Industrial slaughter

Reva Klein reviews an impressive and timely CD-Rom on the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust. LEST WE FORGET. Endless Interactive Belgium, CD-Rom for Multimedia PCs and Apple Macintosh computers, Pounds 39.99 including VAT News Multimedia - 01525 852813

This disc, Lest We Forget: A History of the Holocaust, is possibly the most comprehensive, exhaustive exploration of the annihilation of European Jewry on CD-Rom. It is also probably one of the best resources in any medium to date on this most horrific and least comprehensible chapter of modern history.

Produced, developed and published by Endless Interactive of Belgium with an original text by David Cesarani, Professor of Modern Jewish Studies at Manchester University, it combines devastating graphics, including much archive film footage, and scholarly but accessible text to deliver a holistic view of the Holocaust and the events surrounding it.

While the pictorial impact is emotional, the text is cleverly designed to convey the intricate development of the Final Solution by stages. Click the options in whatever sequence you wish and what you find is a series of progressively oppressive legislation, more and more racial in orientation and racist in intent, steadily stripping away first the rights, then the liberty and finally the humanity of Jews, along with the disabled, the mentally ill, homosexuals and gypsies.

The beginning of the Nazi party's legislative onslaught started as early as 1933 with racial purity laws which, as the text points out, were given explicit backing by lawyers, doctors, social workers and psychiatrists. You can't get much more respectable than that. But putting it into the wider context of historical anti-semitism shows that the Nazis were in no way original in their demonising of the Jews. The tradition goes back many centuries, as does the pseudo-scientific racial theory that was used so widely in their propoganda campaigns on posters, in cinemas and in the classrooms of the Reich.

Maps of the concentration camps, with aerial photographs of particular buildings, show well the systematic and organised way the Germans set about slaughtering their victims. These were true military industrial complexes in which the major industry was death.

Lest We Forget puts everything into context. You can learn about where the Jews originated from and how the diaspora came to be, which is crucial for an understanding of their fate under the Nazis. There is an option on the immensely brave resistance, Jewish and gentile, against the insuperable odds of the German army. And another section tells the story of how many countries chose to turn their backs on what they knew was happening.

Although it is too close for comfort for some, I hope there are teachers who will point out the parallels with our knowledge of the concentration camps and mass killings in Bosnia. At least there was no television in the 1940s.

With more and more Holocaust denial as time passes, and the rise of neo-Nazism in western as well as eastern Europe, Lest We Forget is not only an important historical document but a reminder that even on the brink of the millenium, we forget the Holocaust at our peril.

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