It has been said that desperate times call for desperate measures. During war, to say that desperate measures are taken is an understatement.
Alice Hoffman’s novel, The World That We Knew: A Novel, was published last fall. Set during World War II, Hanni Kohn makes a choice that no mother should ever have to make. Sensing that the danger has grown tenfold for Europe’s Jews, she asks Ettie, a Rabbi’s daughter for help. Ettie bring a golem to life, it’s job is to protect Hanni’s twelve year old daughter Lea.
As both Ettie and Lea try to survive in a world that wishes them dead, they have no idea that their lives will be forever entwined.
I wanted to like this book. I was so drawn in by Hanni’s last action as a mother that I thought it would carry me throughout the novel. It didn’t. I was not completely bored, but I was also not drawn in. When it comes to stories of this ilk, I want to be completely sucked in, waiting on baited breath to know the character’s fate.
Most people know something about the Holocaust. It is one of the most well known events in recent history.
On TikTok, some users have released videos pretending to be victims of the Holocaust. Known as “trauma porn”, the response is outrage and disgust. The young people who are producing these videos claim that they are using this form of social media to educate their followers about the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews.
If nothing else, these kids get an A for effort. Teaching the Holocaust is not easy, regardless of the age of the student. With the rise of antisemitism and Holocaust denial, it has become more important than ever that the lessons of the Holocaust are never forgotten.
But I wish they had been a little more sensitive in their portrayal of the victims. The response would have certainly, I think, been more appreciative instead of critical.
To be the second or third generation family of Holocaust survivor(s) is to carry a sadly unique perspective on life. Your family may look “normal”, but the wartime experiences of those who lived forever changed their outlook on everything.
Esther Safran Foer is a second-generation Holocaust survivor. Both of her parents are the only members of their families to have survived the war. Her father came from Trochenbrod and her mother came from Kolki. They met and married after the war, had their daughter, and moved to America.
Though Esther grew up in the comfort and safety of the United States, there as a part of her that was curious about her parent’s experiences during the war. Her memoir, I Want You to Know We’re Still Here: A Post-Holocaust Memoir, was published earlier this year. The story starts when her mother (who has since passed), casually mentions that her husband had a family before the war. This out of nowhere disclosure leads Esther on a journey to answer the burning questions that up that point, had never been answered.
I have to admit that my feelings are mixed about this book. The subject itself is an emotionally difficult one, but that goes without saying. Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve read and reviewed many books on this particular topic. The mixed feelings do not come from the subject, but from the book itself.
The problem is that by the time the reader gets to the middle of the book, the narrative slows down. I was almost at the point of putting it down and walking away, but I somehow finished it.
If there is one thing that has lasted throughout the history of humanity, it is the appalling way in which we treat our fellow humans.
After the Holocaust, the phrase “never again” echoed from the lips of the survivors.
Unfortunately, “never again” has become an empty statement over the decades.
In China, the Uighurs are a Muslim minority. According to reports, the Chinese government have been forced to leave their homes for “re-education camps”. A segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver released on Youtube on Monday revealed the harsh treatment that these people are experiencing.
Watching the segment immediately took me back to everything I know about the Holocaust. The details change, but the basic facts are the same: a minority or minorities are dehumanized and forced into a specific location/murdered/tortured because of who they are.
I had hoped that 75 years after the end of the Holocaust, we might have finally learned from the mistakes of past generations. But humans are still humans. We still hate and kill one another strictly based on a face value identity.
Maybe one day, we will finally treat each other with respect and dignity.
When we are hurt by someone, the question of whether we are able to forgive and forget often comes up once everything calms dawn.
In Hamburg, former Concentration Camp guard Bruno Dey was brought to trial as one of those responsible for the murders of innocents at the Stutthof concentration camp. His fate will be decided on Thursday.
Some might argue that he has age in his favor. At the age of 93, even if he is sent to jail, Mr. Dey’s proposed three prison sentence will be short. He was also a young man during World War II, perhaps unable to fully comprehend his assignment.
However, that does not give him a free pass to live out whatever years he has left on Earth. He is still, in his own small way responsible for the murders of the innocent people who died in front of him.
I have often spoken on this blog of my immigrant ancestors and their loved ones who were murdered just for being Jewish. As much as I would love to say that this case is black and white, it isn’t. There are too many factors involved to declare it to be easily won either way.
But there is one bright spot. If he can say “never again”, then perhaps the world has a chance of finally learning from the past.
Antisemitism is a disease that has haunted humanity for thousands of years. Just when we think it has finally died down forever, it rears its ugly head once more.
This past week, the hashtag #JewishPrivilege has been circulating throughout Twitter in response to false and age old accusations. I’d like to talk about my own so called “#JewishPrivilege”.
If this privilege includes having relations that were among the 6 million Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust, I want none of it.
2. My immigrant ancestors came to America in the early 20th century with only the clothes on their backs and whatever they could carry. No one helped them to become upwardly mobile, they had to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Whatever “privilege” someone thought they had clearly did not exist.
3. I wouldn’t define privilege of having to hire security during religious services. Or seeing the shootings in Poway or Pittsburgh in the news.
4. Privilege is not defined as hearing about nearly 1400 brothers and sisters of your faith murdered in their homeland due to lies and hate.
5. If privilege is constantly watching Israel being attacked in the press and in the UN for so called “crimes against humanity” while other countries receive a slap on the wrist, that is not “privilege”.
Privilege is defined as: special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.
Whoever thinks that the Jews are privileged needs to get their heads out the sand and read a history book.
Wearing a mask, whether voluntarily or because of a mandate, is not the same as being murdered by the Nazis. Wearing a mask can save lives during this pandemic that is not a deep state Soros plot to steal your soul if you have one.
To some, the Holocaust is ancient history. In 2020, we have more pressing problems to occupy our time with. But the Holocaust was only 80 years ago, and the issues from that era are as prevalent now as they were then.
#AnneFrank-ParallelStories is one of the newest releases on Netflix. With a voice-over by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells the story of Anne Frank while telling the stories of other women who are among the few to have survived. While Mirren reads from Anne’s diary, the audience follows a young woman as she travels across Europe, asking questions that frankly, need to be asked.
I’ve seen many Holocaust films over the years. What makes it different is that it hard-hitting, emotional, and squarely aimed at the younger viewers. If I have walked away from this movie with one message, it is that we have a chance to ensure that the Holocaust in any variation never happens again. That requires asking difficult questions and learning from the mistakes of our predecessors.
I recommend it.
#AnneFrank-Parallel Lives is available for streaming on Netflix.
In a certain sense, humans are stupid creatures. We are well aware of the failures that exist in our collective history. But instead of learning from those mistakes, we make them again and again.
Earlier in this week, a pro-Palestinian rally in Belgium turned antisemitic. Which should be a surprise no one.
Back in November of 1961, The Twilight Zone aired an episode called Death’s-Head Revisited. The premise of the episode is as follows: a former SS officer smugly decides to visit Dachau, where he was responsible for the deaths of innocents. To say that he receives his comeuppance is an understatement.
To those who would deny the Holocaust or advocate for the murder of Jews today, I would recommend that they be dropped into Auschwitz (or any concentration camp) for the night. Let the ghosts of those murdered teach them a lesson they will never forget.
I think it is pretty safe to say that in the nearly three weeks since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, the world has changed. Across the globe, millions are making their voices heard. George Floyd was one man, but he has come to stand for those who have been killed by hate.
Yesterday would have been Anne Frank‘s 91st birthday. Her diary has been ready by millions of readers over the last 70ish years. Like George Floyd, she has become a symbol of a life cute short by hate.
I keep thinking that if the world had collectively protested in the 1930’s as they do now, would the Holocaust have happened? How many might have survived? Unfortunately, this question can never be answered.
I wish that we lived in a world in which our rights were immediately given to us at birth. I wish that we were not categorized and then based on that category, denied or approved for where we may end up in life. But that is the world we live in. But until that day in which that happens, we must continue to stand up and fight for those rights.