the country.

They arranged for Ruth Barnett, who came to the UK on the Kindertransport, to come to King's College, London. She spoke with empowering vigour, emboldening us to tackle discrimination, hatred and racism in every form.

Our challenge is to reverse the moral direction of society from that of Nazi Germany.

Jewish students should not be victims of the unacceptable rise of hate speech and Nazi glorification on campus and in society at large. We are responsible for preventing it. Only through effective and meaningful education can ignorance be eradicated.

The fact that survivors, the most profound educators around, are not getting any younger makes this need an urgent one.

Darren Cohen studies philosophy and spanish at King's College London

Last updated: 11:59am, February 2 2012