This week, I visited Auschwitz.
I had never before visited any of the death camps. The experience is absolutely chilling. Auschwitz, of course, was a complex of camps, the three largest of which were Auschwitz I, the camp most famous for the terrifyingly Orwellian German slogan welded onto its entrance, “ARBEIT MACHT FREI”; Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau, the massive death factory at which the Germans operated four large gas chambers, each of which could be used to murder 2,000 people at a time; and Auschwitz III, a large labor camp. Visiting in January, with the ice covering the ground, is a reminder of the cruelties that are possible when human beings commit to the perverse disease of Jew-hatred.
Auschwitz was liberated some 79 years ago this month. But that perverse disease is alive and well. As survivor Marian Turski says, “Auschwitz did not fall suddenly from the skies, it was all tiny steps approaching until what happened here behind me did happen.”
That gradualism masked the greatest evil in world history. As we descended into Krakow for the visit, I read the diaries of Victor Klemperer, a secular, intermarried Jew who had converted to Protestantism and who lived in Dresden during the period of Hitler’s rule. Klemperer details the slow but steady changes that turned Jews into outcasts, no matter their ideology or even religious practice. Klemperer, for his part, considered himself a good German and the Nazis the outliers; even in 1942, Klemperer wrote, “I am fighting the most difficult of battles for my German-ness now. I must hold on to it: I am German, the others are un-German.”
His protestations meant nothing.
Because Jew-hatred is and was a conspiracy theory rooted in the supposed power of the Jew. And there is nothing new about that theory; it is seductive and easy and ancient. In Egypt, Pharaoh spoke thus: “Look, the children of Israel are too numerous and large for us. Let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they may not increase.” In Persia, Haman told Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other peoples in all the provinces of your realm, whose laws are different from those of any other people and who do not obey the king’s laws.” In Poland, Bogdan Chmielnicki told the Poles that they had been sold by the Polish nobility “into the hands of the accursed Jews.” In Russia, the bestselling “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” alleged a Jewish conspiracy to exploit and control the gentile world. In Germany, Hitler wrote that the Jews sought to make the gentile world “ripe for the slave’s lot of permanent subjugation.” Today, across the Muslim world, the toxic proposition that the Jews control the world is a popular notion and provides justification for murderous terrorist attacks on Jewish civilians: according to a recent poll from the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, only 5% of all Middle Eastern and North African Arabs condemned Oct. 7 as an “illegitimate operation.”
Across time and place, such ideas sprang from religion, from ethnic polarization, from nationalistic excess. Today, at least in the West, such ideas spring from an ideology that suggests a hierarchy of oppression that dominates Western societies, in which disproportionately successful groups are victimizers and disproportionately unsuccessful groups the victimized. It is no coincidence that LGBTQ+ and BLM activists, who propagate that victim/victimizer narrative, side with the genocidal Jew-hating terror group Hamas. According to a recent Harvard/Harris poll, some 67% of people aged 18-24 in the United States say that the Jews “as a class are oppressors and should be treated as oppressors.”
Visiting Auschwitz, one can see the apex results of such perverse ideas. Another Holocaust may not be right around the corner; geopolitical conditions are not what they were in 1940, and no serious power has the means and capacity to accomplish anything like the Holocaust today (though Iran armed with a nuclear bomb would be a different story). But certainly the slogan “Never Again” cannot be used by those who currently hand-wave the atrocities of Oct. 7 in the name of fighting supposed “Jewish power.” The only way to stop Jew-hatred is to stop conspiratorial thinking — particularly the conspiratorial thinking of those in the West who despise meritocracy itself and instead see the mirage of the “powerful Jew” hiding behind every problem.
Ben Shapiro, 39, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and co-founder of Daily Wire+. He is a three-time New York Times bestselling author; his latest book is “The Authoritarian Moment: How The Left Weaponized America’s Institutions Against Dissent.” To find out more about Ben Shapiro and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.