Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Lessons of the Holocaust

As we have reached the 60th anniversary of ending the German concentration camps I keep hearing about not forgetting the lessons of the Holocaust now that the WWII generation is dying out. It made me wonder, what lessons have we learned.

Here's the lessons I think we want to have learned:

1. We will never let such a horrible thing happen again.
2. Racism is evil.
3. By teaching our children about the Holocaust we will take a big step in ensuring that it won't happen again.

Here's the lessons I think the Holocaust have really taught us:

1. We will never let such a horrible thing happen again so long as it's in our geopolitical interests to do so. Rwanda, Sudan--too bad. We don't have any economic or strategic interests. Bosnia, Kosovo--I guess they're close enough to do something about it at some point.
2. Racism is evil if it's mentioned in public. But in private, well, what are you going to do?
3. Any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism.

Don't get me wrong. I think that we need to teach about the Holocaust and to do all possible to stop genocide. But all of this talk about lessons learned seems not grounded in reality. I'm not sure that we have learned any major lessons. We have shown horrifying films of the concentration camps to our children for decades. But many of these same children will fight in any war that the president tells them to, especially if it is couched in patriotic rhetoric. Does anyone doubt that a significant percentage of Americans would support the mass killing of people declared our enemies?