Signals From History


April 22, 1943: The Jews of Amersfoort, Holland are deported

April 25, 1943: Fires set by Germans consume the Warsaw ghetto.


A Way of Life?

On April 8 we memorialized the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. On May 8 we will mark the 68th anniversary of the end of World War II which resulted in 25 million civilian casualties.

Did I say “the end of the war”? In fact, the war never ended. It has been followed by localized conflicts in which civilians are being targeted, killed, and displaced, their lives disrupted, thousands of women widowed and thousands of children orphaned. As I write this post war is raging in Syria, there are daily bombings in Iraq and elsewhere, and the victims are mostly civilians.

I was shocked to hear one morning on the radio a famous psychiatrist stating that the bombings in Boston and elsewhere were to be expected, that they have become a way of life. This is shocking. Are we really resigned to the fact that this is “the way of life” in the 21st century? Are all the institutions created after WWII to promote peace in this troubled world paralyzed?

And now the heinous act of violence in Boston. I shudder to think that this is a domestic act of violence, of the nature of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The motto of this blog has been since the beginning that language can heal, and language can kill. As of this writing there is no hint of who committed the dastardly act in Boston. But someone, somewhere has heard the person responsible uttering words of hate. It is our responsibility as individuals to react to this, not to ignore it.

Yes, I know that the free speech argument comes into play, that in the United States we do not censor speech. But those who spread hate speech should be considered potential killers. They should be exposed, ostracized, and brought to the attention of organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and other local human rights organizations. The biggest tragedies in our lifetime started with hate speech. I remind you of Hitler and his Nazi movement, and in our time elements in the Islamic world who openly and unashamedly encourage killing in the name of God. How obscene!

The Holocaust left an indelible stain of tears and pain, blood and shame on humanity. The Boston massacre and the acts of violence perpetuated daily are adding another layer to the stain. Do not be complacent! It is our duty to be aware and beware of the roots of such violence and do everything we can to avert it.

Signals From History


Early April, 1942: Jews are mocked and hanged in Mlava, Poland

April 1, 1942: 965 Slovenian Jews are deported to Auschwitz.

April 3, 1942: This day deportation from Augsburg, empties the town of Jews, ending Jewish presence that was established in 1212. They are deported to the Belzec death camp.


On Yom Hashoah

This year, as we do each year, we memorialize the 6,000,000 of our brothers and sisters who perished in the Shoah. The number obscures the enormity of the tragedy that befell each person individually.

The number alone does not allow you to imagine what happened the moment the Germans invaded our towns and villages, when in effect the fate of our own people was already predetermined.

It does not tell you what happened the moment we were driven from our homes (the homes of our parents and the generations that came before them).

It does not illustrate for you the crowding of many families in one house in the ghetto, without food, water, sanitary facilities, in constant fear, isolation, denigration, everything to make you lose any self-image of yourself as a human being.

It does not convey to you our trembling at the sound of a motorcycle truck or movement of military force; shunned by our former neighbors or worse, delivered to the Germans by them for some real or made-up grievances.

It does not relay to you experience of hearing, over and over again, the reports from escapees from neighboring towns, about the demise of their communities by machine gun and then by fire.

How does the number 6,000,000 portray the agony of the mother who, during the selection before the destruction, refused to be separated from her children during the short ride to hell by fire, even though she was offered a chance to go with the able-bodied?

How, when we remember the 6,000,000, do we remember the horrors of those who were ripped out from their homes and forced to enter box cars which would take them on a ride of many days and nights to their final destinations, to the extermination camps and crematoria?

How can you, in your wildest imagination, picture the daily torment of those who, in the winter of 1944-45, were forced to march westward, starved, with scarce and worn clothing, and of those unable to keep up with the march, who were shot and left by the wayside.

How do we bear witness to the stories of those hiding in bunkers, caves, forests, and swamps, often betrayed by their neighbors, stories that words do not suffice to describe?

Need I remind you that all these atrocities occurred in the heart of Europe, in the most so-called “civilized” and “cultured” country, the result of masses manipulated by a so-called “fuhrer” driven by wild ambition to rule the world?

I am reluctant to describe the present state of the world. If you are informed you know it all too well.

When you attend your Yom Hashoah Commemoration, and when you hear the reference to the 6,000,000 that were murdered, remember this: Murder in the first days of the war would have been a merciful means of execution for all those whose journeys to death I described to you above, and for all those whose stories defy description.

6,000,000 murdered only begins to tell the story. We, the survivors, and you who hear us, we are the ones that have to tell the stories of the tormented journeys that preceded the murder so many of our brothers and sisters.