VOYAGER'S "REMEMBER" AND THE HOLOCAUST
by Michelle Erica Green
It's an ironic word, "remember." To re-member means to put the pieces back
together. Of course, we can't reconstruct the past--can't rescue the people or
rebuild the cities. But we can save the stories.
After a holocaust, that can't ever happen. A holocaust is literally destruction
by fire--the bodies, the stories, all burned. Nothing left to remember.
Holocausts aren't easy for me to write about. I'm Jewish, and all Jews are
holocaust survivors. On Passover, we remember the exodus from an oppressive
regime which tortured and killed our ancestors. The prayers of thanksgiving are
in the first person--we explain to our children that we praise God for rescuing
US, not just those distant forebears. "I give thanks for what God did for me when
I went forth from Egypt." Further on in the seder, we sit in silence, in memory
of children who did not survive the Nazi concentration camps to celebrate the
Passover. Even Jews who do not bear the tattoos of the Nazis were marked for
death, spared by a war that killed millions of others.
I don't know exactly when or where my grandfather's relatives perished, any more
than Voyager's Enarans know how their Regressives died. But the Jewish community
survived Nazi Germany to tell the story of the Holocaust, and to piece together
the lives they had before. I'm very disturbed that we've never seen a living Jew
in Star Trek's future--that, as far as we can tell, Judaism only exists for our
24th century counterparts in the Holocaust Museum. Even so, we're better off than
the Regressives. The Enarans left nothing of them, not even in a museum. There's
almost nothing left to re-member.
I'll tell you what I thought was the most disturbing scene in that Voyager
episode. Not Corinna's betrayal of her lover, nor the deportation of unwilling
Regressives, nor the execution with the three pillars of death lined up like
crucifixes...though those were all emotionally gripping, and superbly played by
Roxann Dawson. What got me was the scene where B'Elanna charges into the farewell
party, demanding that people hear the story of the genocide, and nobody from
Voyager wants to listen.
There are Bajorans and Talaxians and African-Americans on Voyager, all survivors
of holocausts. There's Chakotay, victim of Cardassian oppression and progeny of
Native Americans, standing beside Janeway, a descendant of settlers in Indiana. I
wonder if the Maquis leader ever thinks about the irony of their backgrounds, a
thousand years of the Federation captain's ancestral history displacing his own.
In "Remember," they're too busy being embarrassed at Torres' outburst to think
about that. It's easier to let bygones be bygones, to pretend that exterminations
Among the Enarans, there's not a single survivor to tell the victims' story. The
holocaust is remembered by one of the conquerors; she can bear witness to the
events, but the Regressives themselves are gone. No one will ever know what they
really believed, who they were, what they stood for. After "Remember" aired, some
discussion ensued on America Online about whether the Regressives represented a
real threat to the Enarans--as if they somehow deserved their fate. The Nazis
said similar things about the Jews, that they were unclean, that they resisted
Aryan progress. The Turks said similar things about the Armenians before
executing them, as did the French Catholics before the "Holy Crusade" to destroy
the Albigensian Cathars. Blaming the victims is a lot easier than confronting the
lies, sometimes perpetrated by good people who don't know the whole truth, or
can't cope with resisting an entire society's hatred.
Some viewers went on to demand what proof we got that the Regressives were really
slaughtered. Maybe the whole incident was one of those science fiction things
like in "Persistence of Vision": B'Elanna let herself get possessed by an evil
alien as an excuse to have sex, and what she saw didn't matter, it was just a
reflection of her guilty feelings. She never personally witnessed the mass
executions the Regressives spoke of. Nobody but one old woman claimed to remember
anything; maybe she just felt terrible about having let her father execute her
boyfriend, and the strain of that caused her to believe his tales after his
death. Maybe it actually happened the way the Enarans said, and the Regressives
died out after the resettlement.
I hear similar claims about the Holocaust as well. No one actually came out of a
gas chamber to tell what happened inside...so, say the skeptics, maybe the
chambers didn't exist. Maybe the concentration camps were resettlements, just
like the Nazis said they were. Maybe there's some other reason for the mass
graves. Throughout history, revisionists have had explanations for all the most
horrific human events--maybe black slaves wanted to be brought to America to
escape plagues in Africa, maybe the Indians wanted the English to come "civilize"
them. People who could have acted to stop the atrocities believed whitewashed
versions of events for years. Who would want to believe a horrible truth, let
alone try to end or explain it?
I love the fact that "Remember" had a German director.
If we don't tell someone about what the Enarans did, it could happen again,
Torres reminds Janeway, who's busy reciting noninterference directives--the same
sort which governments (including our own) have used as excuses for staying out
of other nations' "ethnic cleansing" programs. Though the systematic slaughter of
six million Jews was on an unprecedented scale, the ugliest truth about the event
we call The Holocaust is that Nazi Germany wasn't the first instance of holocaust
on a national scale. It wasn't even the first time it happened to the Jews. And
it won't be the last, if nobody remembers.
I remember a couple of years ago, sitting in synagogue on Yom Ha'shoah, the Day
of Remembrance for the Holocaust. "Never again," we recited, in English and
Hebrew. Halfway around the world, Serbs were slaughtering Muslims by the
thousands. We watched it every night on the news--another entire community
I think about the woman B'Elanna transferred her memories to--on whom the
responsibility now falls to find the truth, to tell others, to do something to
stop it from happening again. She's bound to be extremely unpopular, vilified,
threatened. Perhaps even wiped out, like the old woman who gave B'Elanna her life
story, and like the Regressives themselves. Some might argue that letting the
sins of the past go will make for a brighter future--that pointing to horrors and
saying, "This is our nature, to slaughter like animals," can serve as an excuse
for more horrors rather than a call for change. Yet history doesn't mean anything
if the events of the past become nothing more than anecdotes, a gate, a museum.
Forgiveness is the first step in healing--people have done awful things, and have
got to face up to them, but we also must see some potential for growth. It's
necessary to reconstruct what was lost, remind the world that the horrors *can*
happen again, and then put the pieces into new patterns to make sure that they
*don't*. "Remember" has to be more than just a word.