JTA reports that the Dutch National Holocaust Museum overruled its own curators and left out of an exhibition certain photos taken at Auschwitz that it called shocking.
One reason for Holocaust denial, Holocaust trivialization and just plain Holocaust forgetting is that to many people the Holocaust is statistics. The horrors cannot be reflected in those statistics without aural and visual evidence. Yes, the graphic, gruesome images of Auschwitz — of bodies being burned — are “shocking.” Precisely why they should be put on view.
It is relatively easy to deny or forget a statistic. It is an entirely different story when the full horror is put on view. The increasingly frequent and flippant references by contemporary anti-Semites to “ovens” and Jews would not so easily gain circulation if, to most people, these were not mere words.
Graphic photos of Auschwitz: discomfiting, for sure; beyond normal museum fare, of course. But essential? Yes.
JTA reports that the excluded photos of dead Hungarian Jews were taken at great personal risk by Alberto Errera, a Greek Jew who was murdered shortly after smuggling out the negatives. Let his death — and his message — not be in vain. The world needs these images. Here are just two of the lugubriously skyrocketing number of reasons for displaying these images:
• JTA reports: Jeff Byers, a chemistry professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, is under investi- gation for an exam question in which he asked his students to calculate the lethal dose of poisonous gas that was used in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust.
Middlebury President Laurie L. Patton said: “We expect our faculty to teach and lead with thoughtfulness, good judgment and maturity. To say we have fallen short in this instance is an understatement.”
Prof. Byers responded: “I apologize and take full responsibility for my [exam] . . . questions that were clearly offensive, hurtful, and injurious to our students. I can offer no explanation for my actions other than carelessness and hubris.
“My students came to my class trusting that I would provide them with a supportive learning environment for a challenging curriculum. I failed them . . . ”
Had Prof. Byers ever seen graphic photos of Auschwitz? We doubt it.
• JTA reports: On Good Friday in a town in southern Poland, citizens hung on a pole a large effigy of a caricatured Jew with a hooked nose and sidecurls, labeled, “Judas, 2019, traitor!”
The crowd cut the effigy down from the post, dragged it on a rope through the town, stopping at the square in front of a church and at the street crossing where the effigy was beaten 30 times. After reaching the local river, the head of the effigy was cut off and the effigy was burned. Along the way, children were encouraged to beat the effigy.
Poland bridles when Auschwitz is called a “Polish” death camp. But it is just this type of Polish anti-Semitism that smoothed the way for the Nazis to set up Auschwitz in Poland. Anti-Semitic Poles deny complicity in the Holocaust. They need more than graphic photos of Auschwitz. They need to visit it.
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