By: S. Lawrence Bueno
It is no secret that the Jews have been constantly persecuted since the beginning of time. The 14th century, for example, was a time where society was structured around Christianity and catholic beliefs, which excluded Jewish people as they became a minority. Religious differences between Jews and Christians built a foundation of misunderstanding and eventual hostility that would later feed accusations that Jews were responsible for the major plagues of the 14th century, sustaining Jewish persecution for decades to come.
Later in the 20th century, things got more violent. Nazi Germany in the 1930s became a hotbed of antisemitism. Fueled by a very difficult economic situation and the defeat after the First World War, the Nazi party rose to total dominance and started its persecution of Jews, blaming them as scapegoats for Germany’s economic woes.
As antisemitism grew, various events took place that could be considered turning points. One of these was “Kristallnacht” (the Night of Crystals”) when Jewish Synagogues, shops and businesses were targeted and burned down. After this point, many Jews in Germany questioned whether they should stay in Germany or leave the country, but Visas to live elsewhere were very difficult to obtain.
As the Second World War begun, things became much worse for Jews, not only in Germany but also in all other countries that Germany invaded. Ideas of internment and concentration camps began to develop already in the 1930s, and a climate characterized by xenophobia and Anti-Semitism was re-enforced towards the Jewish population. According to a Nazi law in October 1940, “foreigners of Jewish race” in Germany may be placed under house arrest or detained.
Adolf Hitler – leader of the Nazi party, strongly believed in the superiority of the Aryan race, therefore, he wished to exterminate those who did not fit his ideal version of man. Hitler’s primary goal was to achieve “Lebensraum” (living space) for the German people and for that reason, he had a desire for extermination of mainly Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, black people, disabled people and unfortunately, others. Jews were sent to concentration camps where they were tortured, forced to do tough labor, obliged to inhabit within inhumane living conditions, no hygiene, starvation, lack of health etc.
It is impossible to justify the unjustifiable.
Philosopher Karl Popper once theorized the paradox of tolerance as the idea that “in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance”. To this day, Jews face Anti-Semitism and Hate Speech. In search of a better society, we cannot tolerate such dialogue that condemns the existence of a minority.
It is our responsibility as human beings to teach about the past in order to construct a future free from hate speech. Let’s honor the 6 million lives that were lost and ensure that the Shoah (Holocaust) is never forgotten. We must continue spreading awareness to make sure history does not repeat itself.
L’dor v’dor. From generation to generation.