'Never Again' must begin with 'We Remember' - a guest blog from Bini Guttmann, Co-President of the Austrian Union of Jewish Students (JöH)

Today we are alive!

73 years ago, our survival began. On January 27, 1945, the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated. 1.1 million people were murdered there. Today we remember.

The 27th of January was the beginning of the end of the Shoah, but not the definite end. The killing continued throughout Europe until National Socialism (months later) was defeated militarily. But hatred of Jews continues to exist.

Today we remember.

Today, many want to forget the Shoah, wishing to close the door on the Holocaust. Some even denying its existence. More than half of the people in Austria and Germany think, that we must “move on” regarding the Nazi’s crimes. Half of the world population has never heard of the Holocaust.

Remembrance is a central value in Judaism. In the Torah – the Jewish bible – the Jewish people are mandated to remember regularly. In a few years, no first-hand testimonies will be able to be given anymore. Remembrance is now the responsibility of the younger generation. It is more important today than ever to remember. For tomorrow.

“Never Again” must begin with “We Remember”. Only those who remember can learn from history. "Never Again" is a mission for the future, "Never Again" means action.

In our homelands, nationalist forces are spreading, propagating antisemitism and other forms of hatred against fellow human beings. In Austria, the successors of the ideological predecessors of the Nazis are part of the government, as Doron Rabinovici, an Austrian Historian put it. 41% of FPÖ MPs are members of German nationalist fraternities (“Burschenschaften”), which still have Aryan-clauses in their bylaws, barring anyone they don’t consider “German” from membership, including Jews and other minorities. The new Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz Christian Strache, was once arrested for participation in a illegal neo-Nazi Organisation. A string of dozens if not hundreds of pertinent incidents over the years has evidenced that the FPÖ can be considered inherently antisemitic. In France, a racist party, with a long antisemitic history, is the second strongest elected force. For the first time since 1945, the extreme right is represented in the German Bundestag. Various AFD Politicians have drawn attention to themselves by spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories and ignoring German history. AfD, Front National and FPÖ are cooperating in the European Parliament.

More and more often, these parties are active in commemorative events for victims of the Shoah. For example, last year the FPÖ organized such an event in remembrance of the November Pogrom (often referred to by the euphemistic term “Reichskristallnacht”, to warn of a "new antisemitism". Today, the FPÖ, represented by Minister of the Interior Herbert Kickl, who recently demanded, among other things, "concentrating refugees in camps", will be present at the commemoration ceremony of the Austrian parliament, and likely attempt to thereby instrumentalize Holocaust survivors. AFD chairman Alexander Gauland calls the Shoah memorial in Berlin a "mark of shame" while his party purports to commemorate Nazi crimes. These parties abuse the idea of commemoration. They mask their antisemitic ideology with hatred of Muslims. They fail to purge their racism by misappropriating the memory of the Shoah and warning of Muslim antisemitism - which is undoubtedly a huge problem in Europe, which governments need to address urgently - while maintaining their antisemitic ways in back rooms and basements. Not with us! Especially we, as young Jews, should not let them use us as a fig leaf to "kasher" this racist ideology. If right-wing extremists want to learn from history, they should look at their own first!

Elie Wiesel warned: "The opposite of love is not hate but indifference." No one should be indifferent to one of the greatest crimes in human history – and nobody should abuse the memory of the Shoah to foster the marginalization of other groups. We remember the victims, the survivors, the helpers, the resistance fighters, the rescuers and the liberators.

Never Again!

Bini Guttmann, Co-President, Austrian Union of Jewish Students (JöH)



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