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Rabbi Jonathan Goldschmidt's Article in Lingap Magazine

Updated: Apr 2

I was very happy to have my article on the inclusion of Holocaust Education in the Philippines published by Lingap Magazine:

The subject of the Holocaust is of great importance to me on both a personal and national level. My own grandparents were both Holocaust survivors from Germany and Austria.

We grew up in a family where this knowledge was an intrinsic part of our identity as Jews and yet despite this, for much of my life we knew surprisingly little details of what had happened to them and our family.

We were extremely fortunate that my Grandmother during a trip to America in 1997 recorded a testimony with USC Shoah foundation which was founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg to videotape, document and preserve interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust. Today the Institute houses over 56,000 audio-visual testimonies conducted in 65 countries and in 44 languages. Through the hard work and research of several family members the story of my grandfather also came to light. We found that he had tragically lost his first wife, eldest son, and mother-in-law before escaping Austria and only later, after the war, married my grandmother. Perhaps one the most powerful stories in our family is that my twin uncles from my grandfather's first marriage also survived. We believe they were the youngest twins on the Kindertransport, an organised rescue effort of children from Nazi-controlled territories. The trains in general arrived at Paddington station in London, began arriving before the war and continued some years after. The United Kingdom alone took in nearly 10,000 children (mostly of Jewish descent). When my uncles arrived in London, they were barely 10 months old.

A part of my role as a Rabbi has been to educate others about the Holocaust. My wife and I were honoured with attending the opening of the permanent Holocaust exhibit at the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum in Dubai in May 2021 and we have also spoken about the subject in synagogues, schools, on campuses and at other public events. The study and preservation of both our family history and the wider education about the subject is a major source of inspiration in my Judaism and my life in general. Despite the horrors of the Holocaust my family survived both physically and spiritually and I have been blessed to have 2 of my sons born in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem in the modern state of Israel. I have tried through my own studies and through hearing the testimonies of others to understand the Holocaust not as an isolated event, but rather as an eventual endpoint of the antisemitism and racism that existed for centuries in Europe. Throughout the Jewish diaspora in Europe mass slaughter of Jews, inquisitions, pogroms, and great injustices were commonplace – the Holocaust catches the attention because it is perhaps the most terrible in terms of numbers alone.

This year on the 27th of January I joined with the Israeli embassy and Sara Duterte, the Vice President and secretary of Education of the Philippines, for Holocaust Memorial Day. We discussed the need to include the history of the Holocaust within the Philippines school curriculum. The reason is that the discussion of the details and moral implications have far reaching lessons beyond Europe and instead is something that all humanity must collectively encounter and process:

The Holocaust was committed against Jews, Roma, Sinti, Black people, LGBTQ individuals as well as Polish and Soviet citizens and other persons deemed “unwanted” by the Nazis in World War 2. It is possible that as many as 11 million to 17 million people were killed in a systematic state sponsored genocide and at least 6 million Jews were murdered over a course of 4 years between 1941 and 1945.

The horror of concentration camps for mandatory work and mass execution was common, and it suggested that as many Jews died in camps as outside of them at the hands of the German war machine. There was a callous, almost clinical approach to the slaughter. This was state sanctioned and highly organised and generally supported by the people due to a campaign of propaganda and misinformation taught in schools, universities and made into official policy. The rhetoric centred on the racial and social superiority of Germans over the other marginalized minorities that they blamed for all their misfortunes, social ills, and financial issues. Many of these ideas were already present in Europe. The Nazi party promoted pseudoscience and non-factual theories to support their bigotry and justify their crimes - I have visited several sites of concentration camps throughout Europe and felt the cold sadness that still exists, forever etched into the buildings and soil of these lonely and dark places.

The Holocaust illustrates the dangers of prejudice, discrimination, antisemitism, and dehumanization, Teaching and learning about the Holocaust can help students understand how and why hatred can be used as a weapon, can help form broader understanding of mass violence globally as well as highlight the value of promoting human rights, ethics, and civic engagement.

It also provides an important starting point for students to examine warning signs that can indicate the potential for mass atrocity in their own societies. The study in general raises deep questions about human behaviour and our unfortunate capacity to succumb to scapegoating to provide simple answers to complex problems.

The Holocaust as a subject is extremely helpful to provide a context to a great deal of the geopolitical developments that have happened since the end of World War II:

Through the international reaction to the evils of the Nazis the world decided that it could not allow such terrible barbarism to ever again be permitted in the name of any religion or political movement.

After the end of the war, the international community developed several laws and treaties designed to prevent humanity from making the same terrible mistakes:

Perhaps one of the most significant of these legal innovations was the concept of legislating and defining Crimes Against Humanity which was developed on the eve of the Trial of the Major War Criminals at Nuremberg (1945-1946), and then developed in subsequent US trials in occupied Germany between 1946 and 1949. This revolutionary concept aimed at the protection of civilian populations during both peacetime and wartime, even from civilian populations’ own governments, is today a major pillar of international law.

These discussions led to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10th, 1948, in response to the atrocities committed during World War II. The UDHR is an internationally accepted document that proclaims the inalienable rights that every human being is entitled to, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status: It is the most translated document in the world, available now in more than 500 languages!

Today we face ever increasing denials of the Holocaust and genocides worldwide: racist individuals and organizations seek to delegitimize the victims and their families who have suffered great physical, psychological and sexual trauma. Another major reason that Holocaust studies are so important is because of the worldwide resurgence of antisemitism that is growing, especially online.

The main perpetrators of these atrocious denials are groups associated with the political far right, commonly termed neo-Nazis, although other groups are also involved. Despite the vast amount of documentation, by organizations such as the Holocaust Museum and research institute Yad Vashem in Israel which has amassed a collection of thousands of testimonies as well as physical proof of the worst atrocities, it has not yet prevented the ongoing spread of old hatred and new lies and defamation directed again at Jews for being a minority.

It is my belief that through education of the next generation to the horrors that humans are capable of inflicting upon each other and the reality of evil we greatly minimize the chances of this happening to any people ever again. Although many years have passed since the end of World War II and our lives are extremely different today, nonetheless violent antisemitism has not been defeated and genocides against many peoples are still frequently committed. By more countries committing themselves to the honest study of the worst of human history we stand a greater chance of preventing the repetition of the terrible mistakes we as people have committed against each other.

May the God of Israel grant Shalom and blessings to all who trust in Him, as the Psalmist beautifully relates:

“The Lord gives strength to His people, the Lord Blesses His people with Peace”.

Rabbi Jonathan Goldschmidt 2023 ©

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