Yesterday, Jews around the world observed Holocaust Day. This day ought to be universally observed, because the lessons of the Holocaust are universal. Here are some of them:
1. People are not basically good.
At any time in history, the belief that people are basically good was irrational and naïve. To believe it after the Holocaust — and after the Communist genocides in China, Korea, Cambodia, and the Soviet Union, the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians, and the mass murders in Rwanda, the Congo, Tibet, and elsewhere — is beyond irrational and naïve. It is stupid and dangerous, and therefore inexcusable.
2. The Jews are the world’s canary in the mine.
When Jews are murdered, it is a warning to decent non-Jews that they are next. Because Western nations dismissed Nazi anti-Semitism as the Jews’ problem, 50 million non-Jews ended up dying. If the world dismisses Ahmadinejad’s Iran as primarily the Jewish state’s problem, non-Jews will suffer again. Jew-haters (or, if you will, Jewish-state-haters) begin with Jews but never end with them.
3. Great good is no more common than great evil.
That is why the most important task for any society is to devise ways to make people good. By “good,” I do not mean people who do not murder or steal. People who don’t murder or steal aren’t good people; they are simply not criminals.
It is therefore worth pondering: With the collapse of America’s Judeo-Christian moral foundations, how exactly will American society make good individuals? Those who equate goodness with support for a welfare state do not ask this question. But the rest of us are very worried.
4. Lies and victimhood make evil possible.
Most evil is not committed by sadists. Most evil is committed by people who hold evil ideologies. And in modern times those ideologies have emanated from two primary sources: lies and victimhood.
Lies about Jews built Auschwitz (just as, for example, lies about blacks enabled the transatlantic slave trade). And along with lies about Jews, it was Germans’ sense of victimhood that built Auschwitz. Perceiving oneself or one’s group as a victim allows many people to rationalize doing evil.
5. Nazism, not Christianity, built Auschwitz.
The symbol of Nazism was the swastika, not the cross. Had Nazism been a Christian movement, its symbol would have been, or at least included, the Christian cross. The claim that the Holocaust was a product of Christianity is a charge perpetuated by people and ideologies bitter over the nearly 2,000 years of Christian anti-Semitism in Europe. That bitterness is warranted. Blame for the Holocaust is not. Too many Christians supported the Nazis, but Nazism was anti-Christian.