By Bjørn Ihler
On this day, 77 years ago, the Red Army liberated Auschwitz, effectively putting an end to the industrialized mass murder taking place in the camp.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorates the killing of six million Jews, and millions of members of other groups, including homosexuals, prisoners of war, political opponents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, and dissenting Protestants, Freemasons, black people, and other “non-Aryans”, people with mental health problems, disabled people and the Sinti and Roma by Nazi Germany.
For me, the key component of the day does however rest in the sentence “We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world.” as expressed by former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon in his message on the second Holocaust Remembrance Day.
It is key, not only to remember, but also to understand the Holocaust in today’s context, and to apply that understanding as we resist the wave of fascist ideas again rearing its ugly head across the European continent.
Antisemitism is still a present issue in Europe. Not only is this evident in attacks on Jewish institutions, memorials, and places of worship, but also in the narratives that surround us, both in the relative mainstream and on the fringes of conspirational thinking. This has perhaps been most evident in the recent discourse surrounding covid-restrictions and policies, where anti-vax protesters and others have likened the measures put in place to stop the spread of the pandemic to the holocaust. At the same time, we are seeing the spread of conspiracy theories rooted in the anti-semitic text, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion promote the idea of global Jewish domination and world order, both in the context of vaccination, and the spread of the virus itself.
The evolution of the current far-right does however go beyond conventional antisemitism, as demonstrated among others through our mapping efforts. The xenophobia, racism, homophobia, hatred, and authoritarianism promoted by today’s members of the far-right encompasses a broad spectrum of identities and the denial of the right to peaceful coexistence within our continent.
Today fascism often finds its way into policy by way of populist and conspiratory narratives designed both to confuse and to obfuscate the fact that the driver of fear, commonly is hatred.
On Tuesday this manifested in the death of Agnieszka T, a Polish woman who died after being denied what could have been a life-saving abortion due to legislation designed by the far-right government to control women’s bodies, reproduction, and thus the genealogy of its citizens.
So far this year 50 refugees have gone missing or been killed in the Mediterranian. Since 2014 the number of refugees missing in the Mediterranian has reached 23383. While at the surface the policies causing this look like attempts at securing European borders and interests there is no doubt this false sense of security is rooted in xenophobia, ultimately amounting to the mass murder at sea.
As our project documents, these examples merely touch the surface of the violence, and hatred spread by the far-right across our continent.
Today it’s therefore important not only to remember the victims of the Holocaust but also that the Holocaust didn’t start with the concentration camps. It started with cultures of hatred, driving fear which in turn drove policy, over time leading to murder. As European antifascists, we must therefore spend today not only remembering, but continuing, as we must every day, to resist!