On Wednesday, more than 33,000 serving and retired police officers rallied in support of the 7 police officers convicted of 2 years imprisonment for assaulting Occupy protester Ken Tsang in 2014. During the rally, a speaker was filmed comparing insults officers had received with the Nazi persecution of Jews during WWII. “It’s like we’re now in WWII. We are Jews facing the persecution of the Nazis, aren’t we?” “Yes!” the crowd cheered on.
Immediate responses from the Israeli and German consulates
In response to the comparison, a statement by the Israeli Consulate said:
“Without relating to the trial of the seven police officers, the alleged statement at the rally that made a reference to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany is inappropriate and regretful. We wish no further comparison will be made to the Jewish Holocaust.”
The German Consulate General also chimed in:
“The reported reference to the Holocaust shows a regrettably insufficient knowledge of historical facts… The Jewish population in Germany was persecuted by the State and all its organs during the Nazi dictatorship and millions lost their lives. Therefore the comparison between the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and police officers convicted for an abuse of power is utterly inappropriate.”
Stories of Holocaust survivors who lost their entire families
During university, I’ve had the privilege of listening to actual Holocaust survivors giving testimonies of their sufferings during the Holocaust which saw the deaths of 6 million Jews. One of whom was Dr. Robert Krell. Dr. Krell was born in Holland and survived the Holocaust in hiding with a local family who risked their lives trying to save him. His entire family died in the Holocaust. There was simply no word that could describe his sense of loss.
The Holocaust was the systemic killing of Jews by the Nazis
The Nazis first attempted to quarantine the Jews by enacting the Nuremberg Laws in 1933. Their plan descended from discrimination to systematic murder. By the end of WWII, the Nazis dedicated its entire regime to the extermination of Jews, who were deported to gas chambers like Auschwitz. Even when the Nazis were losing the war, they felt duty bound to kill as many Jews to cleanse the world of vermin. To the Nazis, Jews were sub-human.
Jews were degraded to the point that Nazis felt obligated to kill
In Primo Levi’s The Drowned and the Saved, Levy – himself a Holocaust survivor – wrote on the sheer absurdity of the violence Jews were made to endure:
“… before dying the victim must be degraded, so that the murderer will be less burdened by guilt. This is an explanation not devoid of logic but it shouts to heaven: it is the sole usefulness of useless violence.” (p.126)
What Levy means is that the victims were degraded to the point that the oppressor feels that they deserved to be tortured. It is, then, the oppressor’s responsibility to torment the victims. This was the sheer moral chaos in the murder of 6 million Jews. This was the kind of human indignity the police officer at Wednesday’s rally was referring to.
Learning from the Holocaust, what responsibilities do we have? To have our eyes opened to the many social problems and human traumas inflicted by arbitrary violence. We all have a moral duty to do everything within our power to ensure that there will not be another Holocaust and to stand up to injustices inflicted upon us and others. The police as enforcers of justice has a duty to ensure that such arbitrary violence shall never in our lives be inflicted on humanity. Never again.