“We should speak out loudly in every corner of our positive achievements in art, medicine and science. People should not perceive everything connected with Jews in a negative context!”
On Tuesday at the inauguration ceremony of a new Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem Mr. Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor was already thinking ahead of a possible international forum in commemoration of the tragedy in Babyn Yar to be hosted by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. It would be the first follow-up to the Forum that Mr. Kantor organized in Krakow last month, attracting more than 20 world leaders and senior officials on the 60th anniversary of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation, and a sign that his project – the World Holocaust Forum Foundation – had taken hold.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has already signed on as a “patron” of the Foundation, a standing body that is to convene every few years to assess achievements in the Holocaust remembrance and education, and Israel’s President Moshe Katsav is expected to formalize his participation in the near future as well. But the ultimate success of the Foundation, according to Mr. Kantor, depends on several more leaders joining the effort. “Without the support of presidents worldwide, we cannot continue to make such events,” he said. It should help that the Foundation will operate in conjunction with Yad Vashem, which, Mr. Kantor said, would prepare all the pedagogical materials to be proposed for use in schools
But Mr. Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, who is the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the European Jewish Congress, is the one who provides the ideological and financial thrust that drives the Foundation. He has personal motivation as well: he lost many family members in the Holocaust. He is convinced that without a systematic educational approach rising anti-Semitism in Europe could again reach catastrophic proportions. And he confirms his idea with the words, strange as it may seem, of Karl Marx: “History repeats itself, you know, first as a tragedy, then as a farce… The best recent proof of this, he continued, was the recent episode in which Britain’s Prince Harry recently wore a Nazi armband to a party – despite the profound effect of World War II on London in general and the royal family in particular. Most young Europeans don’t want to know anything about the Holocaust, and they don’t know very much about it; the word “Auschwitz” elicits an absolutely neutral reaction – as if they were talking about weather. Maybe for them it is really not very exciting. But it’s our task to make it exciting.”
And to make it exciting, one should work hard. Today Mr. Kantor is working on a documentary film about the Holocaust shot especially for the forthcoming Forum; he has already established a museum of the works of Jewish Diaspora avant-gardists… “But there are other possibilities,” he said convincingly: “European Jews should present themselves a positive image of Jewry and its positive contribution to the society. In most cases non-Jews do not know anything about us. Except that they may read in newspapers of one more arson of a synagogue or attack on a Jew. And we, on the contrary, should speak out loudly in every corner of our positive achievements in art, medicine and science. People should not perceive everything connected with Jews in a negative context! But thereat we should not demand from them any honors and a special attitude. Everything we need is a tranquil life in the Diaspora countries and Israel”.