Posts Tagged holocaust

In Every Generation…Victimhood is a License to Persecute

exodusHolocaust Remembrance Day always falls during the week that follows Passover. At first glance, the two would seem to have little in common — one memorializes the millions of European Jews annihilated by Nazi Germany; the other commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in ancient Egypt.

Yet for all their obvious differences, a fundamental similarity links these two crucial chapters in Jewish history. Both were attempts at genocide — and in both cases the perpetrators justified their savageries by claiming that they were the real victims, threatened by the people they intended to wipe out.

At the Passover Seder, retelling the 3,000-year-old story, Jews read the passage from Exodus in which Pharaoh rationalizes the lethal repression he is about to inflict on the Hebrews. “Come, let us deal wisely with them,” he declares. “Otherwise they may become so many that if there is a war they will join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the land.” His notion of dealing wisely: slave labor, followed by mass murder. “Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every boy that is born to the Hebrews, you shall throw into the Nile.’ ”

Thirty centuries later, the same pattern preceded the Holocaust.

“The Jewish people stands against us as our deadly foe,” railed Adolf Hitler in 1922, “and will so stand against us always.” More than 100,000 Jews had served in the German army during World War I; 12,000 had fallen in battle. Yet Germany’s defeat was blamed on a “stab in the back” by disloyal traitors — especially the Jews. To this baseless libel the Nazis added others, such as the grotesque claim of race defilement. “The Jews were responsible for bringing Negroes into the Rhineland with the ultimate idea of bastardizing the white race,” Hitler seethed in “Mein Kampf.” Such a villainous enemy could be shown no tolerance and given no quarter: “It must be the hard-and-fast ‘Either-Or.’ ”

Within weeks of coming to power, the Nazis launched the reign of terror that would culminate in the Final Solution. At every step, their crimes against the Jews were described as self-defense. “The Jews of the whole world are trying to destroy Germany,” screamed government posters as the Nazis unleashed a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. “German people, defend yourselves!” In every issue of Der Stürmer, the Nazi newspaper published for more than 20 years by Hitler’s ally Julius Streicher, a front-page banner proclaimed: “The Jews are Our Misfortune.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Honoring All Who Saved Jews

By EVA WEISEL
Khaled Abdul Wahab in 1936

Khaled Abdul Wahab in 1936

IN December 1942, when I was 13 years old, German troops occupied my hometown. Within days, our house was commandeered as an officers’ mess hall. I soon had a yellow star on my dress, setting me apart from many of my childhood friends. The men of our family were ordered into forced labor. My happy life had vanished.

Luckily, an influential local man knew of our difficult straits and generously offered his protection. One night, he ferried the women, children and old men in our family to a farm he owned about 20 miles outside of town. There, he said, we would be safe. Though the stables he provided us for lodging were modest, with just a drape across the door to protect against the elements, we were relieved to be behind the thick, high walls of his property. We were deeply grateful.

As luck would have it, however, a German unit arrived in the area not long after we did. Our host told us to get rid of our yellow stars, stay inside the farm walls and keep far away from the main house. He had his own strategy for dealing with the Germans. A bon vivant and world traveler, he invited German officers for evenings filled with food and drink. While nearly two dozen of us were hiding in one part of the farm, he protected himself from the prying eyes of the Germans by entertaining them on the other side of the farm.

Our host’s strategy worked well, until the night a couple of drunken German officers wandered away from the main house.

In the courtyard outside the stables, they started banging on the courtyard door and shouting, “We know you are Jews and we’re coming to get you!”

My grandmother started screaming “Cachez les filles!” — “Hide the girls!” I remember being shoved under the bed, trembling and sobbing as I tried to hide under a blanket.

At that moment of unspeakable fear, as our hearts pounded and tears poured from our eyes, a guardian angel came to the rescue. Out of nowhere, our host appeared. A strong, powerful man who projected authority and commanded respect, he stopped the Germans and managed to lead them away.

The next day, our host came to the stables. We rushed to express our thanks to him, but he was more eager to apologize to us. He said he was sorry that we had to face the terrifying ordeal of the Germans’ threats, expressed relief that he had intervened in time to prevent a horrible tragedy, and promised that it would never happen again. We never found out how he fulfilled his promise — perhaps he bribed the Germans — but he did. We passed the rest of the German occupation at our host’s farm, without incident.

During the horrors of the Holocaust, non-Jews saved many thousands of Jews from death and depravity at the hands of Germans and their allies. Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial museum, has recognized more than 23,000 of these brave men and women as “The Righteous Among the Nations.” Our family’s rescuer deserves to be among that number. And in his case, the impact of recognition would have powerful reverberations, striking a blow against Holocaust denial in a part of the world where such denial is widespread.

That is because my hometown is Mahdia, on the eastern shore of Tunisia, and our rescuer, Khaled Abdul Wahab, was an Arab Muslim. (He passed away in 1997.)

So far, however, Abdul Wahab has been denied the recognition he deserves. Nearly five years ago, in January 2007, the Department of the Righteous at Yad Vashem nominated him to be a “righteous,” the first Arab ever to be formally considered for this honor. This nomination was based on witness testimony from my late sister, Anny Boukris. In March of that year, however, the official Commission for the Designation of the Righteous, a body presided over by a retired Israeli judge and created by Israeli law to decide who merits recognition as a “righteous,” voted to reject the nomination. That decision was kept secret for two years.

In 2010, that same jurist, Justice Jacob Tuerkel, sent the Abdul Wahab file back to the commission for a second review. This time, the case was bolstered by two fresh testimonies — a video interview of my cousin Edmee Masliah, who was with me at the farm and now lives outside Paris, and a notarized letter I wrote recounting my own experience. Yad Vashem now had three firsthand accounts of the story. But to my complete dismay, the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous once again voted to reject the nomination. Abdul Wahab was a noble man, I was told by Yad Vashem, but his actions did not rise to the statutory level required to merit the “righteous” designation — that is, he didn’t “risk his life” to save Jewish lives.

While that may be the wording of the law, I am told by experts that Abdul Wahab would not be the first rescuer of Jews not to have suffered physical harm, let alone life-threatening danger. Many in France who have won that designation were honored because they acted to save Jews without knowing for sure what fate would await them if they were caught. In addition, some of the famous diplomats honored as righteous were never arrested, injured or threatened with death for aiding Jews.

I refuse to believe that Yad Vashem has one standard for “righteous” in Europe and another for “righteous” who performed their sacred duty on the other side of the Mediterranean, in an Arab country.

Sixty-nine years after pinning a yellow star to my chest in my native land, I know that I was able to enjoy a long, full life because Abdul Wahab confronted evil and saved me, as he saved other fortunate members of my family. I hope that Yad Vashem reconsiders his case before no one is left to tell his story.

Eva Weisel lives in Los Angeles. She is retired from the banking industry.

 

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Antisemitism at Yale

antisemitism at Yale UniversityThe modern university is no longer made up simply of departments and regular professors teaching students. Ancillary centers, programs, and initiatives proliferate, undertaking research on every conceivable topic and, in exchange for use of the university’s name, bringing in prestige, money, and the occasional celebrity. The fates of such entities rarely make the New York Post. But anti-Semitism is not a normal subject.

Just how abnormal a subject it is, and how volatile its study can be, has come to public attention with Yale University’s termination of the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) after five years of successful operation. Led by the sociologist Charles Small, YIISA was the largest research unit in North America devoted to examining an issue of great antiquity and urgent contemporary significance. Its mission was defined clearly: “to explore this subject matter in a comprehensive, interdisciplinary framework from an array of approaches and perspectives as well as regional contexts.”

charles asher small , sociologist studying antisemitism at YalePursuant to that mission, YIISA annually assembled groups of scholars for seminars and conferences and published a series of studies. The scholars attached to the initiative included such figures as David Hirsh of Goldsmiths College in London, Irwin Cotler, the former Canadian attorney general, and Bassam Tibi, professor emeritus of international relations at the University of Goettingen. Dozens of other well-credentialed academics participated in YIISA seminars, with interns, graduate fellows, and Yale faculty members helping to realize the enterprise’s promise of becoming a “vibrant space” for scholarship, discussion, and debate.

But “initiatives” are fragile things, and this one, evidently, initiated more than its host had bargained for. At a 2010 conference titled “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity,” experts from around the world gathered to deliberate the most dangerous global form of contemporary anti-Semitism, namely, the Muslim variety. Dangerous in more ways than one: the event’s discussions provoked the ire of some Yale faculty and students, as well as representatives of the official Muslim world; the ire evidently caused institutional discomfiture; and YIISA’s fate was sealed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Parshah HaShavua in Outer Space

“An Article of Hope” is an award-winning documentary about the tiny Torah Scroll that Colonel Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, carried into space.   The Torah’s journey starts in the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, and eventually reaches the day it was celebrated aboard the space shuttle Columbia.  Read the rest of this entry »

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A Survivor’s View

Emanuel Tanay, holocaust survivor, psychologistThe author of this article is Dr. Emanuel Tanay, a well-known and well respected psychiatrist:

A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates.  When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.  ‘Very few people were true Nazis,’ he said, ‘but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care.  I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools.  So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen.  Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come.  My family lost everything.  I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.’

We are told again and again by ‘experts’ and ‘talking heads’ that Islam is the religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace.  Although this assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant.  Read the rest of this entry »

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The Necklace

Israeli pediatrician and baby; holocaust survivorsDuring the Holocaust, a large group of Polish women were rounded up to be sent to the gas chambers. As the group gathered their possessions to take with them into the camp the evil Nazi officers called out to all the villagers who were standing by watching, “Anything that these Jews leave behind you may take for yourselves, because for sure they will not be coming back to collect them!”

Two Polish women who were standing nearby saw a woman towards the back of the group, wearing a large, heavy, expensive coat. Not wanting to wait to see if others got the coat before them, they ran to the woman and knocked her to the ground, grabbing her coat and walked away.

As the Jewish women were being led away, these two Polish women lay down the coat to divide the spoils of what was hiding inside. As they rummaged through the pockets, they discovered gold jewelry, silver candlesticks and other heirlooms, but still, as they lifted the coat it seemed heavier than it should be. After further inspection they found a secret pocket, and hidden inside the coat was a little baby girl. Read the rest of this entry »

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IBM’s Anti-Semitic Whacko is Back!

IBM and the HolocaustCharles A. Antonelli, a Delivery Compliance Administrator for IBM Global Services in Boston, has submitted a bill to the Massachusetts General Court that would ban Jewish and Moslem circumcision.  Jews and Moslems would be punished by fines, imprisonment for up to fourteen years, or both. Read the rest of this entry »

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