To learn nothing from human history

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Are we truly condemned to go on repeating the errors of the past, and creating new horrors?

Prague — Adolph Hitler had plans for Prague. One of the local synagogues was tohouse a permanent exhibit to the memory of a race disappeared from theearth: the Jews.

Today you can visit the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, and see how the dutyto remember has become a work of art. Stenciled on the walls are the namesof the 80,000 Jewish Czech and Moravian victims of the Holocaust. It is asif the scribes who were entrusted over the centuries with reproducing theTorah had been called upon to bear witness to each life. This exhibit, anarchive, becomes a work of art with the power that creativity brings toexpanding consciousness.

Next to Pinkas is the Jewish cemetery. Here the community laid its dead torest in a fixed space where over the years graves were placed on top ofother graves. Today the head stones, some of which go back to the 14thcentury, sit askew over the sacred land, as if they were part of theabstract art of the 20th century — cubists, Picasso, Braque and Miro.

Today we commemorate the great war of 1914-1918 and the war of 1939-1945. Thehorrors are barely tolerable even today. Sadly, it is our currenttragedies — the Sudan, Iraq and AIDS — that make us less sensitive to thetraumatic past.

A French diplomat told me that there are Muslim groups in Europe that call for death tothe Jews and to Israel. No distinction is made between the two, he said,when I asked.

And the Ariel Sharon government carries on as if it were suffering from batteredchild syndrome, wanting to inflict retribution on others for their own pastpunishment.

Are we truly condemned to learn nothing from human history, to go onrepeating the errors of the past, and creating new horrors?

The 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, let us remember.

And, let us pledge, in the name of reason, never again.

Against ignorance, never again; against evil never again.

As happened in Prague where we remember the Jews who lived, and not, asHitler wished, an entire people who perished by human hand.

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