Gary Mond

The Holocaust was unique and incomparable

We must speak out about the plight of the Uighurs, but it is wrong to compare their treatment with the Holocaust, writes Gary Mond

July 31, 2020 14:54

Rabbi Moshe Freedman writes lucidly about the horrendous plight of the Chinese Uighur Muslims, the sickening silence of so many world governments and those in positions of authority, and the examples of horrible similarities between aspects of the Nazi persecution of the Jews and the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uighurs which have come to light. 

If the expression “human rights” has any meaning at all, and is worth fighting for, this persecution must surely take centre stage in world political debate. In lamenting the failure to act of those who have the power to do so, Rabbi Freedman is right.  It is great that prominent Jews and Jewish groups in the UK have spoken out, and of concern that some other religious groups in our country appear to have failed to condemn the atrocities being committed. It is also time to go further and make constructive suggestions about what should be done – be it the cessation of all forms of economic co-operation with China and / or other diplomatic initiatives. 

Yet while the part of his comment relating specifically to the Chinese Uighurs is commendable, as is his call to protest in the strongest way possible, the opposite can be said about his highly dangerous remarks regarding comparisons with the Shoah. 

Rabbi Freedman states that the Uighurs are being persecuted because of their religion and religious practices. Nazi Germany did not persecute Jews for their religion and religious practices, they persecuted Jews because of their race. It made no difference to the Nazis if a Jew attended synagogue on a regular basis or never, was orthodox or reform, observant or assimilated, or only ate kosher or regularly ate pork and shellfish. A Jew was a Jew by race and that was all that mattered. Moreover, a Jew who converted to Christianity was still a Jew and a candidate for extermination, and the converse was also true – a person who had not been born Jewish, but converted to Judaism, would escape persecution if he or she renounced his or her conversion. This distinction in the Holocaust between race and religion is vital and must never be forgotten.

Indeed, the distinction can be taken even further. The Holocaust was an organised and carefully planned attempt, as the 1942 Wannsee Conference showed, to eradicate the Jewish race from the face of the planet, nothing less. Wherever the Nazis were in control, Jews were destined to be murdered. That would have applied in the United States as well, had the Nazis ever gained control there, as depicted in the TV series “The Man in the High Castle”. 

This makes it different from other genocides and mass murders, where the root causes included racial rivalry often going back centuries, political ideologies or the settling of religious or ethnic disputes. For example, we rightly condemn without reservation the tragic murder at Srebrenica of over 8,000 Muslims, yet nobody is seriously suggesting that the Bosnian Serb perpetrators had plans to kill every Muslim in the world. Much more materially, we condemn Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia for killing almost 2 million people between 1975 and 1979 – a quarter of that country’s population. Yet the determining factor here was not racial - it was to take a class war against that country’s formerly prosperous upper and middle classes to the level of extermination. The mass murders committed by Stalin are another similar example.

No, Rabbi Freedman, the Holocaust was unique.  And while there have been many different interpretations of Yitzhak Lamdan’s 1927 phrase “Never Again”, since the Holocaust it has had a particular relevance for Jews. It means that the Jewish people must fight, with every sinew of their being, against Jew hatred worldwide wherever it manifests itself. We may condemn all other genocides and mass murders, yet if the Jewish people are to achieve the goal of ensuring there is never another Holocaust, or even an attempt at one, we must focus on the war against antisemitism first and foremost. If we Jews do not do so, nobody else will.

Gary Mond writes in a personal capacity. He is the Honorary Treasurer of JNF UK, the Vice Chairman of the Defence Division of the Board of Deputies and a member of the Board’s Executive, an executive board member of the Conservative Friends of Israel and a trustee of the London Jewish Forum



July 31, 2020 14:54

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