Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Op-Ed: The Holocaust Remembrance Industry

Why did dozens of Israeli officials spend public money going to Auschwitz when there are sick and starving Holocaust survivors in Israel?

By: Anat Meidan

Published: January 30th, 2014 in News » World

“A historic trip” was the definition given to the journey of the biggest delegation in the history of the Knesset, which traveled to Auschwitz on Monday to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Making the trip were about 60 Knesset members, including four ministers and four deputy ministers, a former Knesset speaker, 250 public figures, including the state comptroller, the chief rabbi, a Supreme Court judge and the Yad Vashem chairman, as well as 24 Holocaust survivors and their family members.

It seems like we enjoy breaking records as far as the Holocaust is concerned.

My mother, a Holocaust survivor, watched the reports and couldn’t believe it. “In order to remember Auschwitz, the Knesset has to hold a session in Poland? In order to identify with the victims, they must have a luxurious dinner in Krakow? And at whose expense did the MKs travel?” she asked.

At your expense. The MKs announced that the Knesset was funding the trip, I explained to her.

“My heart aches over the fact that these funds are not being transferred to needy Holocaust survivors. I know people who barely survive, and several days ago the government refused to approve free medication for sick survivors. It’s unbelievable insolence. There are 90,000 survivors here who haven’t recovered from the horrors of the Holocaust and deserve to live like human beings. The MKs who traveled to Auschwitz should remember that the Holocaust is also people who survived. It hurts so much to know that the word memory is not translated here into life itself,” she said and fell silent.

My mother is not among those in need of the charity of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims. She is one of those who survived the Holocaust and built an independent and fruitful life afterwards. But the deep disappointment which settled on her face burned my heart.

A thriving travel agency

I quoted the remarks made by MK Isaac Herzog, who explained: “We are traveling to remember, to remind, to learn and to teach a lesson.” And MK Yariv Levin, who said: “We will come there to say in a clear voice: The Jewish people is alive.”

Her anger grew stronger, but she made an effort to maintain her Polish manners: “Doesn’t the world know that the Jewish people is alive? Why mention it all the time on the soil of Auschwitz? Can’t Herzog do the remembering and reminding and learning a lesson from here?”

I felt bad telling my mother that the Holocaust has turned into a thriving travel agency here. High school trips, the Witnesses in Uniform project which sends thousands of soldiers to Polish soil, prime ministers, MKs and ministers who land there on different occasions – they are part of a well-oiled remembrance industry which has existed here for years.

The duty to remember and remind are an open ticket to Auschwitz and its surroundings, but the memory of the Holocaust, the magnificent culture which was annihilated, should be studied thoroughly in schools, in universities, and not in one flight filled with clichés.

But who has the energy for a long and profound journey? It’s much easier to enact a law banning the word Nazi.

After the huge delegation which took off from Israel on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I wonder what the duty to remember and remind will look like in three months, when we mark Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day. Maybe, for a change, we’ll consider the option of modest remembrance.

Reprinted with permission from Ynet News

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