Gittel Jaskulski was a mere infant when she was sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia. Her parents, ripped away from their newborn daughter and sent to Auschwitz in Poland, died a few months later – never knowing the fate of their baby girl.
The German-born Jaskulski would spend the first years of her life in the compound. Ultimately, she would be one of the fewer than 250 children who survived the death camp that took the lives of nearly 15,000 children.
The now 71-year-old grandmother of five, who goes by her married name of Hunt, says that when she was a child, “the world had turned a blind eye to the atrocities being committed.”
She fears that anti-Semitism – hate of any kind – continues to be taken too lightly by the civilized world. She believes “the horrors of the Holocaust will happen again, if the world forgets what happened in the past.”
Hunt’s fear that history will repeat itself is by no means a far-fetched concern.
May 9 marked the 69th anniversary of the Nazis surrendering to the Russian army. Ukrainian Jews, instead of celebrating the anniversary of this historic event, are forming rapid response defense forces to stop the onslaught of anti-Semitic attacks. The torching of synagogues and physical attacks against Jews in Kiev are becoming more commonplace.
“The current reality means that even tomorrow we could find 20 people with firebombs outside the synagogue,” Tzvi Arieli, a defense group organizer, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Last month, in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, Jews leaving synagogue on the first day of Passover were given leaflets informing them that they had to report to a government building and register their property and vehicles.
This bore a striking, eerie resemblance to newsletters the Nazis sent in September 1941 to Jews in the Ukrainian city of Kiev, requiring them to appear the next day in designated locations. The thousands who showed up were marched to the infamous Babi Yar ravine and executed.
While the world was quick to condemn the declaration, it was just as hasty to view it as a mere hoax on the part of a few provocateurs when news stories questioned the authenticity of the edict.
Regardless of the perpetrators, anti-Semitism reminiscent of 1930s Europe is rearing its ugly head.
Recently in France, at the 31st Congress of the Union of Islamic Organizations, 150,000 attendees were supposed to discuss the conference theme, "What values for a changing society? Man, family and community life.” But according to European media reports, hate speeches against Jews and Israel were accorded “a place of honor” on the agenda, and one featured speaker told the Paris audience, “All the evil in the world originates from the Jews and the Zionist barbarism.”
History tells us that when thousands gather in large European cities to cast blame on the Jewish people for the ills of world, unspeakable suffering invariably follows.
“The world has to get involved and not turn away again at the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and back home in America,” said Hunt. “We have a responsibility to one another. We have to be there to protect each other.”
An act of terror recently committed in Overland Park, Kansas, is all too fresh in our memory. On April 13, a white supremacist went to two Jewish facilities and allegedly murdered three people. While being led away by police, he yelled “Heil Hitler” to the press and onlookers.
If there is any place in the United States where the lessons of the Holocaust should be learned and not forgotten, it surely is on our college campuses. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is masquerading as championing the cause of human rights, and young people are being brainwashed by academics and activists who hide behind the First Amendment to spew their venomous views.
In California, the hatred on the University of California campuses has gotten to the point that in 2012 the state legislature intervened with a measure that “urges both the University of California and the California State University to take additional actions to confront anti-Semitism on its campuses.”
Signs that read “Death to Zionists” or that compared the Jewish State to Nazis are not uncommon at anti-Israel rallies. Often these events host guest speakers who preach hatred of Jews under the guise of free speech.
During the first week of May, the United States remembered the past by observing the Days of Remembrance, which were established by Congress in 1979 as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust.
But while it’s important to remember the past, it’s just as important to learn from our mistakes. Or else the words “Never Again” will just be another forgotten history lesson.
Paul Miller is an op-ed contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. He serves as principal of Pauliegroup LLC, a Chicago-based new media and political consulting firm. Follow him on Twitter @pauliespoint.