Friday, July 15, 2016

those darn Jews

Sharon just finished reading “Inmate 1818”, written by a Holocaust survivor named Bernard Otterman. The book is actually a compilation of 12 short stories that were inspired by the Holocaust and its aftermath. Like virtually all books about the Holocaust, it makes for very compelling reading. Since Sharon had not previously read Elie Wiesel’s “Night” or Victor Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning”, I have both of them on order from the local library. Since Mr. Wiesel just died on July 2 of this year, the reserved list for “Night” is very lengthy. Although he wrote a total of 57 books, “Night” is the one that is best known by the general public.

Although we’re all familiar with many of the details of the Holocaust, the best way to get a strong perspective on the atrocities committed by the Nazis is to visit the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, or the llinois Holocaust Museum and Education Centerin Skokie, Illinois. I’ve been to both of them, and found them to be very informative. The Skokie museum was especially interesting due to the fact that it houses an authentic railroad car that was used to transport Jews to the various concentration camps used by the Nazis.

If you live on the East Coast, you may also want to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Discrimination against Jewish people started long before the rise of the Nazis. In 1492, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain expelled practicing Jews from Spain. Their order was titled the Alhambra Decree, and was also known as the Edict of Expulsion. Jews were allowed to stay if they converted to the Catholic faith, and over 200,000 of them did so. It is estimated that up to 100,000 Jews moved from Spain. The punishment for Jews who did not convert or leave was summary execution.

The origins of the Holocaust in Germany did not actually start in Germany. The origins actually started in the good old USA.

The theory of “the master race” is an outgrowth of the philosophy of eugenics. The modern practice of eugenics emerged in the early part of the 20th century at roughly the same time in both England and America. During that same time period, anti-Semitism was a big problem in America, as exemplified by none other than Henry Ford, whose publication of “The International Jew” in the early 1920’s was an inspiration to Adolf Hitler, who had a picture of Henry Ford on the wall of his office in Berlin. Not surprisingly, the KKK was the strongest in our country in the 1920’’s. The 1923 Konclave in Kokomo, Indiana was the largest ever held in this country, with over 100,000 people in attendance.

Although the second wave of the KKK was the most fervent anti-Jewish group, the current itineration of the group has sworn to uphold “Christian morality”, even though virtually every Christian denomination has condemned the group. The current national director of the KKK a Baptist pastor named Thomas Robb, who was “awakened to the myth of the Holocaust” when he was 13. While still in high school, he was an active member of the John Birch Society, the predecessor to today’s Tea Party.

Henry Ford was far from the only prominent American in America who didn’t like Jews. Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was the public spokesman for the America First Committee, which opposed involvement in the war in Europe. Although Lindbergh never ran for office, an intriguing look at what a Lindbergh Presidency would have been like can be found in Philip Roth’s “the plot against America”.

After Kristallnacht occurred on November 10, 1938, it became obvious to German Jews that they needed to leave the country, but they received little, if any, help from other countries in the world. One of the most glaring examples of world indifference was the voyage of the MS St. Louis,which set sail from Hamburg to Havana on May 13, 1939 with 937 refugees from Nazi Germany. Then, as now, refugees were looked upon with distrust, and Cuba refused to allow the ship to dock there. After being denied entry there, the ship went to the United States, which also refused to allow the refuges to disembark. After Canada also refused to allow the boat to dock, it returned to Germany, where SOME of the refugees were taken in by other European countries. Ultimately, though, more that 200 of the refugees died in Nazi concentration camps.

Although Donald Trump and the FOX network have fanned the flames of Islamophobia in this country, the reality is that more Jews in America are victims of hate crimes than Muslims. According to the most recent date from the FBI, there were 1140 victims of religious hate crimes in our country in 2014, and 57% were against Jews. Muslims amounted to 16% of the total, and other groups (including Catholics) made up the balance. All told, the FBI discovered a grand total of 7164 hate crimes in 2014. Of that total, nearly half were due to bias against race, and 66% of those were due to anti-black bias.

Oddly enough, references about Jews are largely absent from the news today, so why it is important to consider what happened in the past to a religious group that constitutes .2% of the world’s population (14.2 million people)? At its peak in 1939, the world Jewish population was 17 million, but the Holocaust eliminated 6,000,000 Jewish people, bringing the total to 11,000,000. Of the 14,000,000 that are alive today, roughly half live in the United States.

The answer to that question is that the bigotry that condemned those 6,000,000 people to their deaths is still very much alive today, and we need to do as much as we can to contain it. The best way to do that is by voting for the right people.

The Republican National convention starts this week in Cleveland. Although I plan to watch at least a portion of it so that I can watch the chaos unfold, it’s obvious by now that NONE of the Republicans running for office in November should be elected, and Donald Trump is, by far, the worst of the bunch. Any political group that discriminates against people of a certain religion, or discriminate against people because of their skin color, their national origin, their sexual orientation, or their gender, is simply not fit for office.


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