“Love is much more stronger and much more prominent than hatred,” spokeswoman says
Over 70 years have passed since the Holocaust. The most famous survivors of those horrors, Elie Wiesel in the United States and Simone Weil in Europe, have passed away. We no longer have universally recognized voices to speak out against Nazi crimes and condemn the growing threat of anti-Semitism and hatred of others.
We need them.
In a number of countries, anti-Semitic and racist hatred are experiencing a resurgence in broad daylight. From the march in Charlottesville and the shooting of African-American churchgoers in Charleston to statements made in the German Bundestag in Berlin and during Gilet Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protests in France, the hatred of others is becoming a form of personal and collective identity.
In November, I visited the University of Miami to discuss the alarming growth of hate crimes. Little did I know when that event was scheduled, that just days before, a gunman would kill 11 Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. And just a few weeks ago, 50 Muslims were murdered at two different mosques in New Zealand.
The ideology of hate knows no boundaries and respects no sacred spaces. When our neighbors and friends are in danger, none of us is safe, no matter what faith we observe.
In this dangerous moment, ignorance is fatal. That’s why the hearing on hate crimes, conducted recently before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, is so important. So is the conference on white supremacy I joined recently at Georgetown University, sponsored by the university’s Center for Jewish Civilization.
To defend the tolerance and mutual respect that is the cornerstone of all civilizations, we must know and understand the challenges we face.
Defining oneself through hatred is a phenomenon taking place as much on social networks as on the streets. The hatred of Jews, blacks, homosexuals and foreigners has become a point of both personal identity and a political motivator.
People who spread hate against other groups no longer fear being labeled as Nazis. On the contrary, they demand that the groups they despise go elsewhere and are willing to achieve their goals through violent means. Hitler’s legacy, it would seem, has been liberated from his crimes. There is “Holocaust Fatigue” but unfortunately, there is no “Hitler Fatigue.”
Moreover, although racism and anti-Semitism have been condemned as dangerous phenomena that can lead to mass violence, the same cannot be said for the temptation to identify oneself as an ubermensch (super human).
Some young people no longer fear the consequence of prison or death, making them capable of murdering innocent victims — people they consider no more than subhumans — in the street, at the synagogue, at a nightclub, or in other public venues. For some, the temptation to become an ubermensch is legitimized by an ideology or by a social system that can be more addictive than heroin.
In Iraq and Syria, young people from all over the world who left their home countries came to join ISIS married into an ideology where they would be supermen, killers, rapists and able to sell those they consider subhuman like meat. They would rather kill and die in action as an ubermensch than live out a long life they consider to be ordinary and boring.
The two youths who decapitated a priest during mass in northern France in 2016 were armed with fake suicide belts so that the police would shoot them when they exited the church. They had planned this attack to end via suicide-by-police.
How do we counter this?
Education is a priority. We must make people aware that one day, anyone can be tempted to become an ubermensch who can kill people they view as bad, or subhuman, even at the risk of their own death.
And let us not forget: Hitler did not lack followers who were willing to assassinate Jews. Neither does ISIS lack adherents who are now willing to kill, bomb, and rape. Any hate group can captivate young people with this same dark attraction.
Father Patrick Desbois, a Catholic priest, is an author and historian. He is a professor at Georgetown University and president of Yahad-In Unum, a French nonprofit organization that investigates genocides and the Holocaust.