“Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

(Warning: Quotations and video footage below contain highly offensive and racist language.)

Last week, this headline was published in The Guardian: “Non-Jews must lead fight against anti-Semitism, says Douglas Alexander.” You can read the article in its entirety here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/13/non-jews-fight-antisemitism-douglas-alexander

This month, it will have been 75 years since the horrors of Kristallnacht (http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005201) and yet headlines like this one are still disturbingly relevant within the modern world. How can this be?? The world witnessed the inhumanity and pure evil of the Holocaust only 70 years ago… have we learned nothing?!

In a short documentary shot on the streets of Athens, Greek filmmaker Konstantinos Georgousis exposed the blatant racism of Golden Dawn, the far-right political party which obtained 7% of the popular vote in Greece’s 2012 elections (Warning: this video contains highly offensive and racist language) http://www.channel4.com/news/golden-dawn-film-greek-police-probe-neo-nazi-hate-speech). The actions and remarks made by members of the party and captured in the film are spine-chillingly similar to Nazi ideology, particularly the despicable comments made by Alexandros Plomaritis about immigrants and “non-Greeks”: “We are ready to open the ovens. We will turn them into soap … to wash cars and pavements. We will make lamps from their skin.” The historical parallels are terrifying to say the least.

While the sentiments of Golden Dawn are shared by only a small percentage of the population, the fact that the party has any support at all is distressing and calls to mind the well-known saying, “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” Unfortunately, it seems that many people have short memories… Not just where Golden Dawn is concerned, but in similar situations across Europe. To ensure that we learn from the past mistakes of humankind, we must always make efforts to remember; to tell the stories of those affected and preserve the lessons that lie within our shared history. As Douglas Alexander says, “[t]he task of confronting and defeating anti-Semitism is not the responsibility of the Jewish community. It is the responsibility of every one of us. To deny that is to deny our common humanity.” The same can be extended to all peoples, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. This is about more than politics, it is human rights.

Elie Wiesel famously wrote, “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”  If we are to safeguard our common humanity, that silence must be broken.

Elie Wiesel

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