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HOLOCAUST Day offers the chance to honour the memory of those slaughtered by German fascism’s industrialised genocide — principally Europe’s Jews but also Gypsies, Slavs, disabled people, gay men and others designated as subhuman.
Hitler’s nazis had broken the backbone of anti-fascist resistance earlier by banning the German Communist Party (KPD) in 1933 and locking its members up in labour camps.
The nazis were strengthened from the outset by the willing co-operation of German capitalism, which foresaw enhanced profits from a repressed working class at home and expansion into neighbouring countries.
They found collaborators in the Baltic states, Poland, Ukraine and elsewhere ready to engage enthusiastically in murdering Jews from all over Europe and their fellow citizens who opted to resist nazi occupation.
When the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp was liberated by the Soviet Red Army 73 years ago today and the extent of nazi crimes was revealed, the entire wartime anti-fascist coalition declared that they must never be repeated.
While fascism has never since had the potential to dominate the world, its toxic roots have never been fully eradicated.
That is especially true of those countries overrun by the German armed forces where the nazi model of banning communism and its symbols has been mirrored by annual commemorations of local recruits to Germany’s SS death squads.
Some present a spurious even-handedness by banning both communists and fascists, although there is a disparity in how the two bans are addressed.
There is no equivalence between them. It was nazis who unleashed the Holocaust and communists who ended it, in the form of the Soviet government and its Red Army that confronted 80 per cent of the German divisions.
The revelation that groups of mainly young fascist Poles met in a night-time forest ceremony to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday last April, barely 33 miles from Auschwitz, emphasises the danger of far-right extremism in Poland.
Anti-fascists in Britain are well aware that this isn’t an isolated incident, having come into contact here with violent Polish fascists allied to local racists and anti-semites.
These wretches spit on the memory of Poles who fought bravely against Hitler’s forces in the Warsaw ghetto or in partisan groups or left the country to join either the Red Army or the British armed forces.
Postwar generations of young Germans have distinguished themselves by their support for democratic politics and by confronting those seeking to revive the fascist virus.
Germany’s postwar governments were not so honourable, reinstituting Hitler’s ban on the KPD and soft-pedalling denazification.
The announcement that German federal prosecutors are to launch a study of the postwar influence of former nazis on their office smacks of too little and too late.
While the German Democratic Republic, based on the Soviet occupation zone, was rigorous in rooting out nazi military officers, prison staff, police, teachers, civil servants and others, the federal republic was half-hearted at best and still had war criminals in high military command into the 1960s and ’70s.
The Allied victory in the second world war stopped fascism in its tracks, but, as long as there are those, especially in positions of power, who believe that scapegoating entire national, racial or religious groups can bring political or material gain, the poisonous weed will regenerate.
When, today, we pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and those who fought to end it, we must rededicate ourselves to the unfinished struggle to defeat racism, anti-semitism and Islamophobia.
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