January 29, 2018
“NOW!” he yelled frantically. “Jump!” His sister hesitated, a look of terror on her face – but then he grabbed her and suddenly she was flying through the air.
They both hit the ground hard. “Run!” he gasped, almost pulling the socket out of her arm.
They scrambled towards the woods. She was 8. He was 14. Both had blond hair and ice-blue eyes.
Prisoners line up at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during World War II. For many, it was a fate worse than death.
Thanks to their mother’s side of the family, their skin was as pale as the snow that covered the village that only days before they had called home.
He heard a shout. “Jew!” The boy grabbed his sister’s hand tighter.
Crack! The sound split the air, and she fell forward. He frantically struggled to pick her up, but she was dead.
Crack! He tore his eyes from her, turned and ran for his life. His sister’s death would torment him with guilt until the day he died an old man. Even though, logic dictates, by getting her off the train to Birkenau he saved her from a fate even worse than death.
That’s just one of the millions – well, around six million, actually – of tragic, heartbreaking, horrific personal stories of Holocaust death or survival. Many of the stories have been told; most never will be.
Not surprisingly, many Jews who escaped the Nazi industrial-scale policy of murder can’t even bring themselves to talk about it. It’s too painful. The policy, incidentally, was aided by the cowardice and anti-Semitism of everyday Christian Europeans.
Indeed, one of the most horrific tragedies is that there were Jews who survived the years of terror and evil at the death camps and made it back to their homes in Poland and Russia after Liberation only to be butchered by their own townsfolk in Jew-hating pogroms.
Barbed wire fences at the Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz. It is widely agreed it must never be allowed to happen again. Picture: AP
Saturday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, with services held across the world to honour those who died and to recall the stories of courage among the overwhelming tales of grief and despair.
And, of course, every Holocaust service, museum, film or memorial reaches the same conclusion: this must never be allowed to happen again.
But could it happen again? Well, you decide. Because you cannot protect the patient if you haven’t got rid of the disease.
And the age-old disease of anti-Semitism is very much alive and well throughout the modern world, helped along by governments and even supranational bodies such as the European Union and the United Nations.
Worse, it is sanctioned at everyday dinner parties, pubs and workplaces by sneering – usually left-wing or Islam-inspired – criticism of Jews, Zionism and/or Israel.
It was the combination of ferocious anti-Semitism corralled into government policy and the cowardice or disinterest of Europeans who saw Jews as inferior that combined to create the conditions for the Holocaust.
All it took was a leader and an ideology sufficiently evil and powerful enough to carry it out.
The Iranian government, now pursuing nuclear weapons thanks to the hopeless deal of former US president Barack Obama, is among several groups that I call “Hitler’s franchisees”.
Palestinian protesters call on the USA and Israel to free Palestine.
Hitler vowed to wipe the Jews from Europe, and almost did. The Iranians have vowed to wipe Israel, home of the Jews, off the face of the map. Same thing, really.
Iran even sponsors a Holocaust denial cartoon competition to mock the dead. Plenty of Arab or Islamist entities are committed to ridding the Middle East of Jews.
On the weekend, a Palestinian official claimed all the land “between the river and the sea” as a Palestinian state free of Jews. By definition, this means wholesale deportation of Jews from their homes.
By train, perhaps? In a bizarre anti-Semitic rant, President Abbas dismissed Israel as a “colonial project”.
The Mufti of Jerusalem claims the Wailing Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, belongs only to Muslims. Only the Trump administration has the balls to stand up for Israel’s Jewish heritage and legal status.
Islamic-inspired anti-Semitism accompanied the surge of immigrants into Europe. Two weeks ago, a 15-year old schoolgirl had her face slashed with a razor because she was wearing a Jewish school uniform.
Days earlier, two kosher shops were torched. Last April, a 67-year old Jewish woman was thrown to her death out of a window by her Muslim neighbour. All in Paris.
Orthodox Jews pray at the Old City’s wailing wall.
Violence threatens Europe’s Jews all over again. No, not goosestepping Aryans in jackboots, but Muslim gangs.
A British Labour MP this week bravely spoke up in the face of a series of anti-Semitic scandals that have plagued his own party and pointed out that “bystanders are complicit in their silence”.
He’s right. It is not good enough to ignore the gross anti-Semitism spouted by the media, popsters, and even mainstream politicians.
Think of the little girl shot in the back and ask yourself – when did you last speak out against anti-Semitism and in defence of Jews?
Rowan Dean co-hosts Outsiders on Sky News Sundays 9am, Thursdays 8pm.