It Starts With Burning Books

In 1933, Nazis were already removing Torah scrolls from synagogues and burning them.
In 1939 the mass murder of Jews began in earnest. Six years was all it took.

Why does Europe have Holocaust museums?
Why is the Holocaust taught in schools?
Why is it such a common theme in radio and television?

Is it so that the Jews can be treated as a relic,
disintegrated from their neighbors,
to be stored behind glass and used for Europeans to self-flagellate?
Is it so that Germany can be villainized?
Or is it so that we can actually learn from the past,
so that “Never Again” actually means something?

If we are to learn anything from history, 
it is that Jews were not “noble victims”.  We were slaughtered, but we always believed that the system and our neighbors and some sense of right and wrong in the societies in which we lived would save us. 

This is how we died. 

But when our neighbors fought back on our behalf, and when we rose up to fight back as well, we often survived. 

Sure, absolutely, the violence in Rosengård was exactly what the Hard Line and the white supremacists wanted to evoke from the Muslim community. Yes, it played into the hands of the white supremacists. 

But how can I condemn the riots by Malmö’s Muslims when I look back at Europe’s history? 

This is an existential crisis. It starts with burning books and it ends with burning bodies.

We at Rodfei Tsedek applaud the Swedish government’s decision to ban Rasmus Paludan. But Swedish society needs to do better, and European society across the board needs to do better, standing with our neighbors against hate. 

We Jews need to do better at standing with our Muslim sisters and brothers, and I am proud to be standing with my neighbors of all Faiths and all Volks in A World Of Neighbors under the leadership of Archbishop Antje Jackelen of the Church of Sweden.

First they came for the Quran. And they didn’t get any further than that, because we all stood with our Muslim sisters and brothers. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if Martin Niemöller’s poem was as short as that? 

It’s up to us to make sure it is this time. We look forward to working with all our neighbors for Shalom, salaam, Frieden, Peace, among us all.

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Zachary Gallant, originally from the USA, lives in Unkel, Germany, with his wife Katarina Gallant and their two children. Zachary holds an M.A. in International Politics and is the author of War: A Children’s Book and The Forgotten War Crimes.

He is one of the founders of Rodfei Tsedek aiming to revitalize the culture of solidarity central to Jewish teaching and culture.

Zachary Gallant