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EPILOGUE: The Aftermath
 pg. 695 
If the Holocaust is forgotten, the survivors' testimony, even if it has been recorded, will be silenced, endangered, possibly even rendered null and void. If the Holocaust is forgotten, we will have ignored the survivors' warnings, their pleas for caring, their calls to mend the world. Then the knowledge left to us by forgetting may indeed be useless because it will leave us ignorantly indifferent to a catastrophe as real and as radically evil as it was unimaginable before it took place.

Although history never repeats itself exactly, the Holocaust shows that there is no moral or religious insurance policy, no political asset anywhere, to guarantee that human destructiveness will not do its worst. But if we look, at least from time to time, into the Holocaust's pit of destruction, painful and difficult though doing so is sure to be, we will be better equipped to cope with a new century, one that has not only the potential for amazing progress and goodness but also the possibility of squandering human life in ways even more devastating than the 20th century, and the Holocaust in particular, have demonstrated. No Holocaust repercussion is more important than committing resources to education that allows the Holocaust's "useless knowledge" to drive home that life's preciousness is priceless, its beauty fragile, its justice vulnerable, its joy precarious, its future ours to determine for good or ill.

A Yiddish poster solicits funds to purchase and plant trees in the future Israel. The trees would memorialize the six million Jews who had died in the Holocaust.
Photo: Central Zionist Archives / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
Lasting Infamy

Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel spoke at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 12, 1999. Noting that "we are on the threshold of a new century, a new millennium," he went on to ask, "What will the legacy of this vanishing century be? How will it be remembered in the new millennium?"

Even as Wiesel raised those questions, Time magazine was conducting a year-long Internet poll to register public opinion that will help to select the Person of the Century. Since the 1930s, Time has featured a person of the year, but in 1999 the stakes were higher. The Person of the Century, Time's definition explained, will be the one "who, for better or worse, most influenced the course of history over the past 100 years."

At the time of this writing, the winner's identity was unknown, but Time's list of leading contenders for the Person of the Century included V. I. Lenin, Winston Churchill, David Ben-Gurion, Martin Luther King, Jr., Pope John Paul II, and Adolf Hitler. Time provided extensive Web site information about the principal nominees. In addition to calling Hitler "the century's greatest threat to democracy," the capsule description that headed Time's entries also noted that he "redefined the meaning of evil forever."

 February 4, 1998: Nineteen prominent German intellectuals, historians, and authors urge German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to abandon plans for a Holocaust memorial in Berlin. The group feels that the planned memorial is too large and artificial, and not inclusive of Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other groups victimized by the Nazis.
 June 19, 1998: A $600 million settlement offer made by major Swiss banks to Holocaust victims whose assets had been stolen during the war after being deposited in Swiss banks is called "humiliating" by the World Jewish Restitution Organization, and is widely derided by other Jewish groups and leaders. The three banks are Credit Suisse, Swiss Bank Corp., and Union Bank of Switzerland; See early August 1998.
EPILOGUE: The Aftermath
 pg. 695 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.