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Wednesday, April 18. 2012
(Photos tear at emotions. I purposely do not include any images in this post as emotions are far from enough to convey the individual stories or the brutalities.)
At sundown today begins the annual observance of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day. There are many museums, plaques, books that let today’s visitors get a glimpse of the horrors and the heroes of that time. As one passes through and on, what is often missed is the individual stories, the lost hopes and potentials, the personal exertions, the evils that were so common among men and women of many nationalities. The Nazis could not have killed so many without the work of those in conquered countries, some coerced, some bribed, some for their own salvation, many because of rife anti-Semitism. The Yad Veshem museum and memorials, including to Righteous Gentiles, outside Jerusalem, is a major repository of these individual stories. Visit the website.
The Holocaust needs to be remembered and restudied in every generation just because of its scale, and because of what it says about the thin veneer that separates now from then and now from recurrence. (It is not by coincidence that the week after Yom Hashoah is the celebration of Israel's Independence Day, Yom Ha'atzmaut.)
Below is a piece I wrote in 2006 that includes first-person accounts of what happened in a village near where much of my family perished.
Sixteen-miles. That's how far stretches the surviving individual records of what happened to millions of the Jews exterminated by the Nazis. Those records have been kept under lock and key by the International Red Cross since they were captured by the Allies after World War II. Soon, they will become available on digital copies.
The Nazi's meticulous record-keeping, which fell apart late in the war, captures the fates of so many who today are only remembered in big numbers that fail to capture the individual horrors. Similarly, the scope of the death operations is now known to be even larger than previously described.
When I was a very young child, I recall the extended family gathering around a short note from the International Red Cross about the fate of part of my family: Taken out of their village in Belarus by local sympathizers of the Nazi's, to dig ditches, then hammered on their heads with the shovels, some shot, and tossed into the ditch like garbage.
I recently came across some eyewitness accounts from a village in the area. Some excerpts:
Itzak Nahmanovitch’s Account 
The very few survivors are aged, and fewer everyday. Remembering and acting against any who engage in such mass murder, anywhere, is our sacred task.
More on Yom Hashoah
We posted Bruce's piece, Yom Hashoah, two days ago. Today, a comment on Claude Lanzmann's memoir, The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir, in This Justifies a Life: Lanzmann’s Memoir and Yom HaShoah
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Bruce Kesler: The Holocaust needs to be remembered and restudied in every generation just because of its scale, and because of what it says about the thin veneer that separates now from then and now from recurrence.
Very much so.
Let alone offering a conclusive answer, it doesn't even allow a useful question --the question jumps from anguished abstraction --"why?" --to detached study of the totalitarian end state. The yawning middle is just a great chasm --there's something there and we need to see it, but something is in the way, or wrong with our eyes, or maybe it's as Orwell might say, the word itself --the word that would frame, focus, lighten, cue the sound --is missing.
The Gettysburg Address filled in the lost middle for that battle, then depending on the observer (reader) the whole war, and from there to the human condition itself in a continuing time and place.
World War II, really a combat interlude in a World Hundred Years War, is still making so many Gettysburg Addresses that there will never be the one like Lincoln's that sweeps up and stands for all, and creates the crucial vision of task for we the people.
If the Nazis --with their comprehensive obliteration of ethos and the higher self --had fought at Gettysburg, there would likely have been no Gettysburg Address, no way for a Lincoln to ennoble even the halting of an existential extermination force, no higher principle than killing the damned thing having been tested. The Nazis exhaust the air needed to lift away their weight.
Viktor Frankl's question --coming as it does from the Holocaust --the Pickett's Charge of the evil --might be comparable to Lincoln's answer.
Frankl survived the camps, though they had killed all he had including his beloved bride. He was a psychiatrist, and knew how to watch his own mind, and emerged from the war convinced of a simple thing, that attitude was critical to life, and that attitude could be willed.
In time, he had a clinic, to which suicidal patients were often referred. His initial interview with these patients included a question --Viktor Frankl's question --a sudden crash right into the distressed soul: "Why don't you kill yourself?"
Been both to Dachau and Bergan-Belson, and still are haunted by the memories of both trips.
I will never forget the trip to B-B - quite warm for a Summer day in Germany. Entered the camp, and you could feel the noticeably coolness. The guide said some say its the souls of the dead refusing to leave and making their presence known.
I believed it.
Here is a link to Leonard Bernstein's Kaddish, performed in Poland with a Libretto read by the writer, Pisar, who survived auschwitz and became an advisor to JFK among others.
Why, you ask. Because they could, and wanted to. Why they wanted to--they wanted someone to hate, is my guess.
Because they could, and wanted to
If you made a checklist of the planks in the Nazi party platform, they align with todays radical green 'weather underground' left almost uncannily --the difference being in the degree of outside restraint upon their actions.
The proud Progressives of 30s Germany --and their factions over all of Europe --found a leader with the will and the way to dismantle, slowly at first but ever faster, those restraints, until they were an unrestrained Wilsonian Sangerite fist, with an efficiency fetish.
The black uniforms and torchlight rallies were defeated, but not the sympathy for the devil --otherwise Bill Ayers would not have been protected and provided such a coddled life, nor been able to mold and train a president of the United States.
Crimes against humanity, wheather Jewish or others, are an abomination. So, why not write an article about the slaughter of civilians, including defenseless women and children, of Gazans by Israel. Show pictures of babies with holes in their bodies from Israel's weapons of mass destruction. Let's be impartial and universal.
1.The post is about events almost seven decades ago.
2. There is no equivalence nor analogy to Gaza.
3. The hate and violence against Israel and Jews is not yet equivalent to that of Nazi Germany and allies, but could be if allowed to.
Much the same happened in Palestine...........
What personified being knows? Is it the omniscient and just God who heard the voices of the dying mothers and children and the lamentations of the men trucked through the streets of Jerusalem, living proof of Israeli might, mocked and ridiculed as inferior beings before they were returned to their town for execution?
"Much the same happened in Palestine..........." !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Come back when you actually know history and not slogans.