Editor’s Note: Susan Pollack is a Holocaust survivor who was incarcerated at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen- Belsen. Born in Hungary in 1930, she lost 50 members of her family in the Holocaust. Today she shares her story with school children across the UK as part of her work with the Holocaust Educational Trust. The opinions in this article belong to the author.
The rise of the far right in Europe has brought back to the surface fears that many had hoped were gone forever.
There is something chilling about the way in which some countries and politicians have treated people fleeing war and persecution.
Emboldened by the justification that their racism and xenophobia is protected under the guise of free speech, hatred is being allowed to flourish – and it is not being challenged.
As with any time of upheaval and political uncertainty when the far right rises, Jews become an easy target.
Anti-Semitism has a way of changing over time. It mutates like no other hatred and is camouflaged in so many ways.
It has evolved through the ages, passing through the realms of religion and politics to where it lives today. It has permeated the minds of people throughout history.
At first it was religious, then social, then it was racial and political. Whatever problems would arise, it was always the Jews that were to blame.
Whenever I go into schools to share my story, I always ask the teacher whether they think the Holocaust could happen again.
It sounds like a ridiculous question and yet, more often than not, the reply is “yes.”
I am 88. I have been sharing my experiences for 30 years. I honestly believe that education is the only tool we have to challenge hatred and ignorance.
We are approaching a seminal time. Not only is the entire face of European politics changing. But we are coming to a point where many survivors of the Holocaust are departing this Earth.
I honestly believe that the only weapon we have left, if we are to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust are not forgotten, is education.
People have to be informed of what happened. They need to be educated. There can be no room for ignorance. After all, once the survivors have passed, what will be left?
It has been a lifelong effort to recover from what happened at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, but I will keep telling my story.
Unless we are prepared to act against hate, then – under the right, toxic combination of circumstances – anything can happen.
Has the world learned the lessons of the Holocaust? No, I don’t think so. Those ancient, malicious ideas about Jews still persist.
Many of these myths about Jews have existed for so long, it will take decades, maybe centuries, for that to disappear.
Tropes such as Jews having too much power in finance and the media are once again being repeated in mainstream politics and media. These same fallacies have been part of Western society for hundreds of years.
For us to eradicate anti-Semitism, it will take all of us who care, all of us who want our children and everybody’s children to live in a peaceful and safe society, to stand up and unite against this ancient hatred.
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