Global church leaders such as Pope Francis and the head of the World Council of Churches have joined international leaders on World Holocaust Remembrance Day, calling for decisive action against antisemitism and warning of its danger to morph into other hate.
The UH human rights chief warned of indifference to growing hatred and extreme ideologies whipped up by powerful leaders, growing hate crimes fueled by conspiracies and falsehoods fed by irresponsible social media.
The remembrance day serves as a reminder for the governments and all the world's people of their international human rights obligations, this year marking the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp on Jan. 27, 1945.
"Today, we commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and all those persecuted and deported by the Nazi regime," Pope Francis said at his weekly General Audience at the Vatican on Jan. 27.
LARGEST NAZI CAMP
Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest Nazi concentration and death camp and was liberated by the Soviet Red Army during the Second World War.
"Remembering is an expression of humanity. Remembering is a sign of civilization," said Francis. "Remembering is a condition for a better future of peace and fraternity."
"Remembering also means being careful because these things could happen again, beginning with ideological proposals intended to save a people and ending by destroying a people and humanity."
He warned that we must be attentive "to how this path of death, of extermination, and brutality begins."
World Council of Churches interim general secretary Rev. Ioan Sauca called upon people to pause to remember the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the millions of other victims of Nazism during the Second World War.
"As well as being an annual commemoration of all the precious living," said Sauca Holocaust day, "is also a salutary recurrent reminder of the path that leads from fear and hatred of 'the other,' through the denial of the human dignity and rights of all people equally, to genocide.
"Far from being an episode receding in increasingly distant history, the Holocaust remains an ever-present threat."
In recent years, Sauca reflected that the world had observed the increasing license of hate speech and others' demonization in political and public discourse.
"We have seen resurgent expressions of antisemitism and other group hatreds," he said. "And we have witnessed the impacts of these phenomena on our societies and relationships."
In a statement, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the past year has seen "frightening increases" in the number of hate crimes in many societies.
SPIKE IN ANTISEMITIC ACTIVITY
"Amid the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has also been a sharp rise in online anti-Semitic activity. The World Jewish Congress has reported a 30 percent increase in anti-Jewish slurs on major social media sites since November 2019."
She noted the passive indifference of so many to these crimes – and the active involvement of many others.
"With renewed vigor, conspiracy theorists increasingly link extreme political ideologies and anti-Semitic delusions – weaving elaborate lies and falsehoods that lay responsibility for every kind of government failing on individual Jews or the Jewish community as a whole," said Bachelet.
"Whipped up by irresponsible opinion-leaders – and amplified and legitimized by the uniquely powerful engines of digital media – these hate-filled fabrications are deeply damaging in themselves and can pose a real threat of violence."
HOLOCAUST PERPETRATOR STATUES
The U.S. publication for Jewish-Americans, Forward reported Jan. 27, that "most curious thing" about last year's U.S. protests that toppled statues of slavers and colonizers was that the monuments of Holocaust perpetrators didn't even make headlines.
It said a Forward investigation reveals there are hundreds of statues and monuments in the United States and around the world to people who abetted or took part in the murder of Jews and others during the Holocaust.
"The Nazi collaborators of Central and Eastern Europe weren't as fastidious at keeping records as their Third Reich allies, which makes it difficult to arrive at a precise number of their victims.
"As a rough estimate, the Nazi collaborators honored with monuments on U.S. soil represent governments, death squads and paramilitaries that murdered a half million Jews, Poles and Bosnians."
"Holocaust perpetrators is the correct term for these men and organizations, for they played an integral part in the Final Solution, arresting and deporting Jews to concentration camps or gunning them down in the forests and fields of Eastern Europe (one-third of all Holocaust victims were killed in what's called the 'Holocaust by bullets')."
Forward said that in downtown Manhattan, along Broadway's "Canyon of Heroes," are memorial plaques to Henri Philippe Pétain and Pierre Laval, the head and prime minister of France's collaborationist Vichy government during the Second Wolrd War.
That French governemnt hunted down and deported 67,000 Jews to the concentration camps. In addition to his Broadway plaque, Pétain is honored with 11 streets in the U.S. France has gotten rid of its Pétain streets, but the ones in America remain.