Yom Hashoah 5773

Yom Hashoah 5773 – 2013

Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day, began this evening with the annual ceremony at Yad Vashem. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke of Israel’s need not forfeit its security to other nations:

Netanyahu stated that anti-Semitic hatred “has not disappeared, it has been switched with murderous hatred against the state of the Jews. What has changed is our ability to defend ourselves.”

The prime minister stated that while Israel appreciated the efforts of the world to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Israel “cannot forfeit our security to other nations…not even to our closest allies.”

PM Binyamin Netanyahu speaks at the Yom Hashoah ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem

President Shimon Peres reminded us and the world that anti-Semitism still exists and is still a threat to the Jewish people and all humanity:

The map of Europe still contains local stains of anti-Semitism. Racism erupted on that land in the last century and dragged it down to its lowest point. Ultimately the murder which came from her, damaged her.

To our shame, there remain some who learned nothing. Young skinheads. False scientists dressed in false suits. Yes! There remain those who forget the Holocaust, those who deny it.

Not all the flames have been extinguished. Crises are once again exploited to form Nazi parties, ridiculous but dangerous. Sickening anti-Semitic cartoons are published allegedly in the name of press freedom.

[...]

The civilized world must ask itself how in such a short space of time after the crematoria were extinguished, after the terrible death toll that the allied powers endured to put an end to the Nazi devil, it is still possible for the leadership, like that of Iran, to openly deny the Holocaust and threaten another Holocaust.

Peres’ words are reinforced by the news that there has been a 30% increase in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide in 2012. Most shockingly, and counter-intuitively, anti-Semitic incidents lead to more anti-Semitism, not less:

“It appears that rather than the Toulouse attacks being a shock to the system, they had the opposite effect and perhaps allowed terrorist groups in Europe to become more emboldened,” EJC President Moshe Kantor said at an anti-Semitism press conference Sunday at Tel Aviv University, pointing to attempted terror attacks across the continent against Jewish targets.

In related news, Yad Vashem announced that they are aiming to collect the names of all 6 million murdered Jews over the next 3 years, in a complicated detective project examining archives all over Europe.

Equally as timely but less satisfactorily, the Simon Wiesenthal Center announced in its 12th annual report that two SS chiefs managed to escape to the United States and are on the most-wanted list.

This year’s theme for Yom Hashoah was Jewish resistance to the Nazis, and Barry Davis has written a very interesting article about how “Against all Odds“, the Jews did not go as lambs to the slaughter, but rather attempted to fight back as much as possible.

As if to rub salt into the wound of the Holocaust, it was recently revealed that the City of Amsterdam was still fining its Jewish Holocaust-survivor residents for unpaid municipal taxes while they were imprisoned in concentration camps!

This evening, Israel’s TV Channel 2 broadcast an excellent documentary by Yaacov Eilon on “the New Antisemitism”. It discussed the mutation of the “old” antisemitism into the new kind: anti-Zionism, which is used as a cover for the same old Jew-hatred that we have known for thousands of years. Amongst the people interviewed were Attorney Alan Dershowitz, head of the ADL Abe Foxman, and the redoubtable Richard Millett who ventures into the lion’s den in Britain, documenting the new anti-Semitism on his blog.

Some of the others interviewed in the program were far from pleasant, plainly and unashamedly pronouncing their overtly antisemitic views in front of the camera, with no attempt at cover-up.  In fact I found some of the views aired pretty frightening, even though I blog about this subject constantly.

The Jerusalem Post has a write-up about the documentary with a short video clip. If I find an active link to the entire documentary I will update this post.

UPDATE: Here’s the link to the video on Channel 2′s website. The commentary is in Hebrew but a large proportion of the interviews are in English, and make themselves quite clear.

As if to remind us of what Israel and the Jews are up against, this evening in the middle of the Yom Hashoah ceremony, a Hamas rocket fired from Gaza landed in the Shaar Hanegev region. The “ding-dong” sound is the “Colour Red” siren for incoming rockets:

As I do every year, I would also remind you that you can read about my own family history during the Holocaust on my Family History page. I recently updated it with a report about the 70th anniversary memorial service that the family held for my mother’s three brothers who were murdered in Sobibor.

Concluding this post, here is the CST’s report of UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaking on the BBC’s “Thought for the Day” (h/t Brian Goldfarb):

After the Holocaust, Jews, and much of the world, vowed, “Never again.” Yet in the last few years antisemitism has returned to Europe, from Greece in the south to Norway in the north, from France in the west to Russia in the east. Nothing like what it was in the past, yet enough to make Jews fear what the future may bring.

Antisemitism matters not because it is an assault on Jews but because it’s an assault on humanity. Jews were hated because they were a minority and because they were different. But we’re all different, and any group may one day find itself a minority. It wasn’t Jews alone who suffered under Hitler.

Which is why we must learn to fight hate together.  We owe the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto no less.

The overriding theme of this year’s Yom Hashoah, besides the official theme of Jewish resistance, is that Anti-Semitism is making a come-back – if it ever went away at all – and like a virus it has mutated into its latest version: anti-Zionism, often under the cover of “human rights”, but these human rights are special. They are intended for everyone except for Jews, Israeli Jews in particular.

We must be eternally vigilant and we must be much more pro-active both in fighting this vicious hatred, countering the lies and in promoting Israel’s good name.

Above all we must continue to have faith in G-d that He will continue to protect us and preserve our beloved Land of Israel.

הנה לא ינום ולא ישן שומר ישראל

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20 Responses to Yom Hashoah 5773

  1. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Anne kindly posted my thoughts on the Ronnie Fraser case among her thoughts on this matter. She also linked to David Hirsh’s thoughts on the case. If you follow the link, you will find on that site two articles above that one looking at other aspects of the issue. Hopefully, you’ll also read the comments, as we collectively try to get our minds round this.

    The first of these articles (in terms of latest posting) has a comment linking to Chas Newkey-Burke, the “oyvagoy” blogger. His thoughts on a contentious issue are here: http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/comment/70466/turn-vile-claim-its-head.

    Why, he asks, should Jews be expected to learn a lesson from the Holocaust? (Chas means the BDS mob, and all the other members of the “Rancid Left” are taxing Israelis – and implicitly non-Israeli Zionists – with needing to ‘learn a lesson’).

    Actually, he says, it’s gentiles who need to learn the lesson, not Jews, given the 2 millennia of Christian antisemitism. Although there’s been some dissent to this view over on engage (genuine debate is good!), I feel certain that he has a pretty good point here.

    For anyone who cares to listen, I think that the lesson that Jews need to learn from the Holocaust is nothing like the one the Rancid Left are trying to foist on us: you should know better, and you should be nice to those who want to slaughter you.

    Blow turning the other cheek. My lesson is make sure that the IDF is armed to the teeth with the latest military technology, that as many of the population as possible are soldiers in waiting (and that includes the Haredi men) and ensure that Israel’s neighbours know that Israel will respond to provocations and threats to Israeli lives and limbs.

    I’m just reading Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Sulzberger (his daughter) “Jews and Words” Among the points they make are that Rabbi Akiva encouraged a revolt against the Romans, which led to his death by horrible torture. But he believed that the Jews should resist. And so we should.

    It’s why I spend hours on the computer: this is my contribution, at my age.

    • anneinpt says:

      Brian, thank you for mentioning those 2 other links, and especially the one by Chas Nwekey-Burden (Oy va Goy). That piece of his was brilliant, and I’ve linked to it before here.

      You write:

      It’s why I spend hours on the computer: this is my contribution, at my age.

      Me too. That’s the entire purpose of this blog.

      In fact if you get to watch the video of the Channel 2 documentary on the New Antisemitism, one of the interviewees (I think it was Abe Foxman) said that although the internet is full of the vilest antisemitism, we have to counter it and flood the internet with philo-semitism. And again, that’s the purpose of blogs like mine, Engage, and all the other hundreds if not thousands of pro-Israel blogs.

  2. Reality says:

    After watching numerous gut wrenching testimonies last night, the one theme through them was that however bad things may G-d forbid get in the world, this time there is Israel & all the people interviewed mentioned this (many of them joined the partisans after fleeing the trains,death camps or putting up resistance in the ghettos) and that is the reason we have to fight for our independence & sovereignty.

    2 men told (separately) of their times fleeing & hiding, that all the time all they thought was that they had nothing to lose by fighting or being caught as they had already lost everything & everyone but as soon as the war ended & they were free, their only thought was to get to Israel as fast as possible and that they believed that if Israel had existed then ,the holocaust would perhaps never had happened. The women were of the same opinion.

    All of them said that “Never Again” (i.e. the Holocaust) could definitely occur but this time we have to rely on ourselves & G-d above & no one in Europe as the Jews always were & will be hated.They kept on stating that even thought they were free & managed to get to Israel’s shores the British wouldn’t allow them in & they spent 3 years wandering around in all sorts of DP camps until they managed to get here in time to fight the Arab armies. One can only marvel at their physical & mental strength. May they all be blessed for a long life ad 120, & may G-d continue to guard us & help us fight all our enemies.

    Finally the Jews in Holland should pack up & leave-together with anyone else who suffers anti semitism. We are waiting for you!

    • anneinpt says:

      It really is a wrench to watch and hear these terrible stories every year. It is also sad to see how old the survivors are. We have to work all the harder to preserve and publicise their stories because once there are no survivors left to give first-hand testimony, the Holocaust deniers will have a field day.

      I too was astounded at the bravery and mental strength of these people, most of whom were youths or even small children at the time of the Holocaust, having to fend for themselves after their parents were arrested or killed. They not only managed to survive, but they actually fought back, helping other victims as well. And then they made their arduous way to Israel and started fighting for their lives (and ours) all over again. On the way they rehabilitated themselves and set up new families. It’s quite staggering when you think about it, especially when we look at the victim culture of the Palestinians.

  3. Reality says:

    One other theme that ran through the testimonies last night was”forget all this humanitarian”rubbish. We have to look out for ourselves& nobody should ever tell us who to let in to our country or who we have to be”nice’ to and how many concialliatory gestures must be made.. We’ve been there & done that for a terrible price that we haven’t yet recovered from.I was quite surprised at these comments as all the people who said this I would have automatically have considered the radical left-shows how wrong we can be.

    • anneinpt says:

      They say a neocon is a liberal who was mugged by reality (not you, the actual reality). This is what has happened to most of the Israeli left who has seen what liberal peacenik policies have brought us.

  4. JudyPT says:

    Frightening film about the new antisemitism.

  5. Andrea says:

    Some points attracted my interest :

    The date – 8th April in Israel . Each country (and jewish comunity ) looks like having different Shoah memorial Day. It was the 27th January in Rome and date was choosen after long discussions. I am maybe wrong but that was the day first lager was “discovered” in 1945 ( well having taken for granted this official version )

    From your link : “Not all Jews went “as sheep to slaughter,” as they engaged in uprisings and breakouts at camps, death pits and mass murder sites, as well as attacks on the German military.”
    Completely true and it is time that those fighters have to be honoured. Most prominent Rabbi in my country fought in the local resistence against Nazism and current Chief of Rabbis in Rome has just written an essay on jewish resistents. We can not neglect also French premier Leon Blum . All of them did not fight “as a Jew” ( not widespread Zyionst awarness at the time in western europe ) but as French, as Italian or as communist or socialist – they were actually Jews

    Antisemitism is growing – Let me be devilish advocate here. I agree which is growing but it is also true that we are today more vigilant in respect of every single episode. I want to say that we have today a much better record on everyday antisemitism. Not all episodes were reported in the past.

    Christian antisemitism – the worst ever but we have to frankly consider that now is not the first of our concern. Radical islamism , Insane Left and some new movements not well defined overshadowed traditional antisemitism.

    Not sure about my contribution honestly…well I read, I write but not more. I had my family experiences on opposite sides of this sad historical phenomenon called antisemitism but I am comfortably sitting on my chair.

    • cba says:

      Andrea, allow me to express once again how much I appreciate your thoughts and you support.

      Thank you.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Andrea, Holocaust Memorial Day is 27 January in Britain as well as Italy. It is the day the Red Army liberated Auschwitz. Primo Levi records this in his book “If This Is A Man” (originally written in Italian, of course) and usually paired with “The Truce”. Levi was left behind by the Nazis because he was suffering from scarlet fever. Ironically, it saved his life. His good friend (Carlo?), who had helped him survive – they used to walk around the camp discussing great literature – was taken on the death march, and didn’t survive.

        Levi records the reaction of the Russian troops who liberated the camp: they couldn’t believe their eyes and were horrified. If you haven’t already read his work, I urge you (and everyone else) to do so. It’s oddly liberating. You should certainly read “If not now, when?”, Levi’s novel of Jewish partisan resistance in the forests of Western Russia and Poland, and how this group of survivors make their way to Italy and are found by the Jewish Brigade.

        Wikipedia will give you the Italian titles of his books.

        In Israel, Yom HaShoah (the Hebrew equivalent of Holocaust Day – but Anne will define the meaning of Shoah better than I can; her Hebrew is better than mine) was meant to be on 14 Nisan, the date that marks the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The Nazis even timed it to coincide with Pesach, the festival marking the Children of Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. The bastards. 14 Nisan is the date of the first Seder and 15 the first day of Pesach.

        For that reason (so as not to confuse the bitterness of the Shoah with the joy of redemption), the Israelis moved the day to 27 Nisan, two weeks later, and 8 days before Yom Hatzmaut, Israel Independence Day. This is the day, in the Jewish calendar, when Israel declared Independence in 1948. Of course, the Jewish calendar is a lunar one, so the days don’t all that often fall on the same day of the Gregorian calendar, year by year.

        Confusing for non-Jews, but hey, that’s the way it is. We confuse lots of people lots of the time. But this way, Jews go from celebrating redemption from slavery, the horror of the worst disaster to befall us in the whole history of our Diaspora from the Land of Israel, and then joy at the re-establishment of Israel.

        Hope this helps.

        • Brian Goldfarb says:

          I’d like to add that comment that Primo Levi only wound up in Auschwitz because he joined the anti-fascist resistance. Relatively few Italians were so antisemitic as to want to slaughter all the Jews, or even some of them. Most Italians might not have liked Jews, but they couldn’t understand why anyone would want to kill them.

          There’s a great book on this: Jonathan Steinberg “All or Nothing At All”. The major part of the book is about the activities of Italian troops in the Balkans. According to Steinberg, Italian troop formations would receive orders to hand over Jews or Serbians in their area of operations to the Croatians (“those sons of fascists”, as the Serbians termed them during the break-up of Yugoslavia). Italian commanders knew exactly what would happen to those they handed over. Thus, many of them would return messages saying, in effect, “of course, and immediately…but, I don’t quite understand this section of my orders, Please clarify them.”

          By the time the clarification came back, of course the prisoners were somewhere else!

          Steinberg even records times when Italian troops fought with their supposed allies to protect those they had taken prisoner, like Serbians and Jews.

          Andrea, you can have pride in many of your countrymen during World War 2: they managed to avoid getting involved in committing genocide.

          • anneinpt says:

            Brian, thank you so much for your remarks about the Italians during the war. I know I’ve read about the Italians’ lack of cooperation with the Nazis and their refusal or at least delaying tactics to hand over “their” Jews. I simply can’t remember where I read this so I turned to Google and Wikipedia. Here’s what’s written:

            After Italy entered the war in 1940 Jewish refugees living in Italy were interned in concentration camps such as the Campagna concentration camp and the concentration camp at Ferramonti di Tarsia. In 1942 the Italian military commander in Croatia refused to hand over Jews in his zone to the Nazis. In January 1943 the Italians refused to cooperate with the Nazis in rounding up the Jews living in the occupied zone of France under their control and in March prevented the Nazis from deporting Jews in their zone. German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop complained to Benito Mussolini that “Italian military circles… lack a proper understanding of the Jewish question.”

            The deportations of Italian Jews to Nazi death camps began after September 1943, when Italy capitulated to the Allies and, in response, the German troops invaded Italy from the North. However, by the time they got to the Campagna concentration camp, all the inmates had already fled to the mountains with the help of the local inhabitants. Rev. Aldo Brunacci of Assisi, under the direction of his bishop, Giuseppe Nicolini, saved all the Jewish who sought refuge in Assisi. This effort became the basis for the novel The Assisi Underground. In October 1943 Nazis raided the Jewish ghetto in Rome. In November 1943 Jews of Genoa and Florence were deported to Auschwitz. Jews of Friuli were deported to Auschwitz via Risiera di San Sabba concentration camp. It is estimated that 7,500 Italian Jews became victims of the Holocaust.

            I think there were about 40,000 Jews in Italy before the war, so the numbers, terrible as they are, could have been much worse.

          • Andrea says:

            Thank you Brian for your useful notes.
            Primo Levi’s contribution to our culture was invaluable.I can also remember his essays and articles published on Italian press about ideological contents of Nazism and its roots.
            A different view from the one expressed by Ernst Nolte in the same years. Many righteous people miss him. I am happy you recalled him.
            Second world war did not bring any honour to Italy. Poorly equipped soldiers, incompetent generals and just a bunch of exceptions. We fought on the wrong side against the human kind and we lost almost all. There were racial laws and thousands of Jews were deported and died after German occupation. All this despite the fact that Fascism was not anti Jews at the beginning – moreover there were also Jews supporting Mussolini. Jabotinsky ( hope no mispelling ) himself was deceived on real nature of Fascist Italy.
            Some few Italians ( most of them common people actually) showed in those dark days a decent level of humanity. Italian Jewish comunity had a long history of integration and active contribuiton to modern Italy and in a country where personal relations are most important than any legal protection they could rely on few good friends – this is true.
            At the end Italians did not look that bad in respect of their allies – at least for the Jews – but thousand of deads can not be minimized as most Italians would like to do now.
            Italy surely achieved a better record immediately after the war. Jewish immigration to Palestine ( official name at the time ) was incouraged and strongly supported by democrat Italians authorities. Most of the vessels – with inclusion of legendary Exodus – were upgraded in Italian shipyards and thousands of jewish survivors sailed from La Spezia to reach their homeland. British fleet tried her best to prevent Jewish departure but results were poors due to Italian reluctancy to follow instruction from London.
            It was said that Italy was eager to pinkwash her reputation with the Jews and avoid a Nurnberg trial but at the end Zyonist really appreciated this support. It is not surprising that Israel never asked any prosecution against Italian authorities for war crimes.
            Well we could write pages on this…

            • Andrea says:

              Anne,

              You mentioned Genoa which is part of my land – the region where I live.
              From Italian Wilkipedia
              ” During World War II , the Nazi occupation, the synagogue of Genoa was the scene of one of the most tragic events of ‘ Holocaust in Italy. On 3 November 1943 troops of the SS burst into the synagogue and forced the keeper Bino Polacco under threat of death for his children to call members of the community for an alleged meeting in the synagogue. For those who fell into the trap and stood before the appointment there was no escape. At the end of about 50 Jews were captured and soon after put to death in Auschwitz , including Rabbi Riccardo Pacifici and family of the keeper with his children, aged 2 and 4 years. ”

              A small page of shame. I know that there were more victims in other countries – even taking in consideration of small numbers of Italian Jews, percentage of deported people was around 20% of Jewish population in Italy. Almost 80% of them survived.
              But shame reamains – furthermore they were Italians from immemorable generations, I mean people who served Italy with honour in the First World war, who gave scientist, writers, humanist to their nation to have in change deprivation of rights and lives.
              Never more….never more..mai più.

              • anneinpt says:

                It’s a terrible story but you’re placing the blame on the wrong people. The blame belongs to the Nazis and the SS – they were the ones who stormed the synagogue and threatened the keeper. It wasn’t Italians who did that. Yes, I’m sure there were Italians who collaborated, as there were in every country, and they deserve everlasting shame, but at least in this one story, it appears that the Germans themselves were responsible.

            • anneinpt says:

              Like Brian and cba and so many others, I think Italy has much to be proud of in its history, and certainly less to be ashamed of than most other European countries in its actions during the War.

              Thank you for reminding us of Italy’s role in the “bricha” = the exodus of the Jews from Europe after the war to Israel, especially the huge assistant in providing boats and a safe port. I disagree that Italy did this in order to whitewash its reputation after the War. Every European country needed to repair its reputation after what they did to the Jews, and yet Italy was one of the few that took a pro-active role in aiding Jewish emigration to Israel.

      • Andrea says:

        Cba.
        It is me to thank you

    • anneinpt says:

      Andrea, in answer to your question about the different dates. In Israel, the calendar date changes according to the Hebrew month. Yom Hashoah falls on 27th Nissan (or on the 28th as this year so as not to start the ceremonies on Saturday night and risk desecrating the Sabbath). This year Passover fell very early in the calendar year. Next year it will be a leap year so all the dates will fall much later. The date was chosen because the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began during Passover. We are not allowed to hold memorials during a festival, so the date was moved to after Passover.

      There was some controversy at the time because the Rabbis preferred to use the day of 9th Av, the date of the destruction of both Temples, as the Memorial Day. Alternatively, the 10th Tevet, also a fast day commemorating the breach of Jerusalem’s walls amongst other sad events, was suggested, but the politicians wanted to include “heroism” into their memorial day, and thus the date was picked.

      It also falls exactly a week before the Military memorial day, which is somehow fitting.

      To address your other points: yes, it is a myth that the Jews went like lambs to the slaughter. Very many of them resisted as much as possible, even if they knew they had no chance of survival anyway. And of course it is documented that so many Jews joined the various Resistance and Partisans groups, fighting the Nazis along with their compatriots.

      I agree too that while antisemitism is growing, it is nothing like what was happening in the 30s and 40s in Europe. And again, you are right about the threat of Islamic antisemitism. Christian antisemitism should not be ignored of course, but I think the Islamic version is much more dangerous, partly because it is connected to both political power and military threats or terrorism emanating from places like Iran and exported around the world.

      As for your own contribution, please do not belittle yourself. The interest you show in our story, and your curiosity which challenges me to find the correct answers are all part of same combatting prejudice. I echo cba’s appreciation of your support.

  6. cba says:

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/warsaw-ghetto-survivor-carries-out-70-year-old-mission/

    Two days before her comrades embarked on an uprising that came to symbolize Jewish resistance against the Nazis in World War II, 14-year-old Aliza Mendel got her orders: Escape from the Warsaw Ghetto… “They told me I was too young to fight,” said the survivor, now 84, who uses her married name, Aliza Vitis-Shomron. “They said, ‘You have to leave and tell the world how we died fighting the Nazis. That is your job now.’”
    .
    .
    .
    Despite her own past, she claims not to have experienced the psychological damage that plague other survivors.

    “I never saw myself as a victim. I was on the active side, the resisting side,” she said. “It helped me cope.

    I’m sure it did help her cope.

  7. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Andrea, most Italian Jews survived the war, because most were hidden and protected by their neighbours, by priests, monks and nuns, even by members of the Fascist Party…not necessarily because they loved the Jews (why should they?), but because they didn’t believe that any group should be murdered for being Jewish (or anything else) when they hadn’t done anything wrong.

    War is evil, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who lives through a war is, therefore, evil. I repeat, many Italians did good things during that period, far more than did evil things, and they didn’t just stand by and do nothing, or claim that they “only following orders”. Remember those Italian army officers in Yugoslavia who refused to obey orders and thus saved lives; remember the army officers (and their soldiers) who were prepared to do battle against their so-called allies to protect the innocent.

    Be proud of the good part of your history and make sure that the bad part is also remembered.

    The English, for example, remember the Amritsar massacre in India, as well as the peaceful (or at the attempt to be peaceful) handover to Indian Independence. And we don’t conceal the wrong that was done to Jewish “displaced persons” trying to reach Palestine/Israel.

    Nobody’s perfect, but we try!

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