At the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the fifth Holocaust Forum was held in Jerusalem on January 23, attended by representatives of 44 states, including 6 kings and princes, 26 presidents and 4 prime ministers. During the forum, the tragic fate of the Holocaust victims mingled with the political issues of today, although some of them appeared only in hints and some remained concealed.
The Forum was held in Israel against the backdrop of preparations for the third election in one year. The political left transform themselves into a "political center" in an attempt to survive, and they stubbornly try to prevent the right from gaining 61 mandates in the 120-member parliament, while being assisted by the courts, the media and part of the security elite. Under the leadership of Bibi Netanyhu, the ruling right has achieved not only an enormous economic development, but also a radical improvement in the Israeli image in the world, for years damaged by the left-wing narrative of Israeli imperialism. Netanyahu has established contacts with many states that have boycotted Israel earlier, and Israeli leftists are losing support at home and abroad due to growing Islamic terror. The arrival of almost all European heads of state in Israel at the recent forum confirms these achievements.
One of Bibi's foreign policy successes is good relations with the United States and Russia. A guest of honor at a recent forum, president Putin, is an ally of Syria and Iran, but does not interfere too much in Israeli actions across the region. Israeli politicians tried to get Putin to pardon an Israeli tourist detained at a Moscow airport with several grams of cannabis and sentenced to seven years in prison; Putin promised that everything would be OK to the girl’s mother, which certainly did not please Bibi's opponents. Israeli media are grazing for negative news, so, for example, the success of the Holocaust Forum is offset by rumors that many survivors actually live below the poverty line and even that some are looking for food in garbage bins. In fact, survivors have always belonged among the most successful citizens. One such survivor even spoke at the Forum, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Meir Lau, who came to Israel in 1945, as an eight-year-old boy, directly from Buchenwald.
The first problem in inviting guests to the Forum in Jerusalem was the dispute between Poland and Russia. In addition to the Jews, these two states place the greatest emphasis on the interpretation of history. Poland lost 6 million citizens during the war, half of them Jewish, the Soviet Union 20 million, of which over a million Jewish. Auschwitz killed one million Jews, 75,000 Poles, 25,000 other nations, mainly Roma Gypsies, and 15,000 Soviet prisoners. However, the Soviet Union also bore responsibility for much of what happened
The European Parliament resolution of 19 September 2019 stressed that the Nazi-Soviet treaty of 1939 led to World War II, and to deportations and genocides, including the Holocaust. Today's Russia, for an unclear reason, endorses the legacy of the Soviet Union, but rejects the historical guilt for the war. Putin ignores the now well-known facts about Soviet crimes, including tens of thousands of murdered Polish citizens, and seeks to divert attention in other directions, for example by pointing out Polish anti-Semitism. As the Russian representative, but Polish not, was given the floor at the Jerusalem Forum, Polish president Andrzej Duda declined the invitation, saying Putin is spreading historical lies.
Another incident occurred when the president of Ukraine wanted to give a speech at the main meeting, but he was told that, from abroad, only representatives of the victorious powers and Germany would speak. It is a bit illogical, because Ukraine is a descendant of the Soviet Union, just like Russia, but there was no time for fifty speeches, and Israel certainly did not want to annoy Putin. President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, felt insulted and decided to "leave his seat at the meeting to Holocaust survivors". Neither president Macron let the sensation go and, when visiting the Old Town, he shouted at Israeli security men to get out of a church immediately because it was French soil; irrelevantly, the church was given to the French ruler Napoleon the Third in 1856 by then ruling Turkey. Macron later apologized, but the headlines he desired were made. Prince Charles used to make headlines already as a pupil when selling his copy books to collectors, so it is not surprising that he deliberately did not shake his hand with the US Vice President, after having shaken everyone's hand in a row, and skipped him to demonstrate contempt for America and its president.
In his speech, Putin said exaggeratedly that 40% of all Jews killed were Soviet citizens; he also mentioned how General Konev, who was responsible for the Auschwitz area, "forbade himself to see atrocities in the liberated camp so as not to lose his power to continue his duties", which is absurd given the known facts about Konev's cynicism. French President Macron hoped in his speech that better education would prevent repetition of atrocities; but it does not seem that the Nazi Germans did not have enough good education. German president Steinmeier spoke several sentences in Hebrew, and then sharply condemned his nation for "the worst crime in the history of mankind", but he was silent about the historical rights of the Jews in Israel. Prince Charles reminded Princess Anne, his grandmother buried in Jerusalem, who hid Jews in Greece during the war, but he did not address the traditional British anti-Semitism. US vice president Mike Pence recalled the brave people who were not afraid to rise up against evil at the time of the Holocaust, and logically called on the world to unite against today's evil, the Islamic Republic of Iran planning to exterminate Israel with an atomic bomb; president Putin could not like the following applause.
Alongside senior officials from Canada, Australia, Argentina and several former Soviet Asian republics, nearly all European states except Poland and Switzerland participated in the Forum. Some would think of combining the two states briefly as follows: the Auschwitz camp was not situated in Poland by accident, and the gold from teeth of the killed prisoners did not flow from Auschwitz to Switzerland by accident either; but such brevity might be unfair. For the sake of justice, I name at least one Polish hero, a Polish officer named Witold Pilecki, who deliberately let Germans arrest him and take him to Auschwitz in 1940, so that he could provide intelligence to the Polish resistance. He escaped in 1943 with the resistance’s help, he took part in the Warsaw uprising in 1944, he was arrested by the Communists in 1947, and he was executed in 1948 for alleged espionage for imperialists.
The question is what the Jerusalem Forum was good for. It may have been a test of how Israel is accepted in the world today. Netanyahu may be satisfied. The beautiful speeches, decorated with Hebrew words, pleased the Israelis. Of course, much more important for Israel than the words had once been the British recognition of Jewish rights in Palestine, the recognition of young Israel by Soviet Russia, the supply of Czech weapons, the French assistance in aviation and nuclear technologies, the supply of German submarines and money, and the political support from the United States. Israeli president Rivlin rightly said that the restoration of the Jewish state is a continuation of the millennial presence and not a gift for the Holocaust.
As a 15-year-old, my mother was deported from Terezin to Auschwitz in the summer of 1944, and from there to a satellite camp in Merzdorf, where she was liberated by the Russians in January 1945. She would probably say today (she died in 2012) that tears after 75 years are not worth much, and the question is how sincere they are. However, if all these states and their leaders have learned at least a little lesson, it might help. But they would have to get rid of their prejudices and clichés, and of their opportunism. Charles should not have gone to Bethlehem in memory of the liberation of Auschwitz to show the Arabs that they were also important. President Macron should not have shouted at Israelis to show Muslims that he was strict on Jews. The German president should hardly regard Israeli settlements in Israel as an obstacle to peace.
If Europeans had learned the lessons, they would clearly say that anti-Semitism in their countries is not a problem of right or populism, but purely a problem of Islam. They would clearly say that if educated Germans were able to kill 6 million Jews and cause 60 million non-Jews to die in war, then it would be no problem for the uneducated Muslim barbarians from Africa and Asia to exterminate the whole of Europe. Educated Germans kept their plans secret, primitive barbarians conceal nothing and clearly proclaim their plans in mosques. Muslims rape massively, liquidate entire newspaper staffs, massacre theater visitors, and kill Christmas celebrators with trucks. There is no need for special historical knowledge or logical skills to make it clear where Europe is heading, and that once again it is necessary to take the help of a strong America and not to childishly insult America and reject it.
Again, the world faces the existential threat as in the 1930s. However, the European politicians do not look ahead to the 2030s, as they usually look no further than the end of their term. But if they do not join together with the United States, the end of the whole Europe’s term may soon occur as well. Looking away is dancing on the Titanic. The European voters should urgently mobilize their attention and carefully choose their new politicians who could challenge the horrible threats.