World hasn't learnt enough to ensure another Holocaust does not happen: Singapore's Chief Rabbi

Chief Rabbi of Singapore Mordechai Abergel at a panel discussion commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan 27, 2016.
Chief Rabbi of Singapore Mordechai Abergel at a panel discussion commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan 27, 2016.ST PHOTO: PANG XUE QIANG

SINGAPORE - Humanity has not learnt enough from the Holocaust to prevent another one from happening, said the leader of Singapore's Jewish community at a panel discussion on Tuesday (Jan 26) to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"When we speak about the Holocaust, we speak not about the murder of six million Jews as a number, but the murder of one individual repeated six million times," said Rabbi Mordechai Abergel, who has been Chief Rabbi of Singapore for about 22 years.

"Do you think that the people, government and society today have truly internalised that lesson? I don't think so."

The panel discussion in Singapore was jointly organised by the Embassy of Hungary and the Embassy of Israel and was held at the Singapore Management University.

The day of Holocaust remembrance, which falls on Jan 27 every year, was designated by the United Nations in 2005 and has been observed around the world since 2006.

The Holocaust was a genocide in which some six million Jews were killed by Adolf Hitler's German Nazi regime during World War II between 1941 and 1945.

Rabbi Abergel added that the Holocaust started with the ideology of hate, coupled with fear and the crime of indifference - which he said still prevails today.

"The dialogue of hate is still going on today. Dehumanisation is still happening," he said.

"Look at Rwanda: 800,000 people were murdered. By 1992 and 1993, the world knew that the Hutus had distributed 581,000 machetes. Everyone knew what was going to happen, but no one cared."

Speaking to The Straits Times after the event, Rabbi Abergel said: "We are losing today on the dialogue to reach out to promote peace and harmony. We are losing in the battleground that is social media."

On what Singapore can learn from the Holocaust, he said: "You can't be shy. When we see something wrong, we think why would we want to get involved? But if you see a hateful comment on the internet, react. If you see something that is not right, don't stay passive.

"We are our own leaders - leaders of our own family, in our own setting. And we can use that influence for good, to promote common, sacred values that we all share - and that is how we fight xenophobia and racism."