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Three thoughts For Holocaust Day

on 26 Comments

Yesterday marked Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day.  The day is a national holiday in Israel and observed around the world.

1. In 1983 Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was invited by the Polish communist government to sponsor and partake in a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the uprising. Edelman declined, writing:

“40 years ago we fought not only for our lives, but for life in dignity and freedom. To observe our anniversary here, where enslavement and humiliation are now the lot of the entire society, where words and gestures have become nothing but lies, would betray the spirit of our struggle. It would mean participating in something totally the opposite. It would be an act of cynicism and contempt.

I shall not be a party to this, nor can I condone the participation of others, regardless of where they come from and whom they speak for.

The true memory of the victims and heroes, of the eternal human striving for truth and freedom, will be preserved in the silence of graves and hearts, are far from manipulated commemorations. “

Edelman’s words in Poland, 1983, are no less relevant in Israel 2012, where the memory of the victims was co-opted in order to wage war and justify war-crimes, and the survivors live in disgraceful poverty, while their names are used to gain diplomatic victories. In a country which builds ghettos and walls and dabs that security, in a country in which statement such as “Don’t rent your apartments to Palestinians”, “Don’t let your daughter mingle with Arabs”, “Refugees will infect your children with illnesses and disease”, are thrown casually into the air by common people and state officials, in a country in which the Other isn’t safe, but persecuted, marking Holocaust day is an act of cynicism and hypocrisy, because its main lessons have most clearly gone amiss.


“Sog nit keyn mol as du geyst dem letzten Weg,
Chotsch Himmeln blayene farstelen bloye Teg.
Kumen wet noch unser oyesgebenkte Schoh-
S´vet a poyk ton undzer trot- mir zaynen do!”

I’ve learnt my lessons from the Holocaust. I’ve learnt them from the partisans who fought in the forests, and from the Resistance movements in cities, villages in towns. I’ve learnt it from those who uprose in ghettos and concentration camps against all odds. I’ve learnt it from the farmer who hid Jews in his cellar, and from the nun, who hid them in her monastery. I’ve learnt them from those that offered a bowl of soup, a loaf of bread, or a pot of tea, which made the difference between life and death. I’ve learnt them from the Danish fisherman, and from the White Rose. I’ve learned from those who died for others to live, and those who refused to remain silent.

I’ve learnt my lesson from the Holocaust. I’ve learnt never to follow orders blindly, to disobey. I’ve learnt to fight fascism, and to oppose oppression whenever I encounter it. I’ve learnt to speak out against injustice, and not to be silent. I’ve learnt to stand up and resist. I’ve learnt my lessons from the holocaust – to be an activist, an anti-fascist, a conscientious objector.

3. “Never again” shouldn’t mean never again to Jews. It must be never again, to anyone!

Leehee Rothschild

Leehee Rothschild is an Israeli BDS activist.

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26 Responses

  1. Antidote on April 20, 2012, 8:57 am

    Perfect summary of all that needs to be said on the subject of Holocaust Remembrance Day. I wouldn’t be caught dead at such a cynical event. “Manipulated commemorations”, indeed.

    • marc b. on April 20, 2012, 10:02 am

      antidote, i caught a piece on ‘the world’ yesterday coming back from a business appointment. it concerned a holocaust survivor and his son, both israelis. the son had the same numbers tattooed on his arm that his father bore. curiously, or not, the father was opposed to the gesture and was of the opinion that people must ‘move on’ from the holocaust, while his son was literally having a memento of the holocaust etched into his own skin. and his children, pre-teens if i remember, were already asking to be able to do the same. it’s a strange phenomenon that the ‘memory’ of genocide is somehow growing stronger, particularly in a generation that has no real memory of the event. what’s even more disturbing is the notion that getting a tattoo somehow binds you to the pain and personal history of a relative. as if that could be the case. these kind of public memorials really having nothing to do with the past at all.

      • eljay on April 22, 2012, 9:04 am

        >> what’s even more disturbing is the notion that getting a tattoo somehow binds you to the pain and personal history of a relative.

        The Holocaust is constantly played up as the “bestest. genocide. ever.”, so it’s no surprise Jewish kids want in on the action.

        Get a tattoo, make aliyah to the Glorious Jewish State, steal some land, shoot at Palestinians and, finally, wonder why everyone hates you for your freedoms. So cool!

        The best part? No actual pain and suffering required.* Never again, man! :-)

        (*Some Palestinians might experience pain and suffering, but they don’t count. They’re not “Chosen People”.)

  2. Pixel on April 20, 2012, 10:02 am

    Thanks for this, Leehee.

  3. Walid on April 20, 2012, 10:45 am

    How many different holocaust rememberance days are there and why isn’t there a rememberance day for the Armenian genocide, or one for the Nakba, or one for the other Europeans that died in the extermination camps? Why is there a UN remembrance day (Jan 27th) for the Jews and none at the UN for the other people of the world when the UN is supposed to be for all the nations of the world? There used to be the one minute of silence at 11 am on November 11th for the victims of world wars but not much else.

    It’s sad how little of of was actually paid for holocaust victims and survivors actually reached these people. It sure was good for Israel but not that good for the survivors.

    • seafoid on April 20, 2012, 4:10 pm

      It’s worse than sad, Walid. It was systematic.
      The Sabra Jews used to joke about the Shoah survivors. Israel got the money and spent it on infrastructure. The old Israeli schtick about Jewish unity is very hollow when it comes to political economy and oligarchy.
      But it’s a great way of keeping people afraid and preventing them from speaking out.

      And a few years ago the Israelis approached the Germans moaning that the survivors needed money and the Germans looked at the figures and where the reparations went and told them where to go. They have no sense of haram, the Israelis.

      • Walid on April 21, 2012, 2:28 am

        “And a few years ago the Israelis approached the Germans moaning that the survivors needed money and the Germans looked at the figures and where the reparations went and told them where to go.”

        Not really, seafoid, It will never end; what is turned down in cash claims is compensated in other ways such as with the freebies on the Dolphins and other considerations. Last June, Germany revised its compensations eligibility program and added and additional 8,000 claimants victims that were able to prove they had been in a ghetto, in hiding, or living under false identity for at least 12 months during the Nazi era. Before, they had to prove that the time period was 18 months. This added another $649 million to be paid to the 8,000 claimants. The deal with the Germans was negotiated with the Jewish Claims Conference. For years, a gang of 17 swindlers siphoned off money from two compensation funds by falsifying thousands of applications from presumed victims of Nazi oppression. Six of them were JCC staff members. The gang stole a total of $42.5 million (€31 million).,1518,802013,00.html

        Next year should be a good one for the JCC. A claim is being studied against France’s national railroads system for having transported victims to the death camps during the Nazi occupation of France. Lucrative contracts for the French railroads became at risk in Florida and other states a couple of months back pending its cooperation to provide full details of its involvement during WW II to Washington and Israel. Copies of all WW II manifests have been sent as requested.

        I have no problems with victims and survivors getting every penny of compensation possible for what they were put through. I have a problem when the money due to them is used by Israel to build apartments for people coming from Brooklyn that had nothing to do with the holocaust, while survivors of the holocaust are living in poverty in Israel.

      • marc b. on April 21, 2012, 9:58 am

        dégoûtant, walid. stealing from holocaust survivors. hinky real estate deals to profit from the holocaust. utter filth, they are. there shouldn’t be another penny paid without full transparency. or better yet, let the french or germans make direct payments.

      • seafoid on April 21, 2012, 11:21 am

        Germany had to pay reparations to Israel. Israel never paid a penny to the Palestinians for their country. Justice is a joke.

    • RoHa on April 21, 2012, 12:34 am

      I certainly didn’t notice any Holocaust remembrance here in Australia.
      But we’re all a bunch of anti-Semites.

      • Walid on April 21, 2012, 3:36 am

        Roha, you missed your Prime Minister’s message. The day is commemorated twice each year, on the international day (January 27th)designated by the UN and April 18th by Israel:

        Julia Gillard’s Yom Hashoah message
        April 18, 2012 by J-Wire Staff

        The Australian Prime Minister has sent a message to the community on the eve of Yom Hashoah…Holocaust Remembrance Day.

        From Julia Gillard:

        On this day, in Israel and around the world, millions pause to mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

        It is at once a day of intense memory, grief and reflection – and a day for commitment and renewal drawn from the lessons of this most horrific of crimes against humanity: the Nazis’ murder of over six million Jews.

        From the days and months following the liberation of Europe, men and women throughout the world have struggled to come to grips with the scale of these atrocities, the depths of human depravity they exhibited, and the imperative of ensuring that such events can never, ever, happen again.

        Undoubtedly, the world has learned from this genocide against the Jews, but we still have faced, in our times, other crimes against humanity in Cambodia, in Bosnia, in Sudan, and too many other places.

        But the past has armed us with more than outrage. Because of the Holocaust, we are determined to expose and marshal the force of opinion, diplomacy and intervention wherever humanity faces killings on such a massive scale.

        We would like to think that today, with technology and a wired world, what took so long to appreciate in all its horror – and it took years for the reality of the Holocaust to truly sink in – simply could not occur again.

        The Jewish people survived the loss of six million souls, and rebuilt a homeland in Israel to ensure their future.

        Today, on Yom HaShoah, we stand with the people of Israel in solemn memory, and we renew our commitment to Israel and its security.

      • seafoid on April 21, 2012, 11:27 am

        Re Yom HaShoah I wonder will they mark Yom Ha Hitmotehtoot (collapse) after Israel goes tits up?

        Or will it become a religious mark of time and past tragedy like the festival that marks the exile to Iraq?

      • RoHa on April 22, 2012, 12:37 am

        Bleah! So now I have to pay attention to the PM?
        It didn’t get much mention.

    • Dex on April 21, 2012, 12:50 am

      Agreed…the Palestine-Israel conflict will be resolved once Nakba-denial stops.

  4. DICKERSON3870 on April 20, 2012, 2:42 pm

    RE: “I’ve learnt my lessons from the Holocaust. I’ve learnt them from the partisans who fought in the forests, and from the Resistance movements in cities, villages in towns… I’ve learnt it from the farmer who hid Jews in his cellar…” ~ Leehee Rothschild

    A RELATED DOCUMENTARY: Hiding and Seeking, 2004, NR, 84 minutes
    In this compelling documentary from the directors of the just-as-riveting A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, a father [from the U.S.] takes his grown-up [Israeli] Orthodox Jewish sons to Poland to teach them about the perils of putting up walls to keep those they deem dangerous outside.
    After he introduces them to the Polish family who helped [hide] their grandfather during the Holocaust, they discover the value in building bridges.

    Directors: Menachem Daum, Oren Rudavsky
    Availability: Streaming and DVD
    Hiding and Seeking Official Film Trailer (05:57) –

    * e.g., “infiltrators”, “inciters”, etc. (to borrow from Avigdor Lieberman)

    • seafoid on April 20, 2012, 4:16 pm

      Nice bit of Hebrew on your header, Dickerson.

    • DICKERSON3870 on April 20, 2012, 4:21 pm

      P.S. A SUPERB DOCUMENTARY: The Architecture of Doom (Undergångens Arkitektur)1991, NR, 119 minutes (on YouTube in 12 segments & available for streaming at Netflix)
      This chilling documentary explores how artistic, cultural and historical trends forged the National Socialist aesthetic, which in turn contributed to the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust.
      Swedish-born filmmaker Peter Cohen, whose parents escaped the Nazis, examines Hitler’s failed career as an artist, his fascination with Wagner, the Nazi obsession with cleanliness, the paradoxical link between “beauty” and evil in the Third Reich, and more.
      Netflix Availability: Streaming and DVD
      YouTube, Architecture of Doom (12 segments) –

  5. yourstruly on April 20, 2012, 9:37 pm

    2 nights ago on “open call”, los angeles’ public broadcasting station kcet showed a holocaust remembrance film produced privately by relatives of holocaust survivors. it featured a 2011 revisit to krakow during passover, with musical events, lectures, and with as many as 10,000 (mostly poles) in attendance at outdoor concerts. what really got my attention were photographs and a few brief film clips which revealed a bit of what it was like for those in the grip of the nazi killing machine; particularly, the brief glimpses of jews trapped in ghettos and awaiting what for them had to be the inevitable only way out. always the same, such pictures, usually with jews either sitting on the ground alone, or aimlessly walking about, but always with that unmistakeable blank expression of hopelessness written on their face, in their posture, their gait. occasionally there’d be someone who appeared to be frantically walking back and forth, perhaps a recent arrival who hadn’t yet given up all hope.

    having been to palestine, visited the wb (bethlehem, ramallah) & jerusalem (during intifada I), as well as beirut during the ’82 u.s.-backed israeli invasion of lebanon, also baghdad a couple years post gulf I, in my mind i tried to compare life for a palestinian under the israeli boot with life for a jew under the nazis. seemed to me that one major difference, aside from the slow motion genocide in gaza (compared to the mass produced extermination by the nazis) was the expressions of hopelessness among jews, whether held in ghettos or in concentration camps, something that i can’t recall sensing when among palestinians, be it in occupied palestine, lebanon, iraq or here in the u.s. of a., i can’t recall even one palestinian who had the tell-tale look of hopelessness and defeat so easily discerned in the faces of hitler’s concentration camp victims. perhaps in gaza there’s that look now (my visit was in ’88), but more likely there’s the defiance, a sense of unity and the will to prevail. perhaps, too, the jewish genocide was so rapid and devastating that it didn’t allow for the organizational efforts that a mass resistance requires. even so, towards the end in the warsaw ghetto, the jewish resistance did materialize and held off the nazis for several weeks.

    • Sumud on April 21, 2012, 5:50 am

      perhaps, too, the jewish genocide was so rapid and devastating that it didn’t allow for the organizational efforts that a mass resistance requires. even so, towards the end in the warsaw ghetto, the jewish resistance did materialize and held off the nazis for several weeks.

      I think you are right about the rapidity of the nazi attack yours truly, and there being little time to organise resistance.

      One of the favourite ziobot talking points is that there was no attempt to form a Palestinian state when Gaza was under Egyptian and the WB under Jordanian occupation. This is factually incorrect – see the All Palestine Government which existed from 1948-1958 – but it is true that the Nakba devastated and largely paralysed Palestinian society for many years.

      Israel almost succeeded in wiping Palestine from the map, and it is only after 15-20 years that Palestinians were really able to stand up again, independent of Egyptian or Jordanian patronage, and assert their own identity and national aspirations. The formation of the PLO in 1964 is a landmark and things really took off after 1967. An interesting read about this period is Leila Khaled’s “My People Shall Live”. It’s written in a 60s/70s revolutionary style that seems naive today, but Khaled writes about being a child during the Nakba and the difficulty of life in the years after as a refugee, and then about being a young adult involved in the wave of airplane hijackings that occurred in the late 60s and early 70s by Palestinians. The primary goal of those hijackings was to obtain publicity – to tell people that Palestinians exist (and they “shall live”) – because Israel had tried so hard to erase them…

      If WW2 had progressed more slowly possibly there would have been greater resistance among jews to the nazi onslaught, but this is complicated by the fact that zionists to a limited degree wanted the same thing as the nazis – jews out of Europe. The nazis didn’t care if it was dead or alive, whereas the zionists wanted them if they could come to Palestine.

      • Walid on April 21, 2012, 9:07 am

        “whereas the zionists wanted them if they could come to Palestine.”

        Yes, the Zionists wanted them ONLY if they would be sent to Palestine, otherwise, they don’t appear to have really cared what happened to them; remember Ben-Gurion’s famous words about saving half the Jewish children of Germany. And prospective immigrants had to be “useful” to be eligible for transfer to Palestine and having a bit of money also helped.

      • annie on April 21, 2012, 9:25 am

        there were undoubtedly some zionists who cared. the organization/not so much. but undoubtedly some zionists cared.

  6. Keith on April 20, 2012, 11:56 pm

    The Holocaust needs to viewed in its historical context. Any honest evaluation of history will quickly conclude that mass-murder is the rule, not the exception. This is an inevitable consequence of the struggle for power which threatens to end the human experiment. The greatest threat to society is posed by our power hungry elites. Unless we can deal with this, I fear that the future is truly bleak.

    • Antidote on April 21, 2012, 5:17 pm

      “The Holocaust needs to viewed in its historical context.”

      Couldn’t agree more. The Holocaust happened during WW II, the most violent war in human history. No world war, no Holocaust. One reason why the endlessly repeated mantra: “the whole civilized world went to war to fight Hitler and save the Jews” rings hollow. A main war goal of the Allies was to wipe Prussia, heartland of German militarism, off the map. If the war goal of the Western allies had been to save the Jews, it would have made infinitely more sense to direct the resources mobilized for the war effort for the purpose of rescuing Jewish refugees from Europe. To destroy Prussia and the German Reich (unified under Prussian hegemony) by military means AND to save Jews were, for a variety of reasons, incompatible. Only one was indeed achieved: Prussia was wiped off the map forever, its former territory is now part of Germany, Poland and Russia. But that also meant the end of European Jewry. One prominent German historian who has written about this under the title : Zweierlei Untergang (Two kinds of ruin) is Andreas Hillgruber.

      Uri Avneri posed this “short historical quiz” in 2009:

      “Which state:

      Arose after a holocaust in which a third of its people were destroyed?

      Drew from that holocaust the conclusion that only superior military forces could ensure its survival?

      Accorded the army a central role in its life, making it “an army that had a state, rather than a state that had an army”?

      Began by buying the land it took, and continued to expand by conquest and annexation?

      Endeavored by all possible means to attract new immigrants?

      Conducted a systematic policy of settlement in the occupied territories?

      Strove to push out the national minority by creeping ethnic cleansing?

      For anyone who has not yet found the answer, it’s the state of Prussia.

      But if some readers were tempted to believe that it all applies to the state of Israel – well, they are right, too. This description fits our state. The similarity between the two states is remarkable. True, the countries are geographically very different, and so are the historical periods, but the points of similarity can hardly be denied. […]”

      It would take a cataclysmic war to wipe Israel off the map. Meanwhile, Israel is trying to expand its territory not by entirely peaceful means, but by the so-called “peace process”

  7. Walid on April 21, 2012, 2:48 am

    From BW, this week:

    Israel boosts budget for Holocaust survivors

    The Israel Cabinet has boosted its budget for assisting Holocaust survivors.

    Tuesday’s move comes a day before the country marks its annual Holocaust Memorial Day for the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis in World War II.

    Less than 200,000 aging survivors remain in Israel. Many live in poverty and previous governments have been criticized for not doing enough to allow them to live out their lives in dignity.

    The government says the basket of services for Holocaust survivors will rise to $60 million for 2012, a 13 percent increase. An additional $13 million will directed toward increasing monthly stipends of particularly needy survivors. Stipends currently range between $530 and $1,900 each month.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was “urgent” to help survivors.

  8. annie on April 21, 2012, 7:51 am

    thanks for this leehee.

    moving video/song. i tried to but the lyrics thru google translate but was not successful.

  9. kalithea on April 22, 2012, 4:13 am

    Here’s another thought:

    Jews need to remember on Holocaust Day that MILLIONS of NON-JEWS who were also the victims of the Nazis have been totally forgotten thanks to the me-me-me Jewish community.

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