Israel works to prevent anti-Semitism in Asia

Sunday, January 13, 2013 |  Yossi Aloni

Hitler has become an iconic figure in Asia in recent years, and his book Mein Kampf is being sold in bookstores across the continent. Israel has decided to work against that trend by inviting educators from India, Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia to guide them in Holocaust studies.


For the first time a group of 20 school principals and teachers from India recently arrived in Israel to learn about the Holocaust at the International School at Yad Vashem (Israel's national Holocaust memorial and museum).

Dressed in traditional garb, the Indian guests were taught about the true horrors of the Holocaust as a background for ethics and history lessons at schools and universities in their own country. Some of the participants represented school systems that oversee the education of over two million students all the way from kindergarten to university. 

The Indian delegation was invited by the Foreign Ministry's Department for Combating Anti-Semitism and by Yad Vashem, both of which hoped the visit would spark increased study of the Holocaust throughout Asia.

This month will also see the first visit by a group of 23 educators from New Zealand. Recently, a group of 20 teachers from Australia and another delegation from Singapore arrived for background lessons on the Holocaust.

"This demonstrates how the topic of the Holocaust remains of interest and is still relevant to the 21st century," said Gideon Baker, director of the Department for Combating Anti-Semitism.

"In 2013, we will expand the study of the Holocaust to countries that have not yet studied the subject in any organized manner, such as South Korea and Cyprus, as well as establish mobile training teams in India," Baker added.

There is no anti-Semitism in India. Mein Kampf sells in local bookstores and there is general admiration of Hitler as being a "strong man," but the public is mostly ignorant about who Hitler truly was and what he did to six million Jews. "Precisely for this reason it is important to teach the Holocaust in this country," said Baker.

Asia in general does not have an anti-Semitism problem. But Nazi symbols are widely used and Hitler is often idolized without true understanding of what this means to the Jews.

Israeli diplomats in Asia say that this phenomenon most often occurs as a result of ignorance and with no hostile intentions. "A lot of people in Asia are aware of what happened in Europe in general. Unfortunately, many people think that Hitler was a hero, not a monster, so it is important to strengthen the memory of the Holocaust," explained the Foreign Ministry.

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