Yom haShoah 5783 – The neglected saying – Rabbi Sérgio Margulies

YOM haShoah יום השואה

27 Nissan 5783 | 17-18 April 2023

The Neglected Saying

The attempt to annihilate the Jewish people in the Shoah began centuries before the systematized Nazi ideological framework. It started with historically nurtured prejudice. The historian Raul Hilberg (1926-2007) emphasizes the parallel between the edicts of the Middle Ages against Jews and Nazi laws, for example, year 681  – Jewish books are burned, and in the year 1933 – ‘non-Aryan’ books are burned; in the year  1215  – the clothing of the Jews is marked, the year  1941 –  the clothing of the Jews is marked.  

The seeds of hatred are hidden in the underground of society until they find an atmosphere that favors their resurgence. Thus, the comfort of not dealing with the roots that feed hatred because at a given moment it does not flourish with intensity (or with the intensity acceptable by the commodity of not acting and the pretension of not feeling targeted) power up serious consequences for the future. Negligence towards what has been said represents the connivance that authorizes the vocalization of prejudice. If it acts virulently, the consequences will be even more tragically damaging.

The drunken saying 

The words of hatred proclaimed in the Shoah were already written and expressed. As before, what attention was paid to them? Neglected by many, disregarded by so many, but embraced by some. Some got drunk by the appeal of hatred and the efficiency that atones responsibility by creating scapegoats. These drunk people were gradually becoming many, and many more and more. The sober called for a reason, but what does the reason matter when interest contradicts reason? The drunks got drunk on false slogans and they moved towards killing in fury. They killed in deed, they killed in support, and when they killed they howled. Roars that eradicated the human language. The human had become a vestige, but a shred of consciousness stubbornly resisted so that something human could be said and heard again.

The Deafening Saying

Human language is sophisticated. This language was, by the way of impregnation of hatred, reduced:me or you’. Once the determined prejudice ‘you do not exist and therefore you are not’ there is only the self.  I am unique and absolute. The single absolutes do not dialogue, they do not need language. They say nothing. They only tyrannize.

The appropriation of scientific language itself created the justification to eliminate those that the prejudiced stigma claimed were unworthy of living. Curiously, the impoverishment of thinking goes hand in hand with the systematization of extermination methods. And who listened to what the extermination victims in the gas chambers were saying? The sealed doors of the cameras muffled any words spoken. Deep down, the doors of the gas chambers were sealed by the deafened ears to the cry for life.

Nothing and everything to be said 

Nothing can be said about the Shoah. It is so alien to the conceivable that the question remains: how to describe it and with what words? Therefore, a suggestion (even if subject to controversy): the terminology associated with the Shoah applies only to the Shoah in a separate chapter of the dictionary of human infamy. However, because the inconceivable becomes possible, even if nothing can be said everything must be said and the dictionary rescued.

Perhaps in the thirties of the twentieth century, it was said: ‘today is different, it is the enlightened nation, of music, of art, of literature. In the repetition of the neglect that does not realize that the inconceivable is possible perhaps it was said in the twenties of the twenty-first century: ‘we are a world of high development and instant connection. Because the inconceivable is possible today and tomorrow just as it was yesterday, everything must be said about the Shoah. Everything to be said presupposes two seemingly opposite, but complementary items: a) not to trivialize it, as if any enemy or even foe becomes a Nazi. The vulgarization conceals the horror and ends up anesthetizing the capacity to react in indignation; b) not to connive with incitement and prejudiced acts as small as they may seem – after all, a single seed flourishes and a single victim – from the range of diversity that makes up humanity – is also a whole world.

Rabbi Sérgio R. Margulies – Associação Religiosa Israelita (ARI) – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

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