June 15th, 2010
09:05 AM ET
CNN's Izzy Lemberg sent this report on a major Holocaust conference in Jerusalem:
Yad Vashem, Israel’s main museum and research facility for preserving the memory of the Holocaust–including concentration camps like Auschwitz, above–devoted much of its annual conference on Monday to grappling with the challenges of Holocaust denial and diminishment.
“The time is moving ahead and on the one hand we are losing many of the survivors who are the driving force of many of the activities," Avner Shalev, the museum's chairman, told CNN. "But we have to look at the future with the absence of survivors."
"What is important is the context in which the teaching of the Holocaust is taking place: new anti-Semitism, new phenomenon of revisionism, trying to bring new different narratives to the Shoah (Holocaust) and all kinds of twisted comparisons," Shalev said. "This is the context that the teachers are struggling with right now.”
The conference drew 200 educators from 40 countries, along with philosophers, historians, human rights activists, politicians, ambassadors, and directors of various government ministries.
In one conference workshop, participants concluded that outright Holocaust denial is less of a serious threat because it is mostly confined to the extremist fringe and is not acceptable in polite society.
What worried the educators more are new attempts at what they called “diminishing the Holocaust" or “Holocaust inversion.” These refer to anti-Israel activists ascribing Nazi symbols like the swastika to Israel’s army and comparing the siege of Gaza to Auschwitz.
Israel’s Minister of Education Gideon Saar drew a line between current criticisms of Israel and anti-Semitism.
Other scholars expressed concern that the world was not applying the "never again" refrain that grew out of the Holocaust.
"The fact is that incitement to genocide is continuing," said Yehuda Bauer, considered Israel’s foremost Holocaust historian. "Things not the same, but in a way similar things are happening in Darfur, Congo and elsewhere."
Alain Finkielkraut, a prominent French philosopher, keynoted the event, arguing that “Post-Nazi Europe knows that neither culture nor progress is a safeguard against ferocity."
"It knows that modernity does not necessarily overcome cruelty," he said of Europe, "and that the most egregious evil is produced by a combination of unleashed violence and methodical, sophisticated and civilized coldness."
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