Tag Archives: Poland

One Person of Integrity can make a Difference

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“One person of integrity can make a difference” is a quote from the late Elie Wiesel who departed this world yesterday at the age of 87.  This is a man who had every right to say these words, because in his strength, survival and life, it is nearly impossible to find anyone who made such an enormous difference with strength and integrity of enormous proportions.

We all know the story of the plight of the Jewish people during Hitler’s rule.  6 million Jews were killed in numerous concentration and death camps set up primarily to solve what the Nazis saw as the Jewish problem.  The most notorious of all the camps, the camp that symbolized the horrors committed during this time was Auschwitz.  One estimate is that 1.1 million of Jewish victims of the Holocaust were  murdered in Auschwitz.  Although most people who ended up there never left, there was a small percentage that did survive, and although for many the horror was too great to relive, there were those who would tell their story.  No one did so with greater skill, honor and integrity than Elie Wiesel.

Ever since his death I have thought a lot about what it was that made Elie Wiesel great. People are often thrust into difficult even horrific circumstances.  To survive as a functioning decent member of society is, in itself heroic, but to tell the story and make it a cause is taking that heroism to another level.  In 1944 at the age of 15, Wiesel was taken by the Nazis from his home in Romania with his family and deported to the camps in Poland. His mother and a sister were killed in Auschwitz and his father was murdered in Buchenwald a few weeks before its liberation.  To be there when that happened, to lose one’s parents and a younger sister in so short of a time would already be enough to destroy anyone’s spirit, not to mention the countless horrors he witnessed during his stay in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald.  Rather than let his spirit be crushed, Wiesel came out of this horror of all horrors with a resolve and strength of character unparalleled.

 “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed….Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
Elie Wiesel, Night

It is my contention that not only do Jews everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to Elie Wiesel, but so do good and decent people of all faiths.  History books tell the story of the Holocaust, but nothing can ever do so with the power and purpose of someone who was there, experienced humanity in its darkest moments, and in their survival remained committed to letting the world know, all in the hope that somehow it could prevent humanity from ever doing anything like that again. Elie Wiesel did all of that, and he did so with a dignity unfathomable.   This man who was almost killed as a teenage boy, went on to live a life that will keep his spirit alive forever.

“For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences.”
Elie Wiesel, Night

I found an ironic symmetry yesterday as Elie Wiesel passed away at 87 just hours before sunset and the beginning of the day on the Jewish calendar commemorating the day in which my father, also a Holocaust survivor also passed away at the age of 87.  The education I received from both my parents, both survivors, always made me aware and knowledgeable of what took place during that time that everyone would hope to forget but are obligated to remember.  With that in mind I leave you with this one last quote from the great Elie Wiesel of Blessed Memory.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

Rest in Peace Mr. Wiesel and thank you. I will try to never be indifferent.

 

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Bernie’s Double Down on Israel is About Fear, Not Courage

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After watching the debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, some commentators went on the record as saying they felt Senator Sanders showed courage in his continuing insistence that Israel’s military action in the most recent Gaza War was a “disproportionate response”.  Their analysis was that a Jewish politician coming to New York and taking this unpopular stance in, of all places Brooklyn, took bravery and character, regardless of whether you agree with his viewpoint or not.  The reality is, despite how it looks on the surface, nothing could be further from the truth.

I don’t blame the commentators for feeling this way.  I do recognize that when Van Jones, a journalist for CNN and an African-American showed a degree of admiration for Sanders for not backing down, he was very clear about the fact that it was whether you agree with him or not.  His admiration for his character was not an endorsement of the viewpoint.  Nevertheless, just as I can intellectually understand but not comprehend what it means to be black in America, so too Van does not understand what it is like to be the son of Holocaust survivors. Incidentally, neither does Bernie Sanders.

Even when discussing his Jewish background and experience with Israel, Senator Sanders comes across more as he is talking about them than us.  I hardly ever use the term self-hating Jews anymore, not because I don’t believe that some Jews fall into that category, but because I believe it to be inappropriate to declare what someone hates or loves unless they come right out and say it.  However, I do know that the perspective of a cultural Jew whose parents immigrated from Poland with little money is very different than a proud Jew whose parents lived through Nazi-occupation first hand. But more importantly I recognize that those who take the side of the enemy hardly ever do so because of a courage of convictions, rather they do so out of a fear so deep-rooted, they either don’t know it exists or they deny it to the world.

The enemies of the free world are dangerous and frightening people.  Most of these enemies hate America and its way of life with a passion.  To an Islamic Extremist, there is almost nothing worse than an American with American values.  Almost. The one thing worse is a Jewish American.  That’s not to be taken lightly in today’s world. After all if history proves nothing else, it proves that hatred for Jews is easily converted into violence against Jews.  Throughout time, but most notably during the time of Adolph Hitler, there were always Jews who took the side of the enemy because they felt it would save them.  The harsh reality is, that it not only ended up in the loss of their lives, it ended up in the destruction of their soul.

I have absolutely no problem with a presidential candidate speaking of the rights of Palestinians to live in dignity.  I have also gone on the record many times as being someone completely willing to blame Israel when they deserve to be blamed.  That being said, a sovereign nation defending its very right to exist and retaliating against missile attacks on its population centers by a terrorist organization is not the guilty party.  Furthermore, being a Jewish politician in America and taking the side of the terrorist organization not only does not make you an individual of courage and character, it ultimately does nothing to make you immune from those who hate the Jewish people.  All it does do is make you another typical politician pandering to a certain demographic, albeit not the demographic of those born into the same religion as you.  It also makes you a coward more than it makes you a hero.  Taking on Israel is not the same as taking on Wall Street.  Taking on Israel is easy.  In the world in which we live today, it might even help a politician get more funding, and generally speaking, and I say this with pride,pro-Israel Jews don’t commit acts of violence against those who oppose their views.  I have little doubt Bernie Sanders knows that as well.

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For all those who need hope…

To all those in Israel, Holland, England, Australia, Germany, France, India, Pakistan, Singapore,  Sweden, Philipines,  Spain, Poland, and of course the United States of America who are viewing my blog, THANK YOU!

Now tell all your friends and tell them to tell all of theirs.  Let them know about the book Jew Face.  I look around and see many people today who have lost hope because of everyday difficulties and struggles and hope that knowing this story will help in some way.  Everyone needs inspiration and those who have read the book so far have at the very least seen how people can come from the worst situation, the brink of personal devastation, and built a life of joy, fulfillment, and love.

So tell your friends.  Let them have the opportunity to decide if they want to reap the benefits of this story.


The Holocaust made simple

Recently I’ve engaged in conversation with numerous people regarding the book Jew Face and in doing so something struck me as somewhat concerning.  I have found that there are many intelligent, moderately educated people who do not have a basic knowledge of what took place in Europe between 1933-1945 and the subsequent Holocaust that resulted in the death of 6 million Jews.  As a result I decided to put together this post as a quick guide for those I come across who wish to know more and for anyone else who wishes to use this as a reference for anyone they encounter with a similar need for basic information.

It starts with World War I.  The first Great War took place between 1914-1918.  Germany was one of the major aggressors in Europe, and by the time they were defeated by the Allied forces that consisted of Britain, France, and the United States, among others, the German army was brought to its knees and the country’s economy was left in shambles.  Recovery was slow and with the great worldwide depression of the 1930s, poverty and discontent was on the rise all over Europe.  Conditions were ideal for revolutions.  Spain and Italy both went the direction of fascist dictatorships, and in Germany, an Austrian born ex-Corporal in the German Army by the name of Adolph Hitler would seize the opportunity and rise to leadership.  He would rise to power as leader of the Nationalist Socialist party, better known as the Nazi party, which would become the ruling party of Germany in 1933.

Hitler would rule his nation as an absolute dictator and would be known as and referred to as “the Fuhrer”.  The German masses would follow him with a degree of commitment and hysteria unlike any seen in history.  Hitler felt that the Germans were a master race, and that any nation or people not of pure German blood would be an obstacle to his goal.  Germany’s Nazi party would invade and occupy much of Europe and would continue fighting on numerous fronts as it attempted to achieve worldwide domination and the formation of this master race.

At the time this was happening, the majority of the worldwide Jewish population was in Europe, primarily Poland, Russia, and Hungary.  Hitler would use the Jews as a rallying point around which he would motivate his people through hate, blaming them for the misfortunes of the German people and accusing International Jewry of being the force behind an imminent World War.  When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, for all intents and purposes, not only did World War II begin, but what was to be known as The Holocaust would begin as well.  By 1941, with the implementation of what was to be known as the “Final Solution”, no Jew in Europe was safe.  Although anti-Semitism had been in full force for some time in Germany, once the Nazis invaded and occupied countries all over Europe, they would set out to capture, deport, and murder as many Jews as possible.  Death camps and Concentration camps were set up in various countries where Jewish people would be killed in Gas Chambers or shot en masse by firing squads.  The most infamous of all these camps was Auschwitz which was located in Poland.  The Nazis would not only kill these people, they would strip them of all their possessions, starve them, torture them, conduct medical experiments on them, rape them, and force them to do hard labor sometimes until they died in the process.  Hitler’s Nazi Germany was responsible for the death of millions of Russians, Poles, gypsies, and anyone else not considered by their standards to be a viable part of the future master race.  Nothing however represented the horrors and evil committed by Nazi Germany more than the fate of the Jewish people.  By the time it would be over in 1945, the Holocaust would result in the death of 6 million Jews.

There are a lot more details to the history, but for those who do not know what happened, it is my hope that this will provide you with a foundation on which to not only learn more but to identify the signs of evil rising up again.


Sobibor: Part 1

Of the 104,000 Dutch Jews killed by the Nazis, more than 34,000 were killed in Sobibor.  This post is part 1 of a series on the death camp in the forest of eastern Poland.