Editorial: The silence of forgetting

How much is lost if we do not try to remember the past? On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27, we must think about the transience of memory. It is easy to get caught in the rush of the everyday, if we aren’t reminded to step back and reflect. At Tufts, it was easy to forget this day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945, as there was no reminder or service anywhere on campus. Nor were there emails from organizations or even the university. There was no commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Tufts’ campus.

Other universities in Boston hosted film screenings and panels. It is ridiculous to make students go off campus to commemorate the Holocaust, when we have the Cummings/Hillel Program for Holocaust and Genocide Education right here at Tufts. This day is not the only time we should remember the Holocaust and those who perished, but it is a very public reminder, and our community should acknowledge it.

The Holocaust is not distant history. For many students, the memory of the Holocaust persists in the form of family members who survived it. Those who perished are an absence that we cannot forget. The end of the Holocaust did not bring the end of anti-semitism. For many, the process of persecution continued while the ideological forces that birthed the Holocaust were never fully exorcised.

The erasure of history remains. Thriving centers of Jewish life in Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Budapest and countless other cities were annihilated, never to be repopulated. Six million people, two thirds of the Jewish population were murdered by their neighbors, while the United States knew but did nothing. Only old synagogues, often without congregations, remain. The cultural legacy of these communities is preserved in the works of writers, theorists, poets and scholars who shaped those cities, even if the places they once lived were destroyed.

Zalmen Gradowski, a Polish Jew who died leading an uprising in 1944, wrote while in the camps. In his manuscripts, which were found hidden in the soil near Auschwitz’s crematoria, he remarked: “Can the dead mourn the dead?”

How do we commemorate whole villages and families massacred in broad daylight? Is forgetting any help in mourning? Mourning is a communal experience. There is nothing poetic about the Holocaust. The sheer will of those in the camps to create and live, to prove to the world that had forsaken them that they too, were human beings full of life and potential still matters. It is the task of newspapers to document these communal processes of healing. We invite all Tufts students to take time out of their day, whenever they read this, to reflect on the Holocaust, not only to remember and mourn those who were murdered, but to learn more about what they created and tried to preserve under the direst circumstances.

The lack of acknowledgment of International Holocaust Remembrance Day disturbs us. We ask the administration and campus organizations who email us daily: why? Where were all of you? With white supremacist politicians in America openly denying the Holocaust, and parties like the Alternative for Germany and Jobbik in Hungary growing, now is the time to speak up. Who are we to watch this growing hatred in silence?

We seek to remember the past, so as to not repeat it.

The 11 million people who died at the hands of Nazism, including Jewish, LGBT, disabled, Romani people, resistors and other ethnic and opposition groups, were killed at the end of a political process. This number does not include many people who were killed in cold blood or starved and whose deaths went unrecorded. May their memories be a blessing.

The silence this past Sunday was deafening. It was the silence of forgetting, but also of unacknowledged pain. Tufts should acknowledge this silence and be sure not to repeat it.