With yesterday's shooting at the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum
, attention has to be paid to the museum itself. A few people are going ask, why have one? Why should federal tax dollars, in a tight economy after all, go towards commemorating something perpetrated by foreigners a long time ago?
One reason comes to mind immediately: Deniers. Upon the exposure of the Nazis' crimes against humanity, General Dwight David Eisenhower commanded Allied soldiers and officers to visit the liberated camps and see the evidence for themselves. Additionally, he forced German civilians to do the same, and encouraged American civilian leaders to visit as well.
His reasoning is best expressed in the General's own words
after viewing a camp near Gotha:
I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to "propaganda."
General Eisenhower's intentions turned out to be all too prescient. In today's world, Holocaust denial is all too widespread. There is the undoubted intellectual talent of historian David Irving
, harnessed to the cause of perverting the historical record. Then there are the less gifted historical fanatics, clowns, purveyors of intentional ignorance, many of whom consider the liquidation of six million Jews a falsified play for sympathy.
All are intellectually dishonest, and beneath the contempt of decent, rational, thinking folk because their infatuation with "revisionist history" amounts to a barely contained hatred of Jews. To their stunted morality, the Shoah isn't just a fabrication; it could even be wishful thinking. A world minus six million Jews... Kind of neat to the average mentally flatlining Holocaust denier.
So there is a need for a Holocaust memorial in the United States. It is a witness in stone, steel and artifact to continue the righteous work of General Eisenhower, started by both word and deed.
"Never again" are powerful words in Hebrew or English. But the first step toward that is "Never forget."
Secondly, Americans should be reminded that on this issue, in World War II they and their allies were on the side of the angels. We were the good guys, the ones who liberated the camps, and ended the Nazi nightmare. When an inmate looked up into the face of freedom and indeed the rest of his life, there is a good chance that he or she saw the face of America. Along with our wartime allies, we deserve to take pride that our grandparents' generation liquidated evil and stormed the gates of hell.
A Holocaust museum reminds us of the nature of that evil, and reinforces the definition of the word hell.
I have known people, wargamers too, tempted to diminish the nature of the Nazi regime and its perpetrators. They might state that men joined the SS for the cool uniforms, to serve their country as good patriots, or to take up the fight against Communism. They conveniently forget that in Nazi Germany, killing Jews was Job One. Job Two was killing everyone else.
A permanent memorial is an antidote to the seduction of the cool uniforms and neat weapons. It is a reminder of what Nazis fought for, and to the pride of America, what Americans fought against. It is testimony against moral relativism.
There are some issues on which there are two sides. The Holocaust is certainly not one of them, and nor is its commemoration. It is essential.