Los Angeles will memorialize the killing of six million Jews at a Holocaust Remembrance Day observance on Sunday, April 26, with author Daniel Goldhagen as the keynote speaker.
The annual event at the Holocaust Monument in Pan Pacific Park, starting at 1:45 p.m., is the largest observance of its kind in California.
Goldhagen, formerly a political science professor at Harvard, will speak on “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda,” expanding on the theme of his first book, the international bestseller “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust”(Knopf, 1996).
A son of Holocaust survivors, he is currently finishing his new book, “Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity.”
In a joint project with Jay Sanderson, CEO of JTN Productions in Los Angeles, the book forms the basis of a documentary probing the causes and nature of genocides around the world and what can be done to prevent future such slaughters.
The two men traveled together for six months, talking to perpetrators and victims of genocides in Rwanda, Kenya, Guatemala, Ukraine, Russia, Bosnia and Germany.
The 90-minute documentary, “Worse Than War,” is to be released in late summer and will be aired as a PBS television special early next year.
In a phone interview, Goldhagen probed one long-standing question: While ethnic, racial and tribal hatreds are as old as history, why do some turn into wars and genocides, while others don’t?
“The main difference is the presence of a political or charismatic leadership that can inflame existing popular prejudices into violent action,” Goldhagen said.
One obvious example is Germany, where Jews considered themselves fully integrated, until Hitler harnessed his followers’ latent prejudices and resentments into murderous persecution of Jews.
Another example cited by Goldhagen is the deeply rooted Turkish suspicion and hatred of Armenians. In the 1890s, there was a mass slaughter of Armenians, then two decades of relative calm, then the eruption of a new genocide during the fervor of World War I.
Goldhagen has taken a special interest in the evolution of anti-Semitism in Europe since the closing year of World War II.
“In 1945, there was a vast amount of anti-Semitism in both eastern and western Europe,” he said. “Then, partially under the shock when the horrors of the Holocaust became public, anti-Semitism lost its respectability in polite society and went underground.”
But since the late 1990s, anti-Semitism, often in the guise of anti-Zionism, has broken out all over Europe and has again become “respectable.”
“There won’t be another Holocaust, but it shows how hard it is to eradicate a folk prejudice,” Goldhagen said. “We have to remain vigilant.”
The gradual but profound decline in social prejudices against Jews, African Americans and Asians in the United States since the end of World War II appears to be without parallel in the world, Goldhagen believes, and barring some major catastrophes, is likely to be permanent.
Other speakers at the Sunday observance will include Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Israel Consul General Yaakov Dayan, chairman Randol Schoenberg of the sponsoring Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and Jona Goldrich, chair of the sponsoring Holocaust Monument.
Complementing the observance is the exhibit “No Childs’s Play,” created by the Yad Vashem Art Museum in remembrance of the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust. On Wednesday, some 2,800 children from private and public schools visited the exhibit, after previously studying the Holocaust in their classes.
Additional sponsors of the event are The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Jewish World Watch, Second Generation and the Donald T. Sterling Foundation.
Free transportation to Pan Pacific Park will be available in Westwood, Encino and West Hills. For information and bus pre-registration call (310) 821-9919 or (310) 280- 5010.