Friday, Jan. 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day — an annual day that honors the memories of the victims of the Nazi era. Seven decades after Hitler perpetrated his terrible genocide on the Jewish people, the world is faced with a disturbing question: Can the Nazis be forgiven?
As a member of a Jewish family that endured the war, this is more of an emotional question. I grew up in Australia, where my grandparents came after the war. I was surrounded by many survivors — members of my own family among them. Australia has the highest number of Holocaust survivors per capita outside Israel.
I grew up in a community of these remarkable people, but not once did I hear the topic of forgiveness for the Nazis discussed. The Nazis hardly warranted their consideration. Instead, what prevailed was the distinctive Jewish response to the tragedy of the Holocaust of not asking why, but what do we do now. Invariably the answer was a single-minded determination and commitment to rebuilding a new generation of proud and committed Jews.
As a rabbi and teacher, however, I see the question as more complex. It challenges us toward a more profound examination of some of Judaism’s deepest ethical mores and theological beliefs.