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DIASPORA By SAM SOKOL 08/23/2015 12:19
Natalie Portman: Holocaust is no more tragic than other genocides

“I think a really big question the Jewish community needs to ask itself, is how much at the forefront we put Holocaust education. Which is, of course, an important question to remember and to respect, but not over other things,” she was quoted as saying.

She recalled learning about the Rwandan Genocide during a visit to a museum and being shocked that while the Holocaust figured prominently into her education, a contemporary genocide did not.

According to the United Nations, 800,000 people, “perhaps as many as three-quarters of the Tutsi [tribal] population” were killed during the course of the early ’90s genocide.

“I was shocked that that [genocide] was going on while I was in school. We were learning only about the Holocaust and it was never mentioned and it was happening while I was in school. That is exactly the type of problem with the way it’s taught. I think it needs to be taught, and I can’t speak for everyone because this was my personal education,” she told The Independent.


“I both agree and disagree with Natalie Portman,” said Menachem Rosensaft, general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, who teaches about genocide law at Columbia and Cornell universities. “Of course all genocides, as well as all similar atrocities, are tragic and must be acknowledged and commemorated as such. And no one should engage in comparative suffering.

I tell my students that from the point of view of the victims or their families, it really makes no difference if they were murdered in a gas chamber or with machetes. And, as World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder has emphasized, Jews must not be silent when Yazidis and Christians are persecuted and murdered by ISIS [Islamic State].”

“At the same time, the Holocaust is unique – not worse and certainly not more tragic – because of its enormous, continent-wide scope, because of the complexity and systematic methodology of the annihilation and the willing participation of such an enormously broad-based part of not just German but other societies,” he said to the Post on Sunday. “In this respect, the Holocaust must be acknowledged as the epitomic manifestation of genocide, as the ultimate consequence of bigotry and hatred as official public policy combined with international indifference and inaction. This, too, must be taught and emphasized.”


Auschwitz survivor David Mermelstein said, "I am shocked. The Nazis tried to erase the Jewish people from the face of this earth – 6 million. Before she talks about the Holocaust, she should go to Auschwitz with a survivor, she would never compare the Holocaust to anything else."

"We survivors know better than anyone what hatred can cause, and we were the first ones to raise alarms about Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. We are the ones who volunteer our time in schools to educate new generations about the horrific results of hatred and prejudice. But to minimize the importance of Holocaust education is dangerous – look at how much anti-Semitism exists today in Europe despite everything that has been documented. And soon, all of us survivors will be gone."