Remembrance is necessary, but awareness more

Here I give my short thought, even though it isn’t the day of 27 January, because we shouldn’t talk about this topic only one day a year.

Remembering the Holocaust isn’t only a commitment to not forget the horrors of the Holocaust, but also a moral duty that must drive every human being to defend, in every corner of the world, human dignity.

Human dignity is encyclopaedically defined as “the condition of ontological and moral nobility in which man is placed by his human nature and at the same time the respect that is due to him for this condition and that he owes to himself. The full and ungraduated dignity of every human being (the sum of each one), that is, the value that every man possesses by the simple fact of being a man and existing, is what qualifies the person, a unique and unrepeatable individual”.

A value that millions of men have seen taken away with systematic and determined cruelty, but above all with indifference and superficiality, by those who participated in the genocide.

Probably everyone who has known and will know this terrible page of history, has asked and will ask themselves: “Why?”

Giving an answer isn’t easy, as it isn’t to understand and accept the motivations and the will that led to the planning of a real annihilation of the human dignity of men considered inferior by others.

It was a strategic succession of aggressive and cruel acts, based on the unjustified assumption, paradoxically lacking in humanity and dignity, that one person or a group of people is superior to others. 

Are these men, who torture, who starve, who kill for a yes or a no? Do they have dignity when they deprive their fellow men of dignity?

The philosopher and historian Hannah Arendt says: “To attack human diversity as such, is the most heinous crime because one wants to destroy a characteristic of the human condition without which the very word humanity, would be emptied of all meaning.”

It’s for this reason that we need to reflect, rather than simply know, and understand how the will of Hitler and his followers didn’t aim at a purely physical genocide but was concerned first of all to annihilate the essence of men belonging to a ‘human category’ deemed unworthy of being part of civil society.

People didn’t just die in the concentration camps, they began to die even earlier. The isolation and inhuman conditions caused not only feelings of fear and pain, but also apathetic surrender.

Primo Levi wrote: “Destroying man is difficult, almost as difficult as creating him: it was not easy, it was not short, but you succeeded Germans. Here we are docile under your gaze: on our part, there is nothing more to fear: no acts of revolt, no words of challenge, not even a judging look. Now we are oppressed by shame.

The annihilation of the person is the most miserable human condition there is and it is what makes the Shoah an absolute tragedy, which remains in the souls of those who, even if they survived all this, are “dead inside”.

So let us remember, yes, but with awareness, what Primo Levi wrote: “Then for the first time we realised that our language lacks the words to express this offence, the demolition of a man. In an instant, with almost prophetic insight, reality revealed itself to us: we had reached the bottom. There is no human condition more wretched, and it is unthinkable. Nothing is ours anymore: they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listened to us, they would not understand us. If we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listened to us, they would not understand us. They will also take away our name, and if we want to keep it, we must find the strength to do so, to ensure that behind the name, something of us, of us as we were, remains.

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Simona Recupero


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