On January 27th, the world observed the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The date marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Hitler’s largest death camp. It’s an opportune occasion to reflect on how each of us can help end oppression.
A key question facing historians is how could an enlightened society that produced our civilization’s greatest philosophers, poets, and composers also produce its most notorious mass murderers? How could it get millions of ordinary citizens to go along? Was the Holocaust a peculiarly German phenomenon, or are other enlightened societies capable? And, is it just about killing humans, or does it extend to other sentient beings?
Jewish Nobel laureate, Isaac Bashevis Singer provided a clear answer when he wrote: “To the animals, all people are Nazis.” His message was that, even in our own country, we are willing to subjugate our own compassion and affection for animals to those of our society. We have allowed social norms to supersede our own.
It follows that the only way to end our own participation in oppression is for each of us to reclaim our own moral values. Our very first step should be to drop animals from our menus.