Cross posted at Sybil Ludington Rides Again
I’m not really Israeli, I’m not Jewish, but I care deeply about Yad Vashem, and you should too. Why? Read on.
Get coffee, get a BIG cup of coffee.
This was my first big adventure, after landing at Ben Gurion airport with it’s plaque telling when it was freed by the IDF on the 10th of July 1948 in the War for Independence.
The visit to Yad Vashem starts out in a theater. It has a looping film showing slices of life, conversation and music in the days before the madness began. It’s like being behind the lens of a camera that is panning a street. There are apartment buildings and you see people through the windows doing things like having dinner, practicing a violin, teaching, visiting. Then you might see a office building, or a factory. Through their windows you see people doing things. Eventually the panning shifts and you see country side with people working, children playing. Slices of normal life, the way life should have remained for them, but didn’t. Yad Vashem covers why it didn’t, what happened when it didn’t and the final “victory”, which it was, but at a fearful price.
The first of the displays talks about what life was like, before the nazis (nazis don’t deserve capital letters) really had power, they were just beginning to grow in their influence. How many of the Jews were professional people, like doctors, lawyers, teachers. Many if not most, I imagine, of the children went to school, like other children. They had families, lives and their synagogues. Slowly that began to change. Initially Germans resisted the attempts to vilify their neighbors that had lived among them for so long. It took hitler (he doesn’t get capital letters either) a while to change people’s mindsets. When he first began to attempt to blame the Jews for all the ills Germany was undergoing, they didn’t buy in. Given time, and help they were not only willing to turn a blind eye, they did buy in.
I think if we look at where some of that help came from and what it was it could be very useful for us today. What is it they say? Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it.
I guess one of the things that struck me about how life was “before” was the feeling of trust. The Jews thought they were safe. The Germans, Poles, and others were their neighbors. They had “coexisted” for a very long time. Co-exist is a lovely sentiment, makes a darling bumper sticker (or an advertisement for who would be an easy target when things go south) and if all parties were willing it would be wonderful. But history seems to show us one of the parties in the “coexist” will decide they don’t want to “coexist” they want to rule, or destroy another party, and they set about doing it. The rest of the museum deals with the result of the “coexist” mindset.
Some of the exhibits, many actually would have film clips you could watch. Some of footage shot during the holocaust, some of survivors, some of observers. One was of a woman that told of her Mother having made a hiding place in the closet and when the nazis would come she would shove them in it. The last time the nazis came she talked them into letting her get her coat. She opened the closet, quietly said “Good-bye girls, if I’m not back by night, go to the TenBooms” I have to wonder if that would be Corrie TenBoom, the author of “The Hiding Place”. Quite a book and a movie. She didn’t come back. Some of the people knew who betrayed them. It was their friends, and neighbors. People they had known and trusted for years. But why would these former friends betray them to such a horrific fate? The museum had some very compelling evidence how it could happen.
A very charismatic leader came to power using the slogan “Hope and Change”, whoops wrong slogan, hitler’s was just “Hope”. Hope for Germany. Germany had been in a sad state of affairs since the last war they started, their debt was crushing them. And Mr. Germany (who wasn’t really German) knew who to blame. The Jews, he was very upfront about his feelings, but the low info voters blew off the warning signs in his book Mein Kampf. So hitler promised Germans he would provide ice cream, rainbow strew and free hitler phones to all when he was elected. He purchased a newspaper to spread his screed. Tyrants today do not need to go to such lengths as the print media is pretty well on board and does the screed spreading for free, as they’ve bought in to the ideology. Pretty much the same with TV, for those that get out of line and really are investigative journalists you can read my post on Sharyl Atkisson. Or perhaps study the late Andrew Breitbart. And, he had his new propaganda minister to help out. I don’t know if the media back then were willing participants, or if they were forced but you began to see “cartoons” of Jews handing out poison candy to unsuspecting children. In fact there is a whole collection of these cartoons. Some of them were used in schools, proving “common core” is really nothing new. You can see several of them here. http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/thumb.htm They sort of remind me of the way that cartoonist for the Kansas City “Red Star” portrays gun owners. I haven’t taken that rag for years, if they can’t report a story involving a firearm accurately after it has happened why would I think anything else they report is accurate? Vilification of Jews in cartoons was nothing new, it occurred in the middle ages as well, and the nazis happily revived some of the old woodcuts. Wikipedia has info here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewpig it’s called Judensau. I will tell you before you look, it’s vile, the only reason I’m giving the link is I saw a platter with that woodcut image in the museum. Yep, people served food on them, there were also plates so people ate off them.
The culture was changing that made it not only acceptable but desirable to isolate and vilify one group of people. An artist named Charlotte Salomon (Apr 1917-10 Oct 1943 Auschwitz) did a series of paintings that chronicled her life entitled “Life or Theater”. They showed the changes in life the longer the nazis were in power. Her family had been quite comfortable before all the “hopey-changey” stuff took place. Her Dad was a surgeon, which became one of the prohibited professions for Jews. Charlotte had gained University acceptance to the United State school of pure arts, but in time she refused to go as it wasn’t safe. She and her husband fled to France where she continued to paint. When the nazis intensified their search in France for Jews, she and her husband were found. They were sent to Auschwitz, she was gassed the day she arrived and she was pregnant. Charlotte had turned over her paintings to a trusted friend for protection. She told the friend they were her life, she painted frantically towards the end. She lives on through the series of paintings. You can read more about Charlotte in wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Salomon
There was a picture of a beautiful young girl, she had long thick auburn braids in the picture. The braids are in the display case below, still braided, still thick and rich in auburn color. The owner long ago murdered. Part of the piles of things collected in the camps, like hair, teeth, glasses, shoes, some of this was re-purposed for the German army. And piles of bones and bodies, lots of the bodies those things used to belong to. The jewelry of course had been confiscated.
My hands down favorite part of the museum was the section dedicated to the resistance. It was pitifully small. When you realize what the nazis did to the children of G-d, I suspect it might make the Egyptians look like a bad date. The weapons of resistance were pitifully few, and pitifully poor. I saw a rifle labeled as a pistol grip. Phooey! It was a rifle with the stock broke off. I’m sure it was easier to hide, but that’s all it was. There was one or two magazines laying beside it. Yes, there were a few other things in that section, but not enough. There should have been a room piled with magazines, rifles and all manner of things that had been used to defend the people. Two quotes struck me from this section.
Today it will be half a year since our destruction began [July 1942]. Had we but resisted then, at least as much as we resisted during the last deportation [January 1943], the Nazis would not have succeeded so easily in destroying such a large Jewish community. If the Jews had at the very least not gone of their own free will, but stubbornly hidden as they have been doing in the last few days – then the deportation would have lasted for months on end. One shudders to think that it required a quarter of a million Jews to give their lives, for the remainder to understand the reality of the situation and come to the right conclusions. From the diary of Shmuel Winter
“It is impossible to put into words what we have been through. What happened exceeded our boldest dreams. The Germans fled twice from the ghetto… My life’s dream has come true. Defense in the ghetto has become a fact. Armed Jewish resistance and revenge are actually happening. I have witnessed the glorious and heroic combat of the Jewish fighters.”~~Mordechai Anielewicz, Warsaw Ghetto, April 1943
I had coffee with a friend not long ago, we were talking about this. I said “If I were in charge, Yad Vashem would be a very different place. There would be rooms and rooms showing the different methods that were used to fight off an aggressor dedicated to erasing a section of the population off the face of the earth”. There would have been rooms showing the trials, and what happened to those that became tyrants and served tyrants. There would have been rooms dedicated to the victory celebration and one room to commemorate the six people that died fighting to save the lives of the innocents, because six people would have been all of the innocents that died. The death toll on the tyrant side would have been much higher.
So while the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto realized they were in a fight for their lives (finally) and news of the uprising began to come out, the rest of the world seems to have emitted a collective yawn. And so the poison gas flowed through the sewers, the tanks rolled in, fire spread and the people died. In recent times events have occurred that should make people sit up and take notice or at least open their eyes a bit wider in alarm, seems only to prompt only the changing of the channel to American Idol and people grab a coke with a smile. Putin rolls into the Ukraine and barry draws another red line in the sand. Isn’t it interesting that Putin is using the same excuse hitler did to invade countries? Well, when a country has ineffective leadership (at least in a positive direction, taking the country down the drain he’s a master at) you get things like the first lady holding up a sign begging a terrorist group to give back kidnapped girls. Yeah Mooch, that’ll do it.
Women in the camps didn’t have it any easier. They had to deal with things like Bloody Brigitte, she always struck till there was blood, she released her dogs on the prisoners. This sadistic German nurse spent time in prison for her crimes. I’m quite sure the prison she spent time in was much nicer than the ones she presided over.
There were also displays of pieces of medical equipment that could be used to determine if someone was Jewish, based on facial feature measurements. Now we don’t need those things, we have biometrics. They had helpful little “family tree” examples to determine the fate of someone’s life based on their grandparents.
I tend to look at patterns, and I’m seeing one. I’m seeing a pattern of a segment of a population being vilified by politicians, cartoonist ridiculing political and religious beliefs. Any attempt by the pitifully small remnant of a “news” media to point out the corruption is stifled. Anyone speaking out against it can look forward to IRS intervention to shut them down. And one party has called for the IRS to shut down political dissent. And yet from those espousing “tolerance” (but only for certain groups) are the very ones that push such policies using bully politics. You think people aren’t losing their jobs because of political or religious beliefs? Ask a pair of twin brothers that lost their new show on HGTV because it came out they were……..sssshhhhh, “Christians”. The same tactics have been tried against a store selling chicken sandwiches and a man that made & sells duck calls. WOW. So, HGTV pulled the new show. Darn, I will miss “Property Brothers”, but hey, they don’t want “my kind” of viewer,so I will oblige them, and their sponsors. You know, that’s the thing about a pattern, I’ve never bought a pattern for a shirt and ended up with a saddle blanket. They are worth paying attention to.