The US and Germany are aiming to stem an alarming rise in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial taking place around the world.
Holocaust denial is a conspiracy theory that asserts that the Nazi genocide of Jews, known as “the Holocaust”, is a complete myth or greatly exaggerated by Jews for their own purposes.
On Thursday, the two governments announced the start of a US-Germany Holocaust Dialogue that seeks to reverse the trend that has gained traction during the coronavirus pandemic amid a surge in political populism across Europe and the US.
The dialogue will create a way to develop educational and messaging tools to teach youth and others about the crimes of the Nazis and their collaborators, reports the AP.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and several Holocaust survivors were present for the launch at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin.
All cited links between Holocaust denial, growing anti-Semitism, and more general discrimination against minorities.
“Holocaust denial and other forms of anti-Semitism often go hand in hand with homophobia, xenophobia, racism, and other hatred,” said Blinken, who is the stepson of a Holocaust survivor.
“It’s also a rallying cry for those who seek to tear down our democracies, which we’ve seen in both our countries, and is often a precursor to violence.”
Maas echoed Blinken’s comments, underscoring the importance of Germany – which he described as the country of the Holocaust perpetrators – taking a leading role in the project.
“In recent years, we have seen anti-Semitism and racism eating into our society,” Maas said. “Just think of the Yellow Star badge as seen at demonstrations against Covid measures, of the torrent of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on the Internet, of the attacks on synagogues and on Jewish people living in our countries, of the rioters in front of the Bundestag or the rampaging mob in the US capital.”
Yellow Star patches are badges that copy the ones Jews were ordered to wear from 1939 to 1945 by the Nazis. The patches served to mark the wearer as a religious or ethnic outsider, and often served as a badge of shame.
Blinken and Maas said that as time reduces the number of Holocaust survivors, the new dialogue will produce innovative ways to educate younger generations about the Holocaust and the troubling buildup that led to the mass extermination of Jews and others in Nazi Germany and elsewhere.
It should serve as a lesson and a warning to young people everywhere.
“The Shoah was not a sharp fall, but a gradual descent into darkness,” Blinken said, using another term for the Holocaust.