Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany
January 27, 2014
It has become tradition on such occasions to chant a version of our memorial prayer, El Malei Rachamim, to the martyrs of the Shoah. But as we listen to these words and hear the melody, we also need to remember that before martyrs become martyrs they are victims, and before they are victims they are subject to discrimination, violence and displacement, and before they can be so treated they must have been dehumanized.
In the Shoah those subjected to this progression of horror were not only Jews, but as well mentally and physically handicapped, political opponents of National Socialism, Roma, Sinti, Slavic peoples, POWs, religious dissidents, homosexuals and transsexuals. All were subject to a type of de-humanization before the mass mobbing could take hold and inevitably lead to genocide.
Now here we are today in Germany, doing that which is so critical—gathering together with youth, concerned citizens, members of the Jewish community, leaders of the civic community and brothers and sisters from other religious traditions. We are gathered here to remember but what we really need to do is to be present to the dehumanization of today. It has been 69 years since the liberation of the mere thousands that remained alive in Auschwitz, and Europe is once again full of words meant to dehumanize minority groups. The rhetoric against Roma and Sinti, against minority religions and even against religious traditions themselves as well as the rising rhetoric against Jews should be seen as the reality that it is: we are quickly forgetting. And then today we see to the east that this same rhetoric being used against homosexuals has now moved the process of horror past dehumanization and already to mobbing, discrimination, violence and displacement. It is to our shame here in Germany that we gather here today but as a society are scarcely discussing these events.
We hear the words of El Malei Rachimim not only to remember the past but I pray as well to warn us of and drive us away from our present apathy to the cruelty of our own age.
(Recording of El Malei Rachamim for the Maryrs on Youtube)
G-d full of compassion, Eternal Presence of the Universe, grant complete rest under the wings of Your Presence to those that shine in Your glory – to the 6 Million Jews that were victims in the Shoah in Europe – to those martyred, killed, burned and destroyed and Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Majdanek, Treblinka, and all the other work, concentration and extermination camps. Source of Mercy, let them find eternal refuge under the shadow of Your wings, and let their souls be bound up in the bond of eternal life. The Eternal One is their inheritance and the Garden of Eden their souls’ destination. May they rest in peace, and let us say: Amen.