BBC’s Kevin Connolly visits Auschwitz

On June 18th 2013 the magazine section of the BBC News website published a very long article by Kevin Connolly of the BBC Jerusalem Bureau entitled “Return to Auschwitz: How Israel keeps Holocaust memories alive“.

The article represents a rare effort made by a BBC journalist to understand – and listen to – Israelis and Connolly is to be commended for both his mostly sensitive approach to the subject and the resulting report which appears in an interesting format combining text and filmed clips. 

However, in one section of the article Connolly relies upon the opinions of the ‘new’ historian Tom Segev to promote the notion that talking about the Holocaust was “taboo” in Israel until the 1960s. In the accompanying film clip Segev uses that claim as a platform from which to venture off into political pastures – as may be expected. Unfortunately Connolly appears not to have taken differing opinions or historical facts into account before deciding to include Segev’s version of events in his article.  

Kibbutz Yad Mordechai – named after Mordechai Anielewicz, commander of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising – was established in its current location in December 1943; just months after the uprising itself and long before the end of the war.

In July 1947 the Hebrew University of Jerusalem held the first international conference on Holocaust research.

Kibbutz Lohamei HaGhetaot (literally ‘the Ghetto fighters’) was established in 1949 and is the site of the world’s first Holocaust museum which was opened in the same year.  

On April 12th 1951 – less than three years after the state was established – Israel’s Knesset decided upon official annual commemoration of the Holocaust on the 27th of Nissan – the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day Law was passed in 1955.

Yad Vashem was established in 1953 with state funding.  

“In 1953, the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) unanimously passed the Yad Vashem Law, establishing the Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority.  This law states that the authority is established to commemorate the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their helpers; the Jewish communities and their institutions that had been liquidated and destroyed; the valor and heroism of the soldiers, the fighters of the underground, and the prisoners in the ghettos; the sons and daughters of the Jewish people who had struggled for their human dignity; and the “Righteous among the Nations” who had risked their lives in order to save Jews.”

Those facts, among others, do not support the notion of a “taboo” on talking about the Holocaust.

In contrast, it took the rest of the world until 2005 to establish a Holocaust Memorial Day.  

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21 comments on “BBC’s Kevin Connolly visits Auschwitz

  1. I think this is a little weak.Yes there were very important attempts to educate about the holocaust but as compared to today when it is used as a cloak and trumpeted every time some critic of IDF violence tries to speak it was not talked about. I have heard many survivors did not wish to have their lives described purely in terms of the holocaust.

    Then in 67 it re-emerged as an issue. The H is now of course shamelessly used ..a gigantic insult to the 6 million .But building settlements is way more important than respect for the dead.

    • In those years almost no survivors were talking about what happaned to them.
      .But building settlements is way more important than respect for the dead.? what is that to do with the holocaust.

  2. If I’m not mistaken, didn’t the annual sounding of the siren to signal a national minute’s silence start well before the sixties? There were also huge debates in Israel in the fifties about whether or not to accept reparations money from Germany. They were at the centre of political debate in those days. The reparations money was accepted and inter alia paid for ships for the national Zim line. Most kibbutzim that had survivors used reparations money to build swimming pools and other amenities. So the Holocaust was a central and controversial topic of debate in the fifties. What was different then was that the dominant narrative of those days stressed the repudiation of the attitudes of the Jewish communities that became the the Nazis’ victims. They were by and large held to have gone “like lambs to the slaughter,” seen as a source of shame and regret, and only the survivors and victims who had actively fought against the Nazis were really a source of pride. Contrary to the Israel-hater Rosco Burns the Holocaust then became a front page national topic in 1961-62 with the capture and subsequent trial of Eichmann, whose trial ended, followed by his execution, in early summer 62. It was front page news, reported on the radio every day. Every secondary school class in Israel was taken to attend a day of the trial. I was in Israel as a gap year student from Feb to July 62 and I saw the impact of the trial. It transformed public debate and discourse, so that young Israelis now stopped talking about “lambs to the slaughter” and realized the ways in which the Nazi terror system had been designed totally to demoralize and disorient its victims. They had never previously realised the depths of bestiality, because most individual survivors were totally reluctant to talk about their experiences. This is a common response to genocides and massacres by survivors everywhere. But given the public broadcasting and marking of the events through Yom HaShoa, it is a travesty to take the BBC mythologizing seriously, still less the lies of Rosco Burns.

    • You call me an Israel hater what a lame and stupid response . You will not intimidate me with your language you are simply proving another point which is that one cannot calmly discuss Israel without being accused of being an extremist .

      The Holocaust is used to squash voices of dissent . I say this as one who lost many relatives . I support a strong safe Israel. Take your ignorance and find a dark place for it

    • I bet you wonder why you are so hated. I bet you think it is anti-Semitism rather than being a pig ignorant douche bag

      • Rosco, I’m sure you have genuinely held views but the problem is the way you express them. If you re-read your initial post here and try to imagine what the responses might be, then you might try a different kind of language and set up a dialogue rather than a polemic. What do you think?

        • A helpful response thank you. If I posted a harsh post it is because I have for 40 years grimaced as I watched how the H is used as a cudgel to silence opposition and lo and behold in two posts I am called a hater and a Nazi.

          By the way I felt this long before I read Finkelstein… he is merely the most detailed observer . You are right about the need to set up a dialogue but I say I lost people in the H and someone says on the Nazi side …do you really think a dialogue is possible?

          • when you say the H is used as cudgel to silence opposition and that you think like Finekelstien does than why do you wonder when you get reaction like that. I find your response hatefull my father in law who appear in this BBC article find your response hatefull.

      • I bet you wonder why you are so hated
        Since the vast majority of the people with whom I interact don’t hate me at all, it isn’t an issue that occupies my mind in the least.

  3. The trouble is that the BBC considers Holocaust stories like this as proof that it is ‘being fair to both sides’ in its Middle East coverage.

    • Why should the BBC be fair to both sides? One has all the power and has the support of the most militaristic and powerful country in history. When Israel obeys the UN resolution 242 , the breach of which is causing the worlds most intractable and dangerous problem then the BBC can be fair to both sides

      • Perhaps you should actually read Resolution 242 one of these days (it’s very short, about one page).

        What it doesn’t say is “Israel must go back to the 1949 Armistice lines and give the Arabs a do-over.”

        P.S. You might also note what group isn’t mentioned by name even once in Resolution 242.

      • Thanks Rosco – you’ve just put your finger on why you are held in less than affection here.

        Regardless of 242, the BBC has a duty to report impartially and fairly – it doesn’t, simple as that.

        Oh and btw, your views on 242 are nonsense. The ’67 cease fire lines are just that – cease fire lines. Final borders are up for negotiation, once all parties concerned get together to discuss them. Syria and Lebanon have yet to agree to sit down and Abbas of the PA has refused to sit down without preconditions.

        As to Hamas, well would you negotiate the future of your country and its citizens on the basis of a truce, a hudna?

        If you can’t even get those few points right, how do you expect to be taken seriously?

  4. Rosco Burns:

    “Yes there were very important attempts to educate about the holocaust but as compared to today when it is used as a cloak and trumpeted every time some critic of IDF violence tries to speak it was not talked about.”

    In fact, what one mostly hears trumpeted is the ignorant and biased assertion you just made. It’s trumpeted by a wide range of the deluded, from the naive university student, who imagines he is obliged to uncritically accept whatever his brain-damaged lefty lecturer feeds him about Israel, to the implacable anti-Semite.

    To their eternal shame, many Jews also hold these opinions, apparently unaware that an IDF committed to the defence of Israel is the main line of defence against the hordes salivating at the prospect of Israel’s destruction. Arab countries such as Egypt, Israel’s “peace partner,” are flooded by anti-Semitic material pumped out by state media, Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are best sellers in the Arab world, Hamas and Hezbollah do the Nazi salute and the most foul of Arab terrorists are lauded as heroes when released by Israel in a-thousand-to-one prisoner swaps.

    Iran is immensely proud of its role in inciting and arming the Arabs for terrorist atrocities against the Jewish state and here we have Rosco Burns imagining, without even realising how deeply insulting he is, that Israelis use the Holocaust to justify IDF “violence.”

    Will someone please pass me a bucket.

    • we have Rosco Burns imagining, without even realising how deeply insulting he is
      Oh, I’m pretty sure he realises it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s why he does it.

      Apart from that, I agree with the rest of your comment.

  5. The next time I hear a Jewish person groaning about how terrible Israel is and adding that he lost relatives in the Holocaust to try to give his bias some credibility, I’m going to use your great put down:

    I say this as one who lost many relatives
    Wehrmacht or SS?

    • You talkin’ ta me?! You talkin’ ta ME??!!!

      You are? OK, then–no problem, it’s yours!

      But just for the record, as far as I’m concerned, if RB really lost relatives in the Holocaust then I’m the Queen of Sheba.

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