Understanding the Dimensions of the Holocaust

Posted on April 7, 2002 .
Dwight Owen Schweitzer
Editor & Publisher the Jewish Star Times

On the cover of this week’s edition of the Jewish Star Times there is a formula given to help even the most uninitiated understand the dimensions of the Holocaust. It notes that 2,830 people are known to have perished in the attack on the World Trade Center. It then asks that we multiply that number by 2,120. But that is only to get to the number of dead — event to event. If we were to compare what happened to the world’s Jews to the population of the United States, close to 100,000,000 of our population would cease to exist. Stated differently the entire populations of approximately 26 states would disappear.

In the numbers of Jews, it is as if the entire population of Massachusetts; every man woman and child had left; not a car moving not a living soul anywhere, not in Boston, or Braintree, not a single soul alive anywhere in the state of Massachusetts. While this might seem a bit melodramatic, this is not written to my fellow Jews; the Holocaust to them is like having had your legs suddenly blown off, it is something you can in time and on occasion, ignore, or try to compensate for, and even forget about every once in a while but time does not give you back your legs and time will not erase the fact that a third of the worlds Jews disappeared in less time than a single term of a president of the United States.

We remember the Holocaust for one simple reason: to insure that the world remembers; remembers and learns the price of intolerance and indifference to evil. That a crime so massive, so pervasive, so steeped in complicity by friend and foe alike could have occurred in our lifetime should serve to remind us that we are indeed one generation away from the jungle.

The institutions we create to manage the affairs of the peoples of the earth will always be measured by the shadow of the Holocaust. We cannot ever afford to be found wanting again because now we have the power to visit the Holocaust on the entire world. The proliferation of nuclear weapons, biological weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have turned the gas chambers of Auschwitz into mere prototypes for mass death on a scale as unimagined to our generation as the Holocaust was to that generation of the Jews of Europe who so blissfully faced the future with optimism as the 19th century turned into the 20th.

We have been shown fanaticism and its companion remorseless death many times since the horrors of the Holocaust. We would do well to remember too that the deaths of Sept. 11 were a polyglot of Jews and gentiles, whites and blacks, Christians and Muslims with no regard for the age or gender of the victims. So when you hear the bomb explode in Jerusalem, whether in your ears or in your heart, when you see on the news the latest group of broken bodies, ask not for whom the bell will toll . . . it tolls for all of us.


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