“While analogies are simplistic and erroneous, the causes for the present crises are similar to those of 70-80 years ago. The results could be the same, if nothing is done to prevent them.” – Yehuda Bauer
The words spoken by Yehuda Bauer, IHRA Honorary Chairman, at the IHRA Plenary in November 2015 are the inspiration for our blog. Therefore, we would like to start this first blog post with the statement The Migration Crisis – Some Thoughts by Yehuda Bauer.
In this statement, professor Bauer stresses the importance of focusing on the topic of refugees to “fortify existing opposition to antisemitism and racism”. He sees antisemitism as an integral part of radical Islamic ideologies, and racism as the knee-jerk reaction of European nationalists against the refugee flow. Yehuda Bauer talks about the characteristics of migration today, the threats refugees are facing and which challenges this movement of people brings to Europe. What inspires opposition to refugees? How should we understand this opposition? And from a broader perspective: how should we understand the global historical context of migration?
We believe this statement is an ideal entry point to understand why the topic of refugees deserves our attention and how we understand the link between the current refugee situation and the history of the Holocaust.
A second resource we would like to share with you is the IHRA publication Bystanders, Rescuers or Perpetrators? The Neutral Countries and the Shoah, a book covering the behaviour of the neutral states during the Holocaust, specifically towards Jews, as well as others who sought protection against Nazi persecution.
“The fate of European Jews was in the hands of very many countries around the world. This is, to me, the primary theme from history that resonates with today’s debates.” – Alex Maws
For Wolf Kaiser – member of our Blog Team – the importance of this volume lies in the fact that it can counter many prejudices that still prevail, even among people who are generally well-informed about the history of the Holocaust. Most articles draw a rather dark picture: even democratic states aimed to repel refugees rather than welcome them. German readers can find the full review by Wolf Kaiser here.
Werner Dreier – Director of Erinnern.at – states in his review of this volume that it implicitly encourages discussion of Elie Wiesel’s position that there can be no neutrality in the face of genocide and questions the significance of national borders and state protection.
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.” – Elie Wiesel in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1986
A country’s commitment to Jewish refugees seeking a safe haven from Nazi persecution depended on national interests and the interests of those in power. Anti-Semitism was widespread, and efforts to aid refugees in democratic societies were influenced by public pressure and were quite sensitive to the shifting power relations that came with the military successes of the Allies and American intervention in particular. Overall, however, commitment to refugees came too late and with too much hesitation. The general public gained greater awareness in the post-war period of the horrors of the mass-scale crimes committed by the Nazis, and the myths of numerous rescues of those being persecuted protected these countries from collective shame. You can find the full book review by Werner Dreier here.
We would love to hear your feedback on both resources. What are the key messages you take away from these resources? Please share your thoughts on one of our social media accounts, contact us via e-mail, or leave a comment. Also, be sure to check how you can contribute to our blog. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!
Links in this post:
- The Migration Crisis – Some Thoughts by Yehuda Bauer
- IHRA publication Bystanders, Rescuers or Perpetrators? The Neutral Countries and the Shoah
- Book review by Wolf Kaiser (in German)
- Book review by Werner Dreier (in English)