The greatest massacre ever known
The United Nations designated January 27 as Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is that on this day in 1945 the Russian army entered the Auschwitz camp and ended the greatest massacre ever known. “The greatest inhumanity in the history of mankind”, in the words of the philosopher Reyes Mate. A monstrosity carried out by human beings, if they can be called that.
The survivor Primo Levi He tells us about the attitude of the Soviet soldiers on that day: “They didn’t greet us or smile; they seemed anguished not only out of pity but out of guilt that such a Nazi crime had ever taken place.”
When you talk about Auschwitz reference is also made to Birkenau, Monowitz and thirty other minor camps. There, 1,100,000 men, women and children were murdered, of which almost a million were Jews. Auschwitz is the largest Jewish cemetery in history. A cemetery of martyrs without graves. They also killed Polish and Russian patriots, religious Catholics, Gypsies, the disabled, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses. In these fields, human beings entered in the morning and at night they were shipped to Germany: hair, clothes, gold teeth, etc.
Auschwitz it was just one of the cogs in the slaughter of six million Jews, a process known in history as the Holocaust (a Greek term meaning “sacrifice by fire”). Today it is called the Shoah (from the Hebrew, “destruction”, “catastrophe”). To give a graphic dimension to the massacre, it would take 160 days to name each of the victims.
We know where, how and when such a descent into brutality occurred.. But it is almost impossible to understand why. There are not and there will be no definitive answers. We agree with Ian Kershaw when he pointed out that “in the face of Auschwitz, the historian’s ability to explain is insignificant.” Not even Sigmund Freud himself, creator of psychoanalysis, despite having described the paths that lead to war, managed to foresee such a catastrophe.
How is it possible that the perpetrators felt no remorse? Hannah Arendt explained it this way: “The murderers, instead of saying: ‘How horrible is what I do to others!’ my mission!’” The assassins had forgotten the concept of the unity of mankind!
The Nazis twisted the language to metaphorize the crime. They called “insects” to the supposed “inferior races”, “final solution” to genocide and “concentration camps” to the death camps. This adulteration of semantics should alert us to the use of language by dictators, what Rabinbach calls “the catastrophe of the word.”
Precisely, in our time extreme right-wing parties have appeared that despise foreigners and those who are different. If they exaggerate their positions, we can fall into the abyss again.
The Pope declared in 2021: “Remembering the Shoah is an expression of humanity, remembering is a sign of civilization.” for the survivor Elie Wiesel, the mandate of memory, after Auschwitz, requires us: not to forget, remember and make remember. And that memory includes the responsibility to be active, not to be indifferent to pain, to acquire enough power to defend dignity and responsibility for solidarity. Paraphrasing Elie Wiesel, it could be added that, after Auschwitz, humanity has a new commandment to fulfill: avoid new genocides.
President of the Center for Research and Dissemination of Sephardic Culture