Sunday, August 24, 2014

ISIS, Nazis and the Ideology of Hate

As more news of the atrocities being perpetrated  by the Islamic State becomes publicly known, Dr. Robert Rozett sheds insight onto the dangers inherent in ISIS's ideology.

It would be eminently reasonable to suppose that the kind of evil embodied by the Nazis and their radical ideology of hate and exclusion should have disappeared from the face of the earth along with the total defeat of the Third Reich nearly seventy years ago. Such Ideologies, however, did not die out with the end of the Nazi regime. Today far too many groups still pursue exclusionist visions, propelled by ideologies of hate. They think, like the Nazis before them, that in the name of fanatical beliefs they have the right to decide who should live and who should die, and they act zealously on their murderous convictions. Perhaps most menacing among them today is the Islamic State, also known as IS, ISIL, ISIS, and DAESH.

ISIS bears some striking similarities to the Nazis, even if it differs in significant ways. The exclusivist new world order ISIS wants to create is not based on race, but on a fanatical variety of Islam. Like the Nazis, they seek to create a world only for a select few — not a master race, but for those who embrace their brand of Islam. They have shown themselves to be merciless in the pursuit of their vision and, like the Nazis before them, they have no qualms whatsoever about killing anyone who does not fit into their scheme of things.

Since it began conquering territory, ISIS has carried out ruthless acts against those who have no place in their new order and whom they consider their enemies. They have beheaded Shiite Muslims, since they do not follow ISIS’s brand of Islam, and they have proudly filmed and broadcast such scenes. They gave the Christians of Mosul the choice between forced conversion, flight or death, and now the ancient Christian community of Mosul is no more; and in the face of the same threats, the Christian Assyrians in Nineveh have fled. In the last few days they have forced the small religious minority of Yazidis to flee from their homes. There are estimates that tens of thousands of Yazidis are currently pitilessly stranded with little food or water, and according to reports hundreds have died. Although ISIS has yet to encounter Jewish communities in the areas they have taken, they are also threatening Jews with a new Holocaust.

Since ISIS has made the transition from a terrorist group without territory to rulers in the lands they have overtaken, all of these barbaric acts can be considered acts of state. The Nazi Holocaust of course was a state project, employing all the power and authority of the government to achieve it.

The Nazis showed the world where unbridled ideologies of hate and exclusion can lead: to world war, genocide and Holocaust. The six-year long, brutal and devastating war against them demonstrates how hard it can be to subdue this form of evil once it has taken hold. President Obama has used the word genocide to describe the threat posed by ISIS, and most certainly ISIS has a patently genocidal agenda. He has ordered air strikes to try to contain them. Given our awareness of history and our observations of the present, it is clear that ISIS and its ideology of hate and exclusion must be met squarely and resolutely by the international community. This must happen before the still localized flames of destruction they have ignited turn into a much wider conflagration; a conflagration that may take a tremendous human cost and effort to extinguish.

Dr. Robert Rozett is the Director of the Yad Vashem Libraries and author of Conscripted Slaves: Hungarian Jewish Forced Laborers on the Eastern Front, Yad Vashem 2013

This article originally appeared in the Times of Israel.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Yad Vashem Summer Seminars Attract Educators from Around the World

"This was a truly exceptional seminar.  It brought order to what I already know while enriching it intelligently." Participant in Seminar for Belgian Educators, July 2014

This summer, despite the difficult situation here in Israel, hundreds of educators from across the globe attended conferences and seminars at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies.  This week alone, some fifty educators from Estonia and Portugal are attending seminars here on campus, and last week, the annual International Summer Seminar for educators took place as planned.

The seminars left an indelible impression on these educators who came from across the globe to take part in the programs of the International School for Holocaust Studies. For many it was an unforgettable personal experience. One summer seminar participant from Serbia, remarked “It was my first time to hear a Holocaust survivor. She spoke about the unspeakable and we were listening to the "unlistenable." Yet, she handled her shocking story in a kind of way that very few of us expected. She always upheld her humanity.”

Additionally, hundreds of educators attended the 9th International Educators' Conference as well as intensive seminars here on the campus. Participants hailed from Canada, the US, Australia, Poland, Serbia, Czech Republic, China,Finland, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia, Germany, France, Ireland, Portugal, Serbia and more.  The educators had the opportunity to network with colleagues, dialogue with top educators, researchers and historians, meet Holocaust survivors, and explore the resources and museums at Yad Vashem, while experiencing the current situation along with Israeli colleagues.

Paulo Manuel Veira de Matos of Portugal remarked on the transformative influence of the seminar he attended, "I will never teach again the Holocaust as I did before I came to Yad Vashem." At the conclusion of the Seminar for Portuguese Educators, Anabela Vaz Jacinto commented "We have the committed  to being the ambassadors of the Shoah memory as educators and citizens of our country."


The 9th International Conference on Holocaust Education is generously supported by the Adelson Family Foundation, the Asper Foundation and the Claims Conference.

The annual International Summer Seminar is generously supported by the Claims Conference.