In Hebrew it is called “Yom haShoah” (literally, Holocaust Day) which was scheduled close to the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The choice of date was an attempt to focus on those who fought against the Nazis, rather than on those who never had that chance.
The memory of the Shoah has a significant part in the Israeli culture and education. For many people these are not just old stories, among us there are still Holocaust survivors who live these memories every day and night for the last 70 years. Therefore in Israel, many people don’t really need one specific date in the year to remember this horrible past. Moreover, the second generation who were born to Holocaust survivors are living all their lives in the shadows of the Shoah.
Every Israeli grew up, in these shadows as well, if not at home, then in kindergarten, school, university, and even during the military service. Many of us know in person people who were there, Holocaust survivors. With time, naturally there are fewer survivors, and one day they will not be among us anymore, and won’t be able to tell about the horrors of Nazi Germany.
The public, political and academic discussion about the Holocaust is very complex and has many levels. Today, 70 years after, the debate about the Shoah is taking an interesting turn, when many are wondering if it is about time to “move on”.
In the Israeli media we can see more and more articles and programs about what they call the “Germany complex”. How can we explain today the complexity of the relationship between Israel and Germany, between the Israeli and the German people? How do German people today feel about their past? Do they feel guilt? Responsible? And how come so many Israelis have moved to live in Germany in the last 10, 15 years? Do they forgive the German nation for their crimes? Or have they simply moved on? Is it possible at all to forget? These questions among many others are in the center of the current debate about the Holocaust.
A survey that was done a few weeks ago, for an Israeli TV program about the current situation, shows that 56% of the German people feel responsible for their parents’ and grandparents’ crimes. 35% of the German people feel guilty even though they are not the ones who executed those horrible Nazi crimes.
This interesting data became even more interesting to me, when I learned that there are different projects in Israel that are aiming to connect between young German people and Holocaust survivors. One of these projects is taking place in different nursing homes in Israel, where young Germans are volunteering with holocaust survivors and keeping them company. Why would young German people in their early twenties, come to Israel to do that? Do they really feel guilty? Or do they feel the responsibility to keep the memory of the Shoah alive?
On the other side of the coin, the massive Israeli immigration to Germany is another interesting phenomenon. Many wonder in Israel, what is “wrong” with all these young people who are running to live in Germany. Did they forget everything that has happened? Do they forgive the Germans? How can they live there after everything that has happened??
The Shoah naturally was always one of the most delicate issues in the Israeli society, and there is a lot of criticism against those young people who left Tel Aviv for Berlin. However, if you ask those people, they would explain that they haven’t forgotten the past or what has happened on the German soil. They also do not forgive, but they understand that the new generation in Germany is not guilty of the crimes of the past. Their reasons to live in Germany have nothing to do with the Holocaust; these are mostly financial, or due to studies or careers circumstances. And in that sense, they simple want to move on with their lives.
The Shoah and its memory will always be a part of the Israeli society and the Jewish cultures but also of the German ones. The scars of the Holocaust and Second World War are still part of our lives, and in my opinion they will always be. With time they will be fewer witnesses alive to tell and forward their stories. However, I believe that with the right education in Germany and in Israel the new current young generations, and the generations to come, can keep the memories of this horrible episode in history alive. I believe it is our responsibility to keep this memory alive! For me, there is no doubt about it.