For Israel, the wounds of the Holocaust remain fresh
RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
(01-25) 11:29 PST JERUSALEM (AP) — Though it ended six decades ago, the Holocaust remains a fresh trauma here, a tragedy that darkens Israeli society and forms an integral part of the national identity.
The Holocaust is everywhere. It is a tool used by hard-liners and doves to score political points and a reference point for cultural debates. It hovers over the Middle East conflict, where Israel, despite its military superiority, still fears being wiped out.
Thousands of Israeli high school pupils make annual pilgrimages to Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps to forge a personal link to the murder of 6 million Jews. Visiting foreign leaders are routinely brought to Israel’s Holocaust memorial to directly confront the dimensions of the nightmare.
Israel maintains an informal ban on the works of Richard Wagner, Hitler’s favorite composer. A planned speech by German President Horst Koehler in Israel’s parliament next week sparked threats of a boycott by some legislators, who said it would be too painful to hear German in the Knesset.
“Auschwitz is a part of our daily life, not our past,” said former Parliament Speaker Shevah Weiss, a Holocaust survivor. “In our society, our souls, our national spirit, everything is connected with the memory of the dark period of Auschwitz.”
Avner Shalev, the director of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, said the Holocaust remains a living catastrophe for the entire nation.
“It’s in the air, you can feel it,” he said. “The wound is there still. We are still mourning, we are still processing and trying to cope. The trauma is so deep and so painful, it is still going on.”