A new memorial to the Holocaust stands today in Washington, DC. It is by all accounts a mind-arresting building, described by one observer as "the architecture of forced marches, of mechanized cruelty, of industrialized death..its calculated irrationalities implying a machinery of derangement."
It was dedicated on April 23 by Israeli President Chaim Herzog and American President Bill Clinton to the memory of Europe's six million Jewish dead.
Many reporters and observers wondered whether the world really needed another memorial to the worst crime ever committed by man. There is the preserved camp at Auschwitz, memorials in Poland and elsewhere in Europe, and there is Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Do world leaders really need another place to stand in once a year and solemnly swear: "Never again"?
Two days later, three photographs and an article in the New York Times answered these questions. The pictures showed a Serb soldier cold-bloodedly executing a wounded man, a Jewish boy in Warsaw being rounded up for transportation to a death camp, and Jewish men and women lined up against a wall minutes before a Nazi killing squad opened fire.
The Times tried to draw parallels between what is happening in Yugoslavia today and the horrors of Germany in 1943: "Does the world," the paper asked, "still recognize a holocaust?"
And there's the rub. The Washington Memorial is important, not because what is happening in Yugoslavia is a holocaust, but because it is not. Of course, what is happening between the Serbs and Croats is atrocious, mindless, unmitigated evil. Growing universal outrage is mounting pressure on the West to militarily intervene. The slaughter and rape must be, has to be stopped. But it is not a holocaust.
Had the Holocaust happened in 1993, we would have seen televised for months on end, men, women and children being herded into enormous killing rooms, and minutes later mountains of corpses being dragged off to the crematoria. We would have seen areas wiped clean on the map of Europe as whole communities were removed from the face of the earth. And earlier we may have watched live coverage of the international conferences, where nation after nation damned the Jews with the words: "No, we cannot take them in. We cannot give them shelter."
That was the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the systematic, mechanical mass-murder of 6,000,000 human beings for no other reason than that they were Jews. There were no territorial disputes, no boundaries were being fought over. The Jews were not armed nor did the vast majority try and fight against the Nazis. Worst of all, their heinous crime against God and man was not hidden from the world. Oh yes, the world's leaders said afterwards, heads bowed with shame, "Never again". But they could not say, "We never knew." Because they did.
Israel was born out of the flames of Auschwitz; its very raison d'être is to provide a sanctuary from genocide. Those who attempt to erode the Holocaust's uniqueness are chipping away at the foundations of the Jewish state, and are helping to create the conditions in which another real holocaust could be carried out against the Jewish people.
It has been suggested that, had we had CNN TV back then, the world would not have allowed the Holocaust to happen. What bitter irony then that today, instead of working to ensure that "never again" really means just that, the international press is actually helping to set the climate in which another act of genocide against the Jewish people could conceivably take place - with hardly a murmur from the world.
How are these conditions being created? As mentioned, one way is by diluting the significance and importance of the Holocaust: Another witnesses constant media attempts to water down international sympathy for the Jews, by portraying Israel as the villain of the piece, while the enemy who has sworn to destroy her is regarded as the underdog - the victim of Israeli "aggression" - the Palestinian Arab.
Of course the Western world in general does not want Israel to suffer just as it did not want the Jews in Europe to suffer. But suffer they did, mostly as a result of total indifference. And this is where the danger lies - in the indifference generated by the generally negative attitude to Israel which is being developed in the world. As David Bal Illan, executive editor of The Jerusalem Post said: "It will be much easier to allow Israel to be endangered now than it would have been if there was a tremendous amount of sympathy for her...and the more this sympathy is eroded the more difficult it becomes to ask the world to pay a little more attention to what is happening to Israel."
Never again? But it is happening again. As the attitudes of Western governments harden towards Israel, so too greedy Western firms are arming Arab nations with weapons of mass destruction.
One other major difference between 1943 and now. Back then the Jews went defenseless to the slaughter, until in the last days a few rose heroically against the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto. Today the Israeli Defense Forces comprise the fourth-best fighting force in the world. And they stand between the Jewish nation and those intent on destroying her. But for them, Israel's enemies would be free to have their way.