For as we remember the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah — defamed, demonized and dehumanized, as prologue or justification for genocide — we have to understand that the mass murder of six million Jews and millions of non-Jews is not a matter of abstract statistics.For unto each person there is a name — unto each person, there is an identity. As our sages tell us: “whoever saves a single life, it is as if he or she has saved an entire universe.” Just as whoever has killed a single person, it is as if they have killed an entire universe.
This teaching of contempt, this demonizing of the other, this is where it all began.
As the Canadian courts affirmed in upholding the constitutionality of anti-hate legislation, “the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers — it began with words”.
He is Emeritus Professor of Law at Mc Gill University, and has written extensively on the Holocaust, genocide and international humanitarian law.
The Napoleonic Enlightenment, which emancipated the Jews of Western Europe, did not make it to Eastern Europe where most Jews lived in the 18th-19th centuries.
The largest concentration of Jews ― about 5 million ― was located there, representing 40% of the Jewish population worldwide.
From 1791 until 1915, the majority of Jews living in Eastern Europe were confined by the Czars of Russia ― starting with Catherine the Great ― to an area known as the "Pale of Settlement" (meaning "borders of settlement").As Elie Wiesel put it, “Cold-blooded murder and culture did not exclude each other.If the Holocaust proved anything, it is that a person can both love poems and kill children”.Few of the perpetrators were brought to justice; and so, just as there must be no sanctuary for hate, no refuge for bigotry, there must be no base or sanctuary for these enemies of humankind.Yet those indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity – such as President Al-Bashir of Sudan – continue to be welcomed in international fora.We have already witnessed an appalling indifference and inaction in our own day which took us down the road to the unspeakable — the genocide in Rwanda — unspeakable because this genocide was preventable. We knew, but we did not act, just as we knew and did not act to stop the genocide by attrition in Darfur.