Opinion: Our timely Holocaust exhibit

Contributed Photo by Michael Dzik / The Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga is distributing postcards as part of an antisemitism awareness campaign it launched in 2022.

There's been much preparation for the upcoming exhibit, "Americans and the Holocaust: A Traveling Exhibition for Libraries from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum," at the Chattanooga Public Library from Jan. 27 to Feb. 27. Announcements began as early as 2019 noting that the Chattanooga's library is one of only 50 across the nation to display this 1,100-foot exhibition. The exhibit has generated multiple events, including a scholar's panel featuring experts from University of Tennessee-Knoxville, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the Tennessee Holocaust Commission. You can also hear from Whitwell Middle School students about their Paper Clips Project, a monument to Holocaust victims.

Yes, the history of the Holocaust has spurred much discussion, but I want to highlight that this is not just history. The antisemitism that spawned the Holocaust remains active today.

Antisemitism was recently on display when Nick Fuentes had lunch with former President Donald Trump and Kanye West at Mar-a-Lago. Fuentes, 24, began his Jew-hatred as a freshman at Boston University. He shouted "Jews will not replace us" with the other torchbearers at Charlottesville's Unite the Right rally.

When Fuentes left college for his live-streamed show, "AMERICA FIRST with Nicholas J. Fuentes," he showed himself as the next generation of this World War II-era movement. Led by Charles Lindbergh, AMERICA FIRST blamed the Jews for forcing America into World War II and spread the Nazis' favorite antisemitic conspiracies of global financial control by Jews. Today, these folks deny the Holocaust happened and spout those same conspiracy theories on Trump's Truth Social platform and far-right social networks.

Counteracting the Jew hatred that's becoming more public will take conscious and purposeful action. It's popping up in all sorts of strange ways. There are new antisemitic terms like "Holocough," a call to spread COVID to Jews. Then there was the response to the Holocaust Memorial in Bedford Heights, Ohio, receiving national recognition as part of the omnibus government funding package. The online comments expressed outrage that tax dollars were used for a memorial for non-Americans killed in non-American countries. Despite it being privately funded, the comments went on to say that only Jews, who control government and media, could get such recognition when so many others are ignored.

Sadly, everything old is new again. Chattanooga's Jewish Federation has created billboards and cards underscoring the current antisemitism and how we must counteract it. Here are some quotes from those cards: "We're just 75 years since the gas chambers. So no, a card calling out Jew hate isn't an overreaction." Underscoring that a postcard is just the beginning, one card says, "Can a postcard end antisemitism? No. But you're not a postcard."

My father was a U.S. military intelligence officer during World War II and wrote in his letters that he'd met individual Germans who'd spoken out against Hitler and Nazism. He admired their bravery, knowing that it couldn't have been easy.

How can I not carry on my father's legacy? I'm speaking out by writing this column, and I've gone further by creating books and a new documentary with his letters. The exhibit-related "Shoah Songbook" event probably won't include my poem thanking my father for this legacy, but I'll share excerpts here in gratitude for all who fight against hate:

"Let us say a prayer of thanks and remembrance of courage and of valor.

"To watch the destruction of civilization and hear the cries of the oppressed, / Is to know that good people cannot remain silent or /deny commandments from above."

Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at deborah@diversityreport.com.