My parents were jewish – therefore so am I – and were both survivors of the holocaust. My mother never talked much about her horrible experiences during World War II. I always believed them both to be rather closed people. But as I grow older I tend to think that they were actually being protective of me. That’s why they didn’t talk much about the holocaust in our home.
But my dad, whom I worked with very closely, sometimes did tell me things. Kind of sharing his feelings of fear, anxiety, loneliness and of incomprehension has forged a true fascination in me for the holocaust. Up to today I fail to genuinely understand how such an abomination can have happened in the heartland of Europe. A continent at the apex of it’s cultural development descending straight into hell. Not only for the jews. But in a unique and particular way, us being the target of a genocidal policy.
What still torments me, after all these years, is how it’s possible for masses to succumb to such hateful hysteria. But even more so how cultural and intellectual elites can be seduced by fascism and racism.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor“, said Desmond Tutu. That’s a standard we should be able to hold the so called higher echelons of society to, isn’t it?
My societal engagement has led me to be part of the sponsors of the Belgian holocaust museum in the Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen.
“Humanity, tolerance and brotherhood have to prevail.”
But the history of the holocaust has also taught me countless things. First of all, that our democracy is vulnerable and can degenerate much faster than one would imagine. Also, that racism and discrimination, be it based on ethnicity, religious belief, or sexual orientation, are always unacceptable. As I’m writing these words, I cannot ignore the violence currently present in the world, often committed in the name of religion. I’m not a politician and I don’t have solutions. I respect everyone’s faith. All I can ask for is ‘give peace a chance‘.