It’s easy to look back at the past and believe we would have been courageous. It’s another thing to do so in the present moment. Each of us now faces the choice of whether to live up to our convictions by standing against the rise of anti-Semitism, or to give in to cowardice and weakness by doing nothing.
When we look back at Germany in the 1930s, we do so with the luxury of knowing how it all turned out.
We know that the Nazi regime was preparing for war.
We know that they were spreading rampant anti-Semitic propaganda and laying the groundwork for the Holocaust.
We know they ended up slaughtering a massive percentage of Europe’s Jewish population.
We know they ended up being defeated, but not before tens of millions of people died to make that defeat happen.
And we know that many of our current values as a civilization were formed in response to the horrors of WW2.
So, it’s very easy, and quite commonplace, for us to look back at that time and be completely certain we would have done the right thing.
Most of us believe that – had we been a German citizen in the 1930s – we would have spoken out against the Nazis, that we would have stood up for our Jewish friends and neighbours, and that we would have refused to be complicit in the horrific crimes Germany committed.
To believe this to also believe – perhaps without being fully aware of it – that we are somehow fundamentally different than Germans were in the 1930s.
Yet, if you could scan the brain of the average German in the pre-WW2 era, and the brain of the average Canadian today, there would be no discernable differences.
We are not fundamentally different in the way our minds or bodies function.
Thus, there is no cold scientific reality or magical force preventing us from heading down the horrific path Germany followed in from 1933-1945.
What is stopping us is our institutions, and our knowledge of history. Knowing the Holocaust happened, and knowing what led led to it, we don’t have the excuse of ignorance.
Yet, even more important than our institutions and our historical knowledge is our own personal courage and conviction.
A clear choice
Ultimately, each of us must make a choice as to what kind of person we are.
We must chose whether we will live up to our self-image as someone who would have stood against the Nazis and stood up for our Jewish friends and neighbours, or whether we will – like most Germans in the 1930s – ‘go along to get along,’ even as that meant going along with the Holocaust.
Because right now, this is no longer a theoretical choice.
It is a real choice, every bit as real as the choice faced by Germans in the 1930s.
Never Again is Now
In the streets of Canadian cities, people are openly marching in support of Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organization that built their anti-Semitic ideology on many of the same hateful conspiracies as the Nazis.
Jewish People are being threatened.
A Jewish home was shot at in Winnipeg.
Some Jewish Canadians are increasingly considering the prospect of leaving Canada to escape the rising tide of hate.
Mobs of anti-Semites stormed an airport in Russia looking for Jews on airplanes, in what was a horrific pogrom reminiscent of some of the worst moments in history.
The lynch mob which stormed the airport in Dagestan, Russia to search for Jews as a plane was landing from Tel Aviv has found its first “suspected Jew”
He tells them he is Uzbek, but they don’t believe him
“Take his passport, search his phone” pic.twitter.com/9gKteyKFz0
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) October 29, 2023
Anti-Semites are emboldened in a way that hasn’t been seen since the 1930s – which as we know led to the slaughter of six million Jewish People.
This is all happening RIGHT NOW.
In our world.
IN OUR COUNTRY.
It’s not “the past.”
It’s not “somewhere else.”
It’s RIGHT NOW, IN CANADA.
And so, with the Jewish community under attack, every non-Jewish person faces a simple choice:
Courage, or Cowardice
We will either stand up for our Jewish community, or we will be silent and thus complicit.
Remember, nothing is set in stone.
The rising tide of anti-Semitism can be defeated.
Our Jewish community can be protected and defended.
We can live up to our highest vision of ourselves.
We can prove that “Never Again” actually means something.
But doing so depends on each and every one of us.
It depends on you.
It depends on you speaking out against anti-Semitism, whether that is in person to your friends and family and coworkers, whether that’s online to whatever audience you are able to reach.
Every personal and public statement against anti-Semitism, every utterance of support for our Jewish Community is a step towards stemming the tide of hatred and – in a very real way – preventing another potential Holocaust.
The Holocaust started with words, with personal conversations, with speeches, with articles, all designed to spread hate, spread dehumanization, and create the space for a horrific campaign of genocide against Jews.
But this also means that we can stop a genocide from happening with words, with personal conversations, with speeches, with articles, all designed to counter hate, fight against dehumanization, and create the space for a unstoppable campaign of support for Jewish People.
The choice is ours.
The choice is yours.
If you think you would have opposed the Nazis in the 1930s, now is the time to prove it.
Photo – Twitter