Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – was today. It՚s sort of an anti-holiday. Holidays are centered around something holy and sacred (even the secular ones); this is around an event that is the opposite of that, the ultimate profanation. Something about the Nazi genocide sets it apart from mere mass murder. Not just the brutality itself, but the systematic, industrialized, and bureaucratic efficiency with which it was carried out. The moral abyss it opened up was blacker and deeper than anyone could have dreamed of, and it still exerts an inexorable gravitational pull on our moral thinking – or mine, anyway.
These events seem unimaginably distant from our present comfortable era, but it was not that long ago. I was born in 1958, 13 years after V-E day and 2 years before the Eichmann trial. Both my parents fled Europe as teenagers, my mother՚s family (from Germany) mostly got out, my father՚s (from Prague), well, nobody knows but it is pretty safe to assume they were murdered. They managed to build lives for themselves in America, but my mother, who loved high German culture (particularly opera, particularly Wagner) I think was messed up by the experience; it՚s not hard to understand why.
If you want to know why I get obsessed over the crypto- and not-so-crypto-fascism that infects our public life these days, this is why. I՚m very aware of the abyss and really feel an obligation to do whatever I can to stop people from being sucked into it. Political flaming on the Internet is almost surely a complete waste of time, but if there is any excuse for it, this is mine.