“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”
The phrase above has in recent decades been used when referring to the Holocaust. But while it refers to a specific event in history, the phrase itself has the potential to be used for other events in history.
In the wake of the rally in Charlottesville last weekend, local governments and citizens alike have either called for the removal and/or destruction of monuments from the Confederate South or have had them removed completely.
It feels to me like a double-edged sword. We cannot white wash history and pretend that the horrors of slavery did not happen in America, but at the same time, if we do decide to remove them from the public arena, what are we teaching our children?
If American society has a cross to bear, it is the enslavement of African-Americans and the scar that still exists from that enslavement in our society generations after The Civil War. Racism still exists in America (as was dreadfully highlighted last weekend) and remains a blight on the ideals laid out by our Founding Fathers.
The only compromise I can think of is to not whitewash history and use the past (and the monuments dedicated those who were part of the Confederate South) as a teaching tool. We can only learn from history (and prevent it from happening again) is to learn from the mistakes of the generations who have come before us.
That being said, I would like to know the opinion of my readers. Should we remove the statues and be done with it or use it as teaching tool for this generation and future generations?
A President, regardless of his or her party or beliefs is the moral authority and should be leading the nation, especially during a crisis.
President Trump has failed in both areas (no surprise there). His remarks after last weekend’s rally in Charlottesville proved that he is neither the moral authority nor is he far from qualified to lead the nation, especially during this crisis.
What President Trump should have said is in the video above. Thank you Arnold Schwarzenegger for standing up for what is right and speaking truth to power.
It’s not uncommon knowledge that Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner. It is also common knowledge Jared’s grandparents survived the Holocaust. Their children are being raised Jewish. I would think (and hope) that Trump’s reaction, not a President, but as a father and grandfather would be of outrage and anger.
I know this has been said many times since last weekend, but my grandfathers, like millions of their brothers in arms, fought against fascism in World War II. The sons of Jewish immigrants, they put their lives on the line to protect America and her values. The fact that Trump has subtly given the alt-right the go ahead to slither out of the rocks they came from speak to his incompetence and how ill prepared he is to lead this country.
P.S. Did anyone else do a happy dance when Steve Bannon was fired?
This past weekend was heavy to say the least. The rally in Charlottesville reminded us of how precious our freedoms are and how easily they can be taken away from us.
The video below has been making the rounds on my social media for the last two days. Though it was made in 1943, it has not lost its potency or its message. It is a relevant in 2017 as it was in 1943.
Martin Niemoller was a Protestant Pastor who openly spoke up against the Nazi regime and survived 7 years in a concentration camp. He is best remembered for the following:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist./Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist./Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew./Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I think the valuable lesson we learned from this past weekend is that when we are stronger together. When we fight among ourselves and forget that the other person we are looking at is a human being, then we have lost the battle.
One of the most prophetic lessons of the Holocaust can be summed up in one quote:
“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”
Despite the violence, I have seen a spark of hope. It was the people who came to protest against the White nationalists and the government leaders who spoke out against the hatred. Perhaps, after all of these years, after the needless killing of millions, we have finally learned from history and will not repeat the mistakes of the past.
It is both sad and scary that there are people in this country who still think like this, who would condemn another person because of race, family origin, religion, etc. I feel like I watching historical footage of a Nazi rally in 1930’s Germany or reading an oral narrative from the South just after the Civil War. It is surreal that this is happening in America today.
When we speak of the Holocaust, we say never again. It saddens me that in America in 2017, we must use never again to remind us of what happens when hate and prejudice take over.
Power is a seductive thing. Once we have a taste of it, we always want more.
Ronald H. Balson published his debut novel, Once We Were Brothers in 2013. In present day Chicago, Elliot Rosenzweig is a paragon of virtue. A success businessman who has given back to his community, no one would think twice that Elliot is not who he claims to be. But Ben Solomon knows the truth. Ben knows that Elliot Rosenzweig is really Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc.
Ben ambushes Otto/Elliot at a fundraiser, hoping to out him as the adopted brother who had a hand in murdering the family and the community that he was raised in. Before World War II, Ben and Otto were brothers in spirit. When Otto’s parents stepped away from their parental duties, Ben’s parents stepped in and raised Otto as if he was their own. But with the invasion of Poland by the Nazis, Otto slowly turned his back on the Solomons and morphed into the butcher of Zamosc.
Ben is determined to see justice pursued. He turns to private investigator/lawyer duo of Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart. Can Liam and Catherine help Ben to reveal the truth or is Ben just an old man who is losing his mind?
One of Mr. Balson’s best qualities as a writer is that he knows how to keep the tension going, in addition to keeping the reader unsure as to the outcome of the story. There was points in the novel when I was sure that Ben was crazy, but then there were other points when I was sure that Elliot would be outed as Otto.
*Warning: this review contains mild spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Genius and ego often go hand in hand.
Marc Chagall was one of the great artists of the 20th century. He also had a rather large ego.
His life and the life of his eldest daughter, Ida Meyer (nee Chagall) is dramatized in the 2015 novel, The Bridal Chair: A Novel, by Gloria Goldreich. The book starts as World War II is starting to consume Europe. Ida Chagall is the loved and adored only child of respected artist Marc Chagall and his wife, Bella (nee Rosenfeld). She is young, idealistic and in love. She is also pregnant. At the urging of her parents, she not only marries her young man, but also aborts the pregnancy.
This will only be the first test that Ida and her tempestuous, artistic father deal with. As both an artist and a Jew, Marc has a target on his back. They must flee Europe with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and Marc’s paintings. They arrive in America, with Marc heralded as one of greats of the painting world. Then the book then moves forward in time. The war ends, and both Ida and Marc are dealing with their own challenges, as individuals and father and daughter.
I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because it shows the complexity of being a celebrated artist, the complexity of the father/daughter relationship and how unpredictable life is.
When faced with decisions of life and death, we make choices that in retrospect seem questionable, but in the moment, feel like it is only thing we can do.
In Pam Jenoff’s 2007 novel, The Kommandant’s Girl, 19-year-old Emma Bau is reveling in the glow of being a newlywed. Not even a month after she marries her husband, Jacob, Germany invades Poland. Jacob has no choice but to disappear and Emma joins her parents in the quickly overcrowding Jewish ghetto. Smuggled out of the ghetto and into the home of her husband’s Catholic aunt, Emma is now Anna Lipowski, a Polish orphan.
Adding to the danger, Anna/Emma is hired as an assistant of Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official. While she is working for the Kommandant, Anna/Emma uses her status to help the resistance. But while she is doing this, she is potentially compromising her life, the lives of her loved ones and her marriage vows.
This book left me with wanting more. I felt like I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. My favorite thing about the book was the character of the Kommandant. On one hand, he was responsible for the death of an untold number of innocents. But on the other hand, his affection for Anna/Emma was humanized him and if only temporarily removed the mask of the monster.
Sometimes, in the heat of the war, the one thing that keeps us alive is music.
Władysław Szpilman was one of the most respected pianists in Europe in the years leading up to World War II. He was also Jewish.
His story of survival in the face overwhelming atrocities is explored in the 2002 award-winning film, The Pianist. Adrien Brody plays the title character. The movie starts with Władysław Szpilman forced into The Warsaw Ghetto with his family and thousands of other Jews. As the noose begins to tighten around the residents of the ghetto, he knows that his music maybe the only thing keeping him alive.
The Pianist stands out as a Holocaust film because of the music. The music reminds both the main character and the audience that even in the face of unmistakable evil and tragedy, if we can find one thing to remind us of our humanity, then there is hope. The music is the sliver of hope and light in the face of the darkness that is World War II and The Holocaust.
Destiny is an odd thing. It can take us to a world of peace, love and tranquility, or it can take us to a world of fear, secrets and danger.
In the new book, The Orphan’s Tale: A Novel, by Pam Jenoff, the destinies of two women collide and forever alter the course of each other’s life. In her late teens, Noa has been impregnated and abandoned by a Nazi soldier. Forced to give up the baby, Noa finds a train full of infants headed toward the concentration camps. Taking one of the infants, she runs away from the rail station which she cleans to put some money in her wallet.
Found by a circus, Noa claims that the baby is her brother and trains to become a trapeze artist. Astrid, the lead performer in the trapeze act, is not initially thrilled with the new recruit. But Astrid has a secret of her own, that if revealed, could mean death, not just for her, but everyone in the circus. Astrid and Noa become friends, but that friendship is tested when the facade that is keeping them alive starts to wear thin. When the danger becomes too apparent, the women must make a choice: try to save each other’s lives or die with the secrets of their true selves.
I really liked this book. What made it memorable was the fear of just Noa and Astrid, but the fear of the world around them. The bounds of their relationship are not only tested by their pasts (and their secrets by extension), but also by the noose that is slowly being wrapped around their collective necks.
While I live in the safety and security of The United States, sometimes I need a reminder how quickly democracy and freedom can spiral into prejudice and murder.
Yesterday, I finished reading The Tailors of Tomaszow: A Memoir of Polish Jew. Co-written by child survivor Rena Margulies Chernoff and her son Alan Chernoff, the book is a memoir based on the memories of Mrs. Chernoff’s all too brief childhood and the horrors she went through during the Holocaust.
The reason I re-read the book can best be described by the late Elie Wiesel:
“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
The youngest of the survivors are in their 80’s and 90’s. Soon, only their words and memories, shared through others will keep the their murdered kin alive.
I re-read The Tailors of Tomaszow: A Memoir of Polish Jews so that the dead will never be forgotten.