Cornelia Rabitz: On Holocaust Day, Europe Needs a Common Memory





About 1 million people from around the world visit the Auschwitz memorial each year to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. It's a significant number of people, who still come to the museum to get an idea of living and dying in this former antechamber of hell -- and to learn from history.

Memorial officials recently rang sounded an alarm, saying that the buildings are in danger of collapsing and that a lot of money is needed for their restoration. Germany reacted quickly and said that it would help out financially. And rightly so. More than six decades after the end of the war, it remains a duty for state and society to accept historic responsibility and keep the memory alive -- even if this becomes more and more difficult as the distance of time keeps growing and eyewitnesses die.

History books, museums, TV documentaries and movie films have to replace personal conversations. The ability to relate to the topic -- both in terms of time and emotions -- continues to wane.

To learn from history also means to look at today and arm ourselves against discrimination, racism, xenophobia and -- needless to say -- anti-Semitism. It's depressing to see that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has led to falling inhibition thresholds and that Jewish people are becoming the targets of hate mail -- especially in Germany.

It's alarming that anti-Semitic stereotypes persist, as polls show again and again. It's alarming that neo-Nazis drum people together for noisy demonstrations, that propaganda and historical misrepresentation find receptive audiences in our society.

Still: There will be a large number of events, lectures and concerts to commemorate Tuesday's Holocaust Day. They will offer a chance to deal with the issue. Keeping the memory alive could become a European task. A unifying Europe should agree on a common discourse of memory. Dealing with the dark sides of one's past still cannot be taken for granted everywhere.

Germany, with its long and hard path towards coming to terms with its national socialist crimes and guilt, could certainly serve as an example....



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