The faint flicker of six candles lit the stage in Kemper Auditorium as Andover students conducted a candlelight ceremony to commemorate the Holocaust. Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, took place this past Sunday and Monday. The ceremony on Friday prefaced a talk by Dr. Daniel Goldhagen, former Harvard associate professor and author of “Hitler’s Willing Executioners.”
Herbert Rimerman ’17, President of Andover’s Jewish Student Union, said, “This is the second year that we have [invited Goldhagen]. We loved having Dr. Goldhagen the first time because he was such powerful speaker and he had a great impact on a lot of us on campus. Since he came for Holocaust Remembrance Day the same time last year, it was pretty much a no-brainer to try and bring him back.”
Goldhagen identified three forms of anti-Semitism: religious anti-Semitism motivated by strains of Christian belief in medieval Europe, racial anti-Semitism as practiced by the Nazis, and political anti-Semitism prevalent in ongoing conflicts between the Middle Eastern and Israeli states.
The speaker then highlighted the relevance of these historical instances to anti-Semitism witnessed in contemporary conflicts.
“If we move away from the ancient sources and look to the contemporary world, particularly the Iraq war, it was said at the time…that a cabal of Jews [was] running the United States and British government [and] betraying their countries’ [interest] for their own nefarious purposes…[A claim supported by the fact that] Iraq was a presumable foe of Israel,” Goldhagen said during the presentation.
“The reason why there’s so much anti-Semitism…is because there used to be so much [of it and] it’s not that easy for people to get rid of their views…[similar to how] Christian notions [of] the Jews’ alleged deeds and misdeeds became part of the common culture of Europe,” he continued.
Goldhagen believes that students can help combat anti-Semitism and foster civil discourse by making an effort to better understand the intricacies of controversial situations and by trying to be impartial in how they analyze them.
“One of the things to do is, I mean, take prejudice since we’re talking about it, is not to equate things because they seem to be similar in one dimension, or not to say that things are different because they’re different in one dimension, but when you’re comparing different things, different forms of prejudice, to look for both the similarities and the differences. And that’s true of any institution or any set of ideas, what are the similarities and what are the differences and how do you create a complex picture,” said Goldhagen.
Annie Lord ’19, who attended the presentation, said, “I definitely learned more about anti-Semitism on a global scale because before hearing his presentation I only really knew about it in terms of the Holocaust and not so much about the present day.”
Max Levi ’19, another audience member, said, “As a Jewish student at Andover I thought he made some very interesting points because on a day to day basis people don’t mean to be anti-Semitic but sometimes a few of their comments can come off that way. I think that things get misinterpreted by people of other races ethnicities and religions and I think people should know their boundaries.”