My earliest school years were spent in Germany, where the country was as much my teacher as instructors in the classroom. My parents drove me throughout the country, to castles, villages, and most permanently in my memory, Dachau. As a six-year-old, I had no idea that more than 6,000,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis in concentration camps (I don’t think my young mind could have comprehended the number at the time—it barely can now), but even then, I understood the gravity of it all.
I remember visiting the crematorium and asking my dad what the structures in front of me—chambers made of brick and wood—were.
“Ovens,” he replied.
Timidly, I responded, “What for?”
“The bodies,” he answered.
After that visit, I knew that my life would somehow, in some way, involve the Holocaust. And though years passed and that visit largely fell out of my memory, the connection remained, and as an adult, I became the director of a state agency that focused on genocide education. I was now directly involved in the story of human dignity, of life, of love and strength, of evil and horror.
It cannot be understated, then, the disappointment I felt when learning that Kazuyoshi Yaginuma, the director of Recovery of an MMO Junkie, a favorite series among our staff (including myself), revealed himself to be an antisemite and Holocaust denier. The Twitter trail of his account shows that Yaginuma has been liking tweets of that persuasion for years, but an excellent piece by Anime News Network lays out more fully his personal thoughts on the topic, which have become more prominent as of late.
Among his recent tweets is this one, questioning the existence of gas chambers used by Nazis during the Holocaust to kill their victims:
I should say I’m shocked by Yaginuma’s tweets, but I’m not. Though I’m far away from hotbeds of antisemitism, my background in history (I still work as a historian) and my time working in genocide education has reminded me how alive this hateful movement still is. I worked with Holocaust and genocide survivors, some of whom still feared for their lives when they went to their home countries. I’ll reiterate that: they feared for their lives when returning home, some of them visiting more than 70 years after the Holocaust ended.
Genocide is still liable to break out at any time. The moments of the past are recorded for us to know, but the evil that caused it remains active in human hearts. I believe all of us are capable of great evil—the evidence being in the small evils we commit, the pain we inflict upon one another, and the trail of human history including the Holocaust, perpetrated by a people that were no less human than you and me.
As such, the Holocaust remains alive now, as do genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Sudan, Bosnia, Iraq, and throughout the world. Some events are literally on-going, and some continue to brew as hatred between people groups bubbles and violence stirs in human hearts. The call after the Holocaust was to “never forget,” but we have forgotten—or maybe it’s more accurate to say that we remember and choose to ignore.
I don’t believe that some of us are called to work in genocide or that some of us simply choose to. Because the impact is so wide, the harm so drastic, and the connections to the human race so immovable, I believe it’s your story, too. It’s the story of all of us. As we stand up for those who don’t have a voice, as we look for opportunities to bring justice to those who have no recourse, and as we sacrifice our time, resources, and energy to rescue the powerless across the world, connecting us not by nationality or culture but by our human race, we fight this great evil. We take power away from the ignorant and cruel, like Yaginuma, and restore the value to the individuals which people like him would strip away. And hopefully we create a world where “never forget” becomes “never again,” a foundation upon which we can build a better life, seated in love and mercy and grace, for us all.