Some of us were shocked to learn that a local Italian official, Tommaso Coletti, used the slogan "Work makes you free," in pamphlets advertising unemployment centers (see story below). Of course, this is a translation of the "Arbeit Macht Frei" slogan that was written across the gate of Auschwitz death camp.
The lesson is apparently not that Italy is becoming Fascist or Nazi or that Coletti is an anti-Semite. It is much more subtle. Coletti wrote in the pamphlet:
"Work makes you free. I don't remember where I read this phrase but it was one of those quotes that have an instant impact on you because they tell an immense truth."
The lesson is that ignorance is pernicious, and that this pernicious ignorance is spreading. Coletti, and perhaps many other millions of European Colettis, was never really taught much about the rise of Fascism, the evils of anti-Semitism or the Holocaust.
It is the memory of the Holocaust and Fascism, and of the specific slogans that helped legitimize and popularize anti-Semitism and Fascism, that at least temporarily suppressed traditional anti-Semitism in European culture, as well as the worship of national power.
Clearly, these lessons are being forgotten. In the USA, a great lobby militates against teaching about the Holocaust and insists that there is a "Zionist inspired" "Holocaust industry." In Europe, with the possible exception of Germany, it is not necessary. Apparently nobody learns about the Holocaust and Fascism, and nobody wants to know.
Coletti had what certain historians and psychologists call an "AHA experience" - a feeling that he has come upon an "immense truth." This sort of psychological reaction can be quite valid, as for example when Archimedes discovered how to tell specific gravity of metals by testing their displacement of water versus their weight, and supposedly ran out of the bath naked, yelling "Eureka!"
But the "Aha" experience does not guarentee that what has been discovered is "true." Once can equally well have an "Aha" experience after "discovering" or being told, a falsehood. As they are not vaccinated by an understanding of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and Fascism, people are equally open to the "immense truth" hidden in falsehoods such as "Jews [or "Zionists"] rule the world," "Jews have too much power" "Jews are responsible for the war," and "our people are great, but they are denied their true greatness by the machinations of the Jews." All over the world, these theses are being advanced by racists and demagogues.
Anti-Semitism was endemic to European culture before World War II. The emerging tragedy of the post-World War II era is that the horror of the Holocaust only suppressed it for a time, but did not, apparently, destroy anti-Semitism, which is gradually re-emerging around the world. It is evident in street demonstrations, cartoons, political parties and Web sites, some of which masquerade as "anti-Zionist."
It is not work that makes you free. Christian society, as well as Arab society, should perhaps pay more attention to another adage, by a well known Jewish thinker. Jesus said:
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:32).
That is what the so-called "Holocaust industry" is really all about.
Politician uses Nazi slogan to promote work
Wed Aug 30, 1:13 PM ET
ROME - An Italian politician has used the "work makes you free" slogan that topped the gates at Auschwitz in a brochure to promote local job centres, saying he could not remember the source but was impressed by the quote.
News agency Ansa reported the vice-president of the Jewish community in Rome
had sharply criticised Tommaso Coletti, president of Italy's southern Chieti province and member of the centre-left "Daisy" party, for using the quote. Countless photographs have focussed on the "Arbeit macht Frei" sign at Auschwitz to encapsulate the horror of the Nazi death camps.
"Work makes you free. I don't remember where I read this phrase but it was one of those quotes that have an instant impact on you because they tell an immense truth," Coletti wrote in the pamphlet, Ansa reported.
Coletti could not be reached for comment and the regional job centres were also unavailable. Ansa said the governor of the Abruzzo region, which includes Coletti's province, had apologised to Italy's Jewish community.
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