A Reason for Remembering the Holocaust

March 23, 2009 at 4:01 pm (War Blog Entries)

I came across an article today from the Jerusalem Post entitled, “Islam Teacher Disputes Shoah Testimony” by Maud Swinnen. According to the article Henri Kitchka was invited to speak to a school in the Laeken suburb of Brussels in Belgium. Kitchka is a survivor of the Nazi holocaust and accepts many speaking engagements around the country to explain to students how his family was murdered, and how he survived Buchenwald. However at this speaking engagement things did not go over as usual for Kitchka.

During the meeting with 150 students, the school was told by a teacher of Islamic religion that Kitchka’s account “was largely exaggerated.”

I found this not only appalling but also extremely ignorant. However after I read the entire article and had time to think about the books that we have read for this class I remembered the foreword that Elie Wiesel wrote for Night. What I wanted to find was the reason that he chose to write the book. I found my answer:

…my life as a writer-or my life, period- would not have become what it is: that of a witness who believes he has a moral obligation to try to prevent the enemy from enjoying one last victory by allowing his crimes to be erased from human memory. (viii)

Elie realizes that he is not just a survivor but a witness to one of the most despicable human acts the entire world has ever known. The same can be said about Henri Kitchka. Both of these men are survivors and each has his own story about survival, death, and remembrance. Each man also uses two very distinct methods of getting their messages across. However the one constant for both men is that they do not want the human population to forget what happened.

Thankfully the country of Belgium has taken steps to aid Kitchka and Elie’s wish.

Christian Dupont, education minister in the French-speaking Belgian government, said he was “shocked” by the “totally unacceptable” comments by the religion teacher.

As the minister, Dupont has made an inquiry and lodged a legal complaint against the school and teacher. It is also interesting to note that all Islamic religious teachers in Belgium are selected by representatives from the Muslims of Belgium group. The group commented quickly about the school incident:

“Negationism is an offense. Our teachers must respect the Constitution and laws of this country. Otherwise there will be sanctions,” it said. Holocaust denial is an offense in Belgium subject to prison term.

The reason why men like Kitchka and Wiesel write and speak is to remind people of the holocaust. Many believe the old mantra, “If you don’t learn from the past, you are doomed to repeat it”, and fervently work each day of their lives to remind the world that a terrible injustice was done in our not so distant past. When certain groups or people attempt to negate the holocaust or diminish its impact, it is the responsibility of not only the survivors, but us as human beings to stand up and in one voice proclaim the truth.

Article found in the Jerusalem Post, international section. Islam Teacher Disputes Shoah Testimony, by:  Maud Swinnen.


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6 Comments

  1. meg3212 said,

    I was amazed at how the teacher in Belgium handled the discussion of the Holocasut. How can she say that his story was exaggerated? Especially, when she was not there, and has no personal accounts of her own to argue with. The speaker, like Elie had a story to tell about their horrific past. It took courage and bravery to be able to stand up and talk to strangers about what they went through at the concentration camps. For them, speaking or writing about it, was a way for them to cope with their experience during the Holocaust. For both of the men, it is important to talk about what happened, so that people remember, and so that the enemy will not win by the world forgetting their terrible actions. I like what Elie said inthe opening of his book,

    “my life as a writer-or my life, period- would not have become what it is: that of a witness who believes he has a moral obligation to try to prevent the enemy from enjoying one last victory by allowing his crimes to be erased from human memory.”

    The best way for us to learn from history, so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes, is to talk about it openly. I believe that the world will be better off, the more stories or knowldege they know about the events in history.

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  3. seleskyw said,

    I think it is interesting that some countries (I know Germany does this for sure), actually have made claiming the Holocaust was fake a crime. Some people have actually been prosecuted and sent to prison under this law.

    Obviously it is ridiculous that this teacher would claim this respected speaker is exaggerating, but what really deserves comment is how important the survivors of these conflicts are. Everyone left alive who survived the Holocaust is now very old, so it is important that society is able to maintain memories of that time period because soon there won’t be anyone left to give first hand accounts of what happened. Wiesel writes so that people will remember, which will hopefully mean that similarly tragedies won’t occur today or in the future. If people like this teacher have their way and are able to under emphasize what happened during the Holocaust, not only will it be a great disrespect to those who were affected during that time, but it would also be dangerous to the international community.

    The Holocaust was possibly the worst thing that ever happened by human hand to other humans, so we must do everything we can as a society and a planet to remember what happened, how it happened, and why it needs to be avoided in the future.

  4. Small Connections to Big Problems said,

    Upon reading your blog, and the article that students were told that the survivor of Buchenwald’s story was exaggerated made me sick to my stomach. To me, the Holocaust is something that cannot be judged by generatiuons that did not live through the genocide. Even in compartson to other mass genocides, the Holocaust was a time period that consisted of people who’s brains had been altered in my opinion and it is impossible for us to judge a survivor’s tale. As we talked about with the novel of The Things THey Carried, it can never be known for sure exactly what actually happened, and what the brain of a surviror remembers. It is the difference between story truth and happening truth. However, the events of the Holocaust are probably very often oppressed as well. Also, i think it is interesting that you made the connection between Wiesel and Kitchka as wanting to educate the world about history so as to not let it repeat itself. I think the theme of war surviors and witnesses not wanting their story to be forgotten is common across the board. Although many soldiers continue to tell their stories because they CAN’T forget their memories, i think many times, it’s also becuase the memories have shaped them into the person they are, even if it is in a negative way. By telling stories, the mind has a way to cope, no matter what the motive behind the stories is.

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