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.
“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.