Tuesday, 27 January 2009

090127 International Holocaust Day

27th January 2009.

World Holocaust Remembrance Day

It is 63 years since the day the world began understand the full meaning of evil as Allied soldiers entered the sheer and unadulterated hell of Auschwitz. Those solders saw what no man should see as the emaciated bodies dressed in striped pyjamas came toward them in disbelief that they had survived.

There are a million stories of survival and rebuilding of lives but there is one which caught my heart in its message of hope. A dear friend in Toronto, Andrea Koven, sent it to me. It is the story of a young survivor, born to an observant family, who wanted a white wedding as the symbol of her normal life in the past. Her husband-to-be took on the task lovingly and her dress was made – from an old parachute. The dress now stands in the museum at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as testament to the hope and ingenuity of the survivors. http://www.thejewishpress.com/pageroute.do/37658

Today, there are still those who deny, or resent our very survival; there are even intellectuals who deny the Holocaust in learned tomes. If we do not recount the stories of those terrible times and take our children, however young, to meet some of these incredible old people to hear first hand of their experiences then there is no hope that our children will believe that such horror could ever have happened. They will accept the Holocaust deniers because it seems more believable that our generation lies than an entire army was built with the sole purpose of eliminating Jews. Of course it was not only Jews, although the prime target, it was all "defective" peoples, such as aristocrats, Catholics, homosexuals, the disabled and those who did not conform to the Nazi image – today we call them Infidels.

Yad Vashem is here in Jerusalem. Through this august institution an entire world of people learned the history of the Holocaust; through this dignified institution we are taken through the experiences of those who lived the Holocaust and shown their stories of heroism and suffering through THEIR eyes, through THEIR stories, through THEIR mementoes. There are many brilliantly designed Holocaust museums, in the USA, Australia, Canada, UK and of course the unambiguous confession of the vestiges of the death camps in Europe, but only in Jerusalem, does one arrive at the end of a heart-rending walk through our history into the dream of Jerusalem which rose as a Phoenix out of the ashes of our ancestors – the panorama of Jerusalem, capital city of the State of Israel will stand before you as proof of our resilience. http://www1.yadvashem.org/exhibitions/27_Jan_2009/index.html


I promised that I would no write further on Operation Cast Lead since I believe that BICOM http://www.bicom.org.uk/news is doing an excellent job of updating us - making personal opinions superfluous.

The Israeli government has put forward a plan to defend soldiers of the IDF who took part in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza because there are places in this world where they could be stopped and charged with war crimes. I believe it is time we insisted that our legal systems consider proportionate responses to such criminal idiocy. Remember the BBC Interview with Major Richard Kemp? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WssrKJ3Iqcw and now both the BBC and Sky News have refused to air charity appeals for the people of Gaza since they are beginning to recognize a distinct lack of proportion in the accounts. I use this as prelude to a short video from Aish haTorah of an interview with a young IDF soldier and how he put his thoughts into action with www.thankisraelisoldiers.com


International Holocaust Remembrance Day was introduced into the United Nations by Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Danny Gillerman and thanks to his untiring efforts and lobbying the resolution passed, never to be denied by many of the Moslem UN member nations who commit the terrible crime of likening the actions of Israel to those of Nazi Germany. Such accusations make the gall rise in my throat and a rare and blistering anger emerge at the ultimate insult to my inherited memory.

It is up to YOU, yes, you and me, to ensure that these memories are not sullied by cruel denial and comparisons by pledging here and now to actively stand up and be counted without fear of standing out because like it or not, we do. The world is in grave danger of another holocaust, the dehumanization has started and even our own believe the lies spread about Israeli actions, or even Israeli existence because the disinformation is now overt rather than the subliminal accusations of former years.

For the first time since the Holocaust, State promoted anti-Semitism has raised its ugly head, not in a Moslem country, in Venezuela. The zealous bile comes from the top, from the low born, uneducated, megalomanic leader of that country, Hugo Chavez. If those we do not act soon, or sooner, then I fear for the lives of the 13,000 Jews left in Venezuela. We cannot ignore it any longer.

Yesterday I took Zvi to see one of my favourite places – Shouk Ramle. Now held each Monday in the car park of the Malha train station it is testament to the multi-cultural society of Israel; Jews and Arabs walking together, enjoying the bargains as the most natural thing in the world. Today I was in the Mall and as I sat with my daughter drinking my regular "hafuch, chazak v'gadol" a big, strong cafĂ© latte, I watched the parade of Moslem women with their children beside the many levels of Jewish and Christian folk and I prayed silently that one day I would be allowed to take my daughter to drink coffee in a Moslem country in the same freedom that is offered to those Arab women. As a Jew who never met anyone who went to the ovens of the Holocaust but met many who came out the other side of the camps and formed the most amazing country in the world, I will never hate anyone, any "other" and religion as others hated and still hate me.

Praying for "Never Again" and trying to do something positive to prevent it.

With love



  1. As the author of a Holocaust novel ("Jacob's Courage: A Holocaust Love Story"), I appreciate books that offer a frank, emotional examination of morality. Repugnance, despair and darkness exist within human nature. We therefore learn nothing about ourselves if we do not examine this part of our psyche.

    "Jacob's Courage" explores how humans behaved during the most brutal and horrendous genocide in history. We are complex beings. There is a great deal more to us than the ubiquitous battleground of good versus evil. We are not one or the other, but a combination of both. We are beautiful and ugly, soothing and terrifying, brutal and caring; we love and we despise.

    Deep within the fear and panic of the Holocaust were decisions about ethical behavior and our concept of integrity. Unlike animals, humans are governed by principles, moral beliefs and veracity. We are not clouded by delusions of morality, but governed by them. In "Jacob's Courage," my characters explore the human response to terror and morality, as well as the alluring beauty of passionate young love and the driving power of religious devotion. Our lives are complex - even within the garish midst of the Holocaust. Powerful passion and tender love also existed during times of horror and despair. So did a deep commitment to our relationship with faith and God. These powerful motivators churn within the consciousness of my characters, creating powerful new relationships and inspiring virtuous behavior. Yet, the world is seldom seen in black and white, or shades of gray - even during the Holocaust. In the midst of terrible anguish, beauty exists. Within beauty, despair can exist.

    Holocaust survivors lost everything, but perhaps somehow gained something as well. Certainly an honest examination of the Holocaust must reveal torturous brutality and death. Yes, many Holocaust survivors lost all of their loved ones. However, life is not always so simple. Deep within the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, the Jews of Europe continued to practice their religion, to teach their children and to love one another. Here, one can feel hope for the survival of the human spirit, among the ashes of destruction.

    In an age of realism, readers seem to have a passion for books about real-life characters. As a child of this generation, I tend to agree. I have nothing against classic stories about good versus evil. Certainly good and evil exist always. Yet, today's more discerning reader expects characters to be more like themselves – multifaceted, often chaotic individuals who possess characteristics both good and bad. Novels should not always be about traditional heroes and villains. If we wish to emulate reality, then our good characters should become complex humans, with flaws, limitations, imperfections and faults. Our villains should possess some good qualities, as well.

    No emotion pushes us to behave in a stronger sense than does guilt. I constructed characters aggravated constantly and aggressively by guilt. We are forever tortured by our past and guilt is the primary motivator in our decisions about the future. We can ignore it or learn from it, but we can never escape from it. I believe that it is impossible to write about the Holocaust without a hefty dose of guilt. In “Jacob's Courage” all of my characters are burdened by guilt – even the most innocent.

    Characters living through the Holocaust were faced with the most perfidious forces. Deceit, brutality, cruelty, sickness, starvation and the death of loved-ones were the daily companions of Holocaust victims. Novels about this time are by causality dark and precarious. Yet, in the midst of this despair, there was life, love, passion, desire, religious fervor and the excitement known only to children. Even in such hopeless desolation, there was love of God, infatuation, romance and passion and longing for all of the things that humans crave. Characters such as these must by nature embellish the wide range of human attributes. Such was the complex state of being in a Nazi death camp.

    "Jacob's Courage” describes the Holocaust through the eyes of a normal Jewish family. If we speak only of heroic individuals battling against dark forces, then we dismiss the truth of our nature. Humans are far more complex than such generic characters imply. Not all Jews imprisoned and tortured by Nazi Germany were good. Some became “kapos,” more ruthless than the SS. Not all Germans were bad. Some Germans were riddled with guilt and some expressed tender compassion for the imprisoned Jews. Yet, below the surface of brutality, we find the human instinct for life, liberty, love and compassion.

    Most of the Jews in Nazi concentration camps comprehended that they would not survive. Yet, within the camps, the Jews constructed synagogues, schools, and orchestras. They had civic leaders, medical clinics, commerce and religious celebrations. Hidden from the SS, the Jews observed all of the covenants and rituals of Judaism, including holidays, marriage ceremonies, burials and circumcisions. Along the terrifying, dark path to the gas chambers of Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews lived, loved, learned and died. Yet, in their darkest moments, the Jews of Nazi concentration camps fabricated a “normal” life for their progeny. Despite their impending mortality, they created a normal world on the inside to protect children from the raging genocide on the outside. Such was the nature of their love. Yet this love transcended parental affection. Judaism cannot survive without Jewish children.

    The Holocaust cannot be described without inflicting horror upon the reader. Such books are not for the faint of heart. The human spirit strives for autonomy and freedom, of course. Yet, if one is to search for an understanding of human nature, then one must descend into the depths of depravity and terror. We cannot understand humanity without comprehending its wicked flaws. Deep within the darkest recesses of brutal genocide, the “Jacob's Courage” reader will discover a faint flicker of light representing love, passion, desire, hope and reverence. Here is the essence of "Jacob's Courage" - an examination of morality, love and righteousness, in the midst of the dark whirlwind of malevolence.

    Read more about Jacob's Courage at http://www.amazon.com/Jacobs-Courage-Holocaust-Love-Story/dp/9657344247/ref=sr_1_1/002-8189239-3149614?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1174846034&sr=1-1 and at http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/?page_id=3&preview=true, or visit the publisher at http://www.mazopublishers.com/jacobscourage.html

  2. I teach high school English in Virginia. One of the books we read is "Night" and within that framework I incorporate a research project on the Holocaust. On the first day of school this year I had two male students (one Arab and one African American) utter the words I had never heard before "I don't think it happened." Well, in two weeks I hope that I will fulfill my role in making them realize that it happened and perhaps more importantly, perhaps they can fathom why they would say what they said.