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Behind the Aegis

(54,332 posts)
Sat Jan 27, 2024, 05:08 PM Jan 2024

My family was murdered in Auschwitz. Holocaust metaphors are a cruel distortion [View all]

Since time immemorial, authors have utilised metaphors as powerful literary devices, recognising their capacity to convey vivid imagery and evoke strong emotions. Sadly, Holocaust metaphors are all too common today. We have seen some people casually using Holocaust terminology to denounce anyone or any policy with which they disagree. Holocaust metaphors cover a broad spectrum of divisive political and social issues, including everything from people speaking out against Covid health mandates to protesting against abortion.

Since the brutal attack by Hamas on October 7th, and the ensuing response by Israel, there has been a marked increase in people using the memory of the Holocaust to make a political point. The conflict has elicited a strong emotional response for many, and we live in a democratic society that values the right to have robust and open debates over such sensitive issues. However, it is important to be vigilant that the language used in these debates does not serve to fuel hatred. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance cites “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” as an example of contemporary antisemitism.

Such comparisons diminish the gravity of the Holocaust; they are not only insensitive, offensive, and hurtful, but even worse are inaccurate and often dangerously distorting of the history. But when people like me – a Holocaust survivor – point out that the Holocaust should not be used for shock value, we are sometimes ‘advised’ to be less sensitive and that we should get over it. This implies that we are overreacting. Really? It is easy to accuse the victim of being overly sensitive when you have never experienced injustice firsthand. How can we not be sensitive given the crime perpetrated against us? Lest we forget, European Jewry came close to annihilation.

Let me tell you about my experiences: I was just 12 years old when my entire family was deported from our hometown in Hungary to Auschwitz. There, the Nazis murdered my parents and seven siblings. I survived by pretending to be 16 which meant my life was spared for slave labour. Later when I reached the true age of 13, I marked my Bar Mitzvah alone, behind barbed wire. I endured unimaginable hardship before being liberated by American forces in 1945. For many years after the Holocaust, I never spoke to anyone about my experiences; I was simply unable to find the words to convey the depth of my suffering. For me the Holocaust is not history; it is my life story, a very personal pain.

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