A Muted Anniversary: Are Europeans Forgetting the Holocaust?

Limited public and media reaction to news events rooted in World War II atrocities raises concerns that societies may be starting to forget the dark, hard lessons of the Holocaust

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AFP / Getty Images

Some 13,152 Jews were removed from their homes in Paris by police forces in July 1942 and taken in buses to the Vel d'Hiv cycling stadium in southwestern Paris

On Monday, France marked the 70th anniversary of the notorious July 1942 roundup and deportation of over 13,000 Jews in Paris. That so-called Vel d’Hiv operation was one of the biggest wartime mass arrests in France — sweeps that collectively sent around 76,000 Jews to Nazi concentration camps. The vast majority of those deportees never returned.

The Vel d’Hiv roundup occupies a uniquely dark place in France’s somber occupation history. In 1995, then President Jacques Chirac stunned the nation by reversing the previous official French position of blaming Vel d’Hiv on German forces that controlled most of France at the time. The Nazis in charge, that view held, compelled French officials and police to enforce Germany’s anti-Jewish edicts. Instead, Chirac acknowledged Vel d’Hiv as having been the responsibility of the French officials who ordered the operation on their own and used obedient Paris police officers to carry it out. “France, on that very day, accomplished the irreparable,” Chirac said as he recognized the role of French officials — and thereby the French state — in assisting Nazi persecution of Jews. “[France] delivered those she was to protect to their murderers.”

Yet not only has the thunderbolt of Chirac’s speech been largely forgotten by many in France today; so too has Vel d’Hiv itself. According to a poll published on Monday, about 42% of French people don’t know what Vel d’Hiv refers to or about the roundup it describes. The level of awareness drops with age — despite the fact that the history of France’s occupation, and Vel d’Hiv in particular, is a major topic in French education. Fifty-seven percent of people ages 25 to 34 said they were unaware of the Vel d’Hiv roundup — a majority segment that rose to 60% for 18-to-24-year-olds and 67% for people ages 15 to 17.

Some French polling experts caution that testing name recognition of historical events often produces misleadingly low scores compared with actual (albeit vague) knowledge. Some pundits also noted it isn’t stunning the overall awareness score was weighed down by responses from younger people who were children or not yet born when Chirac’s recognition of Vel d’Hiv as a fully French crime stunned France. But Holocaust historian and French Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld seems to view that as part of a wider process of individuals — and societies — allowing even the most important and dramatic lessons for humanity to dim as their immediacy grows more remote through time.

“History no longer has much importance,” Klarsfeld told Europe 1 radio on Monday, criticizing the waning emphasis on history instruction in schools. “Before, people learned [history] by heart, memorized dates. Today, that’s changed … The tragedy of Vel d’Hiv will take its place in history alongside that of St. Bartholomew.”

Klarsfeld also noted the minimalist public response to the July 15 news that the world’s most wanted World War II criminal had finally been located in his native Hungary. The Simon Wiesenthal Center revealed on Sunday that 97-year-old Laszlo Csatary — who has been accused of complicity in the deaths of nearly 15,7000 deported Jews — had been identified residing in a Budapest apartment. Csatary has reportedly lived openly in Hungary since 1997, when he returned home after Canada revoked his citizenship. During the war, Csatary allegedly served as a police officer in the Slovakian city of Kosice. He has been charged and tried in absentia with a wide variety of war crimes committed in Kosice, where he acted as an official commanding the Jewish ghetto.

Oddly, however, word that the most wanted World War II fugitive had been tracked down generated relatively little attention in the media. It also prompted little public reaction in Europe, where scars from the war are often still apparent and sensitive. A lot of European coverage that did arise was based on the secondary concern that Hungary’s current right-wing government may be unwilling to deliver Csatary to justice. Those worries grew stronger when Csatary vanished after British reporters — acting in partnership with the Simon Wiesenthal Center — confronted the fugitive at his two-room apartment on Sunday. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has repeatedly defied the E.U., which worries about his commitment to democracy. Many observers fear that Orban may shelter Csatary rather than hand him over. “I am not sure there will be legal action taken by this conservative government,” Klarsfeld told the AFP.

Klarsfeld added that he didn’t expect any public outcry to arise in Europe to force Hungary to deliver what he called a “subaltern” Nazi collaborator to international justice. With all the most notorious World War II criminals having either been convicted or reported dead while in hiding, Klarsfeld suspects people now generally view remaining fugitives from that era like Csatary as murderous lackeys now too old to bother with. “Thirty years ago, he would have been 3,500th on the list,” Klarsfeld said. “In my opinion, he did not have major responsibilities, he must have been a stooge.”

A stooge who may have the blood of over 15,000 deported victims on his hands.

45 comments
ClaudioZambiasi
ClaudioZambiasi

Is not only ....that the Europeans that have lost memory of the past ! They have even lost the perception and the understanding of the kind the world they are living in ....in simple words : I will not have the fascists in my home in the future , nor I will have the germans, Tito partizans, nor I will be living in shelter and under bombarments by the americans . And that is all because I had  them already experienced in the past . That is why I do live in the future .And you all have been left back in time . 

jimwentz1
jimwentz1

People are tired of having it shoved in their faces all the time. There are MANY massacres in history, this one is not the only one. Russia and China alone wiped out many more times than the 6 million figure of the Holocaust. And the 6 million number is very suspicious. Jews control the media, so they won't let you forget it. My response is, who cares nearly a century after the fact?!?

Sean Dion
Sean Dion

i just did a little investigation

supposedly there was no cyanide found in the "gas chamber" walls within auschwitz

why is this?

when they found cyanide within the walls of the clothing decontaminator?

forensically this idea of "genocide" would be thrown out of a court within seconds

Sean Dion
Sean Dion

i think it has alot to do with the hypocrisy.

One can't whine about a genocide in the past whilst committing one simultaneously

it just doesn't make any sense.

and the more you guys try to shove this crap down our throats

the more your pissing us offf

disqus2222
disqus2222

It's hard to forget something that you hear about every day.

Frank_Doghearty
Frank_Doghearty

Here, in America, we artificially maintain ghettos. The official version is "racism," but it is about keeping the poor poor and making the rich richer. The "War on Drugs" keeps a lot employed, contributes to the GDP, and makes neighborhoods less safe. For $1 spending instead of $1,000, we could hand out free drugs in controlled environments to those who prefer to die that way. Crime is artificially generated, as is the racket called the US prison system. You die if you have health insurance and you die if you do not. According to Johns Hopkins (2002, 2004), the third greatest killers are prescription drugs. Health care generates 20% of the GDP. We are figures, except we still do not have our numbers tattooed on our hands.

korben
korben

im sick of  jews shoving holocaust down our throats

HerrDirlewanger
HerrDirlewanger

They used this 6 million figure before, they tried to say there were 6 million starving jews in Europe before the war. Apparently it's some sort of symbolic number in their Tora or something.

Anyway the media will make sure it's never forgetten hence this article. After all it was a much worse holocaust than the Armenian one, the Israelis said so.

Bradley Helm
Bradley Helm

We have enough genocides and borderline genocides and  ethnic conflict in our contemporary world to have much time to make much of a show of rememberance over the ones of the past.

Sean Dion
Sean Dion

especially seeing as how many of the former victims are committing the same crime that they "hate" 

on 3 fronts they are currently attempting genocide

so why should anyone care about one in the past?

and the 6million figure is a big lie anyway

i read a book that shows jewish writers were claiming that 6million jews will die as far back as the mid 1800s

it was a prophecy

the real numbers are probably 2-4

but that is just those who "disappeared" 

many of these people could of fled town then changed their names.

jews aren't dumb. 

Adriano Gaetano Platania
Adriano Gaetano Platania

The Nazi deported and killed homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses and anyone that did not conform to their political agenda. How come mainstream media puts so much emphasis on the poor Jews and avoid talks abou the rest? Of course I know the answer! Also it's important to remebmber that Jews played a prominent role in the development of the diamond and gold fields in South Africa..creating concentration camps and treating blacks like slaves!!! Many Jews were involved in the anti-apartheid movement.

What a bunch of non sense.

disqus2222
disqus2222

Hard to forget something that you are reminded of every single day.

ThothAmon
ThothAmon

How the hell could anyone forget the holocaust? There is news story about it almost everyday. A good indication that "the Jews control the media" theory may have some merit. 

It might also be good to remind the Jews from time to time that many of their people were mass-murderers under the Soviet regime.

“We mustn’t forget that some of greatest murderers of modern times were Jewish.”

— Jewish writer Sever Plocker

Sean Dion
Sean Dion

yea that is true

where are the documentaries,books,memorials, and spielberg blockbusters about all the gentiles who died under communist oppression?

oh yea there are none

Firozali A.Mulla
Firozali A.Mulla

Friday, 20 July 2012 Rents in England and Wales have risen for the third consecutive

month as mortgage lenders tighten their borrowing criteria and people struggle

to get on the property ladder, a study has shown. The pace of annual rental

inflation across England and Wales also rose as a result, to 2.4% in June, from

2.3% in May. Wales saw the largest month-on-month rise, with rents increasing

by 2% to reach £545. Lenders have been tightening their borrowing criteria in recent

months as well as raising their rates for new and existing borrowers amid the

weak economy and the ongoing eurozone crisis. While there have been signs of

increased competition to attract less "risky" mortgage customers with

hefty deposits, those with low deposits are expected to have a tougher time

finding a mortgage in the coming months. The slowdown in the U.S. economy persisted early

in the third quarter with factory activity in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region

contracting in July for a third straight month and new claims for jobless aid

surging last week. Other reports on Thursday showed home re-sales slumped to

their lowest level in eight months in June and a gauge of future economic

activity slipped last month, more evidence the economy has slowed significantly

in recent months. "The data confirm that the economy has cooled off pretty

considerably late in the second quarter and early in the third quarter from the

pace we saw earlier in the year," said an economist at RBS in Stamford,

Connecticut.USA I thank you Firozali A.Mulla DBA

Kimsbenn
Kimsbenn

History is important to remember so you don't repeat the bad and you replicate the good. Only the people responsible for carrying out the bad should feel guilty. It isn't up to the future generations to pay for their forefathers guilt but to forge a better life for everyone so these heinous crimes will not be committed again. No one will ever make up for the past to satisfy all. There will always be cruel people doing cruel acts that shock. History, and no doubt the future, will be filled with it on every scale. I think it's unfair to say people are forgetting, I think they are moving on. Afterall, part of the healing process is acknowledging and moving on in life.

Firozali A.Mulla
Firozali A.Mulla

What can Obama offer in the this? World Bank president Jim Yong Kim on Wednesday warned that most regions of the world will be hurt by the debt crisis enveloping the euro zone and said it was vital to protect the strong economic gains of the past decade in the developing world.In his first public speech since taking the helm of the World Bank three weeks ago, Kim said even if the euro zone crisis is contained, it could still reduce growth in most of the world's regions by as much as 1.5 percent.A major crisis in Europe could slash gross domestic product in developing countries by 4 percent or more, enough to trigger a deep global recession. This is a challenge to many not just Obama. I thank you Firozali A.Mulla DBA

cmmnsn
cmmnsn

The headline is totally misleading. It should read "is FRANCE forgetting the holocaust?" It is inescapable in Germany.

JeanClellandMorin
JeanClellandMorin

Th Holocaust has been overshadowed for some time by the imposition of a religious state and the oppression and humiliation of Palestinians. // Jean Clelland-Morin

HG
HG

You mean that echoes of the Holocaust have started again after a little time by the spreading of the myth of "Palestinian oppression".  This also is enabled by people being entirely ignorant of history.

Sean Dion
Sean Dion

"myth of palestinian oppression"

are you blind deaf or dumb?

the jews came with their militias and wiped out as many palestinians as they could

then they settled

and have been expanding their borders ever since to the point that the palestinians are herded off into tiny settlements despite the fact that they used to own the entire country

if that isn't oppression then i don't know what is

JeanClellandMorin
JeanClellandMorin

I support Jews who support Palestinians. They exist and are rational.

Sean Dion
Sean Dion

same here

anti zionist jews who can admit that the situation is wrong deserve some support

Arminius2012
Arminius2012

More German POWs and civilians died as a result of Allied policies than Jews died during the Holocaust.

rishav29
rishav29

 regardless, it was because of the german state policy of eradicating the jews that so many germans had to die.

Katriina Rosendahl
Katriina Rosendahl

 No jewish person has ever explained me why they claimed that 6 million of them died in WW1? And first meantion of 6 million dead figure is from year 1906? It makes you look like liers.

disqus2222
disqus2222

 So by your logic, murdering Jews is alright for what they did to Ukrainians during the Holodomor or what they are currently doing to Palestinians.

ThothAmon
ThothAmon

So Germans wanting to control their own government and nation was reason enough to kill them? Let's treat Israel the same way. 

Sean Dion
Sean Dion

actually i heard rumors about a supposed "jewish state" in germany.

i guess they want more land now

while taking away the land of any who wish to live in peace and harmony amongst their own.

i still don't understand why the neocons continually fall for these pointless wars.

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

Since the German government puts the number of German civilian casualties at 635,000, with an additional 500,000 - 600,000 during the post-war expulsions, this is false. 

ThothAmon
ThothAmon

Considering the number of dead Jews was only around 50,000 the OP is correct. 

Samuel
Samuel

You don't seem to have read the article... France alone sent 76000 to the camps, most of whom never came back... Even the nazis kept records, so where do you get this number from?

Sophia Marsden
Sophia Marsden

Why should we be forever haunted by the holocaust, man must look to the future not wallow in guilt over the past, to do otherwise is a sign of a sickness of spirit.

puahia
puahia

I can only speak for Denmark: The Holocaust is not forgotten. Maybe because almost all the Danish jews were saved. When the Germans wanted to round up the jews in Denmark the Danish underground found out and saved most of them by sailing them to Sweden in small fishing boats during the night.

Dror Ben Ami Commentator
Dror Ben Ami Commentator

what about the french deportation of the Gitanos that is taking place now, not 70 years ago...

HighCheef
HighCheef

Eh, Americans have already forgotten the brutality of slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement. When I hear folks telling Jewish-Americans to "get over it" I'll know that they too have arrived...

LoudRambler
LoudRambler

 Are Europeans forgetting the bloody wars between Catholics and Protestants? Or the looming threat of Islamic invasion? Or the hordes of Mongols? 

 Well, to a degree, they do.

 Are Americans forgetting the war with First Nations and the betrayal of their Indian allies in the War of 1812, which created the Trail of Tears?

 Well, they absolutely do; I don't think that most Americans even remember that there was a War of 1812 and who fought on their side. And what was at stake, for that matter.

 Human tend to forget. Europe, which has a large history of nation-on-nation total wars, and where EU was founded by two nations, France and Germany, which fought each other - I don't remember - three? Or four? times before the eventual treaty was signed, tend to treat each conflict that as long as there are survivors, it matters; as soon as there are no actual people who suffered, it is dust in the wind.

 If on a continent with such a controversial history as Europe everyone would be trying to settle scores, the whole world would turn into chaos.

f_galton
f_galton

Americans don't dwell upon all the Indians they massacred.

English_Wolf
English_Wolf

 As for stupidity scale you get the prize.

Indians were killed by colons coming from ll over Europe.  Slavery was made possible by France shippers check the 'old' fortunes made in Rochefort and Nantes (among other harbors in the Atlantic coast).

Your 'history' is rather ironic that the French love to criticize the US yet was always ask for it's help when in serious trouble.

I also love the 500,000 children killed.

One more thing, France has always promoted it's "resistance" image when in reality while a few courageous men and women the whole of the population cowered and turned away from the reality of the crimes committed at the time.  Then what can you say to defend the campaign of delation, the denonciations for profits that took place at the end of the war?

And to stay with the time...  How about the support for the nazis offered by the communist party until the nazi invaded Russia?  What does that say about the french record?

Despite all that dirty laundry that France needs to wash, no one can hold you responsible for your parents actions.  Your lack of honesty over this is your own thought and you are responsible for that.

How do I know that?  I was French before becoming a US citizen.  I am the child of a woman who worked in Berlin (for reason unknown to me, could have been STO or by herself).  My father on the other end was in the Resistance near Angers and my maternal grand mother was the head of a 'reseau' in La Reole, a captain. I beleive.

My father made sure I learned the history of France w/o hiding the truth of what happened.  He was particurarily upset at the 'resistant de la derniere heure' and the treatement of so-called 'collaborators' as more were innocent than guilty.

So, can the primitive anti-Americanism and deal with your own country past.

omegafrontier
omegafrontier

 We do.  As people like you remind us of it everyday.  Then I came to the conclusion why should I feel guilty for something that happened centuries ago, and that no anyone today is responsible for.

rishav29
rishav29

well you should remember it for exactly the same reason that we remember holocaust for

Dror Ben Ami Commentator
Dror Ben Ami Commentator

 it was not centuries ago....and you don't feel guilty about the 500,000 children killed in iraq either....

LoudRambler
LoudRambler

 For the bi-centennial celebration, Canadian Mint will issue the coin commemorating Tecumseh, a brave chief who bravely fought Americans for what turned out to be a relatively better deal for his people.

 What will America do? There were a lot of First Nations fighting on their side in that conflict, and were it not for them, Michigan would probably be a Canadian province.