Why we have to remember
Speech of Deputy Consul General on Memorial Day of the Holocaust 2013
Wrote Primo Levi in his books “The last ten days” and “On the Bottom”:
“Whoever killed, was man. Whoever was forced to suffer or inflict injustice was also man”
“Not a man was whom lost his self-dignity and lay next to a corpse in the same bed. Whom waited for his neighbor to die so that he may have his quarter piece of bread. Though the guilt was not in him, he had lost his human form more than the cruelest most sadistic and primitive human being.”
“Imagine now a man who is deprived of everyone he loves, and at the same time of his house, his habits, his clothes, in short, of everything he possesses: he will be a hollow man, reduced to suffering and needs, forgetful of dignity and restraint, for he who loses all often easily loses himself. He will be a man whose life or death can be lightly decided without human affinity, on the most fortunate of cases on the basis of pure judgment of utility; it is in this way that one can understand the double sense of the term “Extermination camp”.
In opposition to his words lay the words of Hanna Arendt, who in her book “Eichman in Jerusalem” had coined the term: “The Banality of Evil” a term which aspires to show that good and evil are not very distant from one another as we may tend to think.
Arendt, was adamant to her death day, that the Holocaust was not an occurrence derived from singularly monstrous people, who had devised the mass murder and extermination of the Jewish people. On the contrary, she claimed that these were in fact very ordinary men, who had made logical decisions that others in their place may have taken as well.
Where in fact lays the truth between these negating statements?
Did the Holocaust occur as Arendt would frame it? As a cold calculated act of mere bureaucrats acting on behalf of their government? Or was it as Primo Levi portrays, the mass murder of six million Jews in such atrocities as the murdering of tens of thousands of babies in front of their mothers eyes, the extermination of millions in gas as if they were cockroaches, their slaughtering in the forests, the intentional freezing of whole families by turning ice cold fire hoses on them in the freezing polish winter, the burning of entire communities in their synagogues, their burial alive, the bashing of their skulls and in so many other devilish methods that the mind stagers and cannot accept.
Do all these fall under the Banality of Evil?
History teaches us, that despite the fact that the holocaust could have taken place anywhere and at any other point of time; in the end it did so in Nazi Germany.
The rising economic fuelled nationalism, coupled with the constant dormant anti-Semitism that has plagued European Jews since the cradle of Christianity. Created fertile land for the growing violence and ultimate disaster of the Jews.
It is true, that without the infamous Nazi efficiency, so many could not have been killed so fast. But can any man say that these acts of destruction are Banal? Can we say this without the complete disregard of the basis of Humanity; the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, in which most Humans tend to believe?
In the statement the “Banality of Evil” lays a severe condemnation of all humans that supposedly can turn from man to devil within one bureaucratic decision.
These words echo with Israel Enemies today, who dare couple Holy words such as Holocaust and concentration camps with such insidious lies such as Judonazis…
I personally cannot accept Arendt’s claim word for word, but cannot also dismiss it in its entirety.
Yes, Man can turn into a devil with one wrong decision. Yes, Evil can be that Banal…
But it is our brains and our hearts that should guide us in our decisions between good and evil.
As proof to that we must remind ourselves of the many unknown heroes who had endangered their lives within the days of the holocaust to save Jews.
Only a fraction of them are recognized as the righteous among nations, but their existence is strong testimony against Arendt’s words.
In front of the Banality of Evil, can always [with great pains and peril] arise the bravery and kindness of Humanity, which distinguishes man from beast and which I assume Primo Levi thought of when he wrote: “It is hard to create humanity’ almost as it is hard to create mankind”
We must remember these two, the Humanity and the Banality of evil, we must scribe them year in and year out on our hearts, so that we never forget to choose between good and evil.
May the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and the ones who gave their lives to save them, be forever entwined in the bounds of the living.