Readers here probably know that the White House managed last Friday to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day with a proclamation that omitted Jews from its catalogue of the victims.
The White House proclamation, you may not know, replicates the orthodox Russian reading of historical 20th century barbarities. Some twenty-seven million Russians died in the German invasion (that was on top of the 20 million some that Stalin killed in the 1920s and '30s while forcing peasants into a shitty industrial economy). Western/U.S. memories of the era are different. We think "we" won the war. Not so most Russians -- and their view is not baseless.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russian views of this history began to expand, as did Western understanding of the enormity of Russian suffering. But Putin's autocracy liked the old narrative of the Russian nation standing alone. The magnitude of Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jews was again pushed into the background. After all, Jews barely counted as proper "Russian" nationals.
Holocaust deniers like the Russian history narrative.
And so, apparently do the leaders of our current regime.
Those leaders, as they have made so obvious, don't like refugees either. Or really, they don't like anyone who they think should be kept on the outside of their Big Beautiful Wall. They've got approval from another fan of walls: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The little rogue Jewish state has so polluted the memory of the Holocaust that he can blithely suck up to Washington's Jew-despisers to add heft to his own appropriation of Palestinian lands behind his wall. I guess Trump/Bannon think they have their Jewish flank covered. Not among the Jews I know.
Back in the 1930s, the U.S. did its own denying of Jewish refugees from the Nazis. Our forbears famously turned back a shipload of 937 refugees from Hitler who had made it all the way to our coasts -- but lacked immigration papers. About a quarter were later among the massacred; we easily expunge that heartless episode from the national memory.
My name is Manfred Fink. The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered at Bergen-Belsen pic.twitter.com/2LFnB5yp3n— St. Louis Manifest (@Stl_Manifest) January 27, 2017
Sometimes when this country has done wrong, 30 or 70 or more years later, we try to untangle the web with an apology. So it went with the Japanese internment or the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.
Sometimes we never apologize at all: think the attempted eradication of the continent's natives or the importation of African slaves.
In some future, will we apologize to the world because, when we were the richest, most powerful, country in the world, we closed our borders to the planet's most desperate people in a fit of misplaced fear? Some of the answer to that question depends on what we do now.
Can we do better today? Resist and protect much.