This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day marked 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It commemorated those murdered or tormented by the Nazis, who otherwise could have gone unrecognised. This anniversary, considering the resurgence of anti-Semitism and white supremacy, now more than ever highlights the importance of not being complacent.
The Community Security Trust, a charity ensuring the safety and security of the Jewish community in the UK, has noted an upsurge in online discrimination. Across Britain, an 82% increase in online incidents expressing anti-Semitic sentiments has been observed, pushing the total number of incidents to 697 in 2019. This number is grossly understated. As the charity admits, the number of incidents registered do not actually reflect the number of posts studied. Incidents are recorded as campaigns of abuse against one individual, with one campaign possibly having a repertoire of numerous posts. In reality the aforementioned 697 incidents encompass thousands of individual posts.
Anti-Semitism is not something of the past unfortunately. It is thriving right in front of our eyes. As we have heard countless times, the rise of social media has been accompanied by the aggravation of online hate speech. The animosity offered by online platforms has dismantled a previous culture of acceptance that was propagated by the increased awareness of our common humanity. Not even our “cosmopolitan” society can wholly overlook our differences.
The discussion around anti-Semitism is of great relevance to our daily lives. Think of the recent critiques against the British Labour party. Worse yet, the debate on whether primary and secondary education should continue to focus on the World Wars. Notably, a discussion on Good Morning Britain saw Freddie Bentley, an instagram influencer, argue that such historical accounts are too traumatising for young pupils. It is as necessary as ever to keep the discussion alive. As Professor Walter Reich writes in his article for The Atlantic, the rise in anti-Semitism is partly attributable to the fading general knowledge on the Holocaust. Understanding the gravity of why World War II should never be repeated must not die with the last Holocaust survivor – a reality fast approaching.
The recent upsurge in xenophobic nationalism further emphasises the need to not forget. A lesson must be learnt from the past. Today, with the increasing employment of political language to differentiate between those who “belong” to a nation and those who do not, we see minorities being targets of discrimination.
Ultimately the question is posed: what can we do as students? Admittedly nothing grandiose, but not nothing. We must not forget; we must not be complacent. We must actively call out those who are engendering hatred – not just against Jews, but against any person. As Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate winner and Holocaust survivor, writes, “there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”