Learning about Holocaust prevents oblivion, develops knowledge and empathy

On the occasion of 27 January -The International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) calls on all social actors to defend the memory of this crime from the passage of time, oblivion and the accompanying processes of relativization and denial.

At a time of escalation of concerning rhetoric in Montenegrin society, it is important to recall the ideas and words that for decades persistently created the atmosphere for one of the greatest crimes in human history. Namely, the Holocaust did not begin in the 1930s but much earlier. Society gradually became irresistible and vulnerable to extremist ideas, and consequently cruel to an ideologically fictional enemy. Radical groups and politicians, first by local and later by national action, tried to find out what was acceptable to say, and later to do, until hate speech and violence became acceptable. They grouped the citizens, and later categorized them, creating from fellow citizens people with whom there is no coexistence.

It is worrying that the elements of this process are nowadays present in Montenegrin society, and visible through the latest incidents of the deputies who draw targets and their lack of principles towards those who are different. Apathy and lack of reaction to such a phenomenon, over time, can reduce the defensive capacity of society from future escalation and partition. Although for some citizens the symptoms of an extremist society are not visible, because there is no uninformed march through the streets, it does not mean that such social elements do not exist, as democracy is based on acceptance of diversity and it does not give anyone unlimited rights.

We note that it is important to nurture the teachings of the Holocaust, because if young people understand the processes that led to the Holocaust, then they can recognize similar phenomena in their society. Forgetting the Holocaust leads to the prevention of learning and the development of empathy.

In addition to the hope that the Montenegrin education system will pay more attention to the Holocaust, the CCE once again calls on the competent Ministry to intensify regional cooperation on the initiative of re-establishing the “Yugoslav Pavilion” at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Centre. 20,000 Yugoslavs died in this death camp, including several dozen Montenegrin citizens. We also note that the state of Montenegro must consolidate the data of all our victims who died in the Holocaust in camps across Europe, as well as to promote the role of Montenegrin society and individuals in preventing the Holocaust in Montenegro during World War II.

In 2005, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27). On that day, 76 years ago the largest concentration camp of Nazi Germany, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated by the Soviet Red Army. During its five years of existence, 1,100,000 people, mostly Jews, were killed in it. The Holocaust represents the systematic extermination of European Jews during World War II, and about 6 million Jews died in it. The resolution calls on all UN members to respect the memory of Holocaust victims and encourages the development of educational programs on the history of the Holocaust, to demonstrate a determination to help prevent acts of genocide in the future.

Miloš Vukanović, advisor