Looking Back

May 8, 1945 was the date when Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces at the end of World War II. I found myself in Northern Germany on the Baltic Sea with the Second Russian Army. I was a young man, twenty-five years old. On that day, I dared to dream that after all the years of destruction, bloodshed, six million Jews perished plus over 20 million others, mostly non-combatants, that humanity had learned its lesson and would never even contemplate, no less permit, anything like this to occur again. With painful regret I am realizing that the world we find ourselves in right now is facing daily atrocities of a different kind, leaving me desolate.

Consider two events just in the past week. In Nigeria, close to 300 girls have been abducted by a terrorist group, taken to a camp deep in the forest, and reportedly forced to serve as slaves and prostitutes. The leader of Boku Haram has claimed responsibility and is now making the dastardly claim that he has a mandate from Allah to sell the girls. And in Afghanistan, three volunteer physicians were killed by their guard in the hospital where they worked to save lives.

These events should have been enough to provoke outrage throughout the world. But with minor exceptions, the world has shown total indifference, allowing the news cycle to sweep these horrific events off the front page and out of the evening news. There has been almost no mass outrage, only a few demonstrations in a few isolated cities. Yet when a cartoonist in Denmark published a cartoon that was considered disrespectful to Muslims, fatahs were proclaimed against the artist and thousands rioted all over the world.

As a survivor of the Holocaust, and as one who witnessed the rise of Hitler in Germany, I would like to remind you of some of the events of those years which clearly predicted the horrors to come.

  • In 1935 the Nuremburg Laws were enacted, stripping Jews of German citizenship, making it a crime for Aryans to marry Jews, and ordering many other draconian restrictions.
  • In 1936, the Germans marched unopposed into the Rhineland, an area that had been demilitarized by the Versailles Treaty.
  • In March 1938, German-speaking Austria was incorporated into the Reich, with all anti-Semtic decrees immediately applied to Austrian citizens.
  • In September, 1938 in Munich, Great Britain and France agreed to allow Germany to occupy the Sudetenland, a German-speaking portion of Czechoslovakia. Prime Minister Chamberlain returned to England to proclaim that he had brought “peace in our time.”
  • And finally, all became clear in November, 1938 on Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), a nation-wide pogrom against Jews in Austria, Germany and the Sudetenland.  Hundreds of synagogues were destroyed, thousands of Jewish shops were looted and 30,000 Jewish men were deported to concentration camps.

The lesson we should have learned: when you sign non-aggression agreements with dictators and do not respond forcefully to the first violations, prepare for war.  Hitler’s writings and rantings and actions were ignored by other world leaders, and when there was an opportunity to save German Jews, the world powers chose to turn a blind eye.

I dedicate this posting to my wife Malka on this anniversary of her passing, seven years ago on May 7. As a young girl, she was separated from her family and was the only person in her family to survive. In her life she demonstrated love for all people, unlimited dedication to helping children grow and acceptance of every human being as God created them. She would be in pain to see the world as it is now.  All who knew her still miss her greatly, and I wish she were here to help us find a way to come to terms with the current harsh realities.

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3 thoughts on “Looking Back

  1. Reblogged this on Sojourning With Jews and commented:
    Thankfully, in an era where America could wittiness the recent Rialto Unified School District’s absurd and shockingly pathetic assignment to 8th graders to debate (in writing) if the Holocaust was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain”, by reading material produced by Holocaust deniers, we still have witnesses who experienced those horrid years and are willing to teach us how the incomprehensible happened, if we’re willing to listen and learn from them.

    One such person is Moshe Baran and if you’re a subscriber of Sojourning With Jews, you know I think very highly of this man. He published a terrific article this evening that include his thoughts on recent atrocities that are being largely ignored, and some tender thoughts about his wife.

  2. Wonderful writing by Moshe Baran. Whenwver i read your blog, i think about Malka and You. Keep on writing until 120.

  3. It pains me tremendously that a survivor of the Holocaust must look out from his window at the horror of the present surrounding world. That even the memory of his wife must also be pained by the shape the world is in breaks my heart. We have failed them immensely. It is not just the terrorists and fascists and overlords fault, it is ours, the worlds, for daring to look away again at what European Christianity looked away from last century: evil. Even in the aftermath of that grotesque horror, the soul of the church turned and essentially walked away from its complicity of silence. When we turned our gaze away in the aftermath of the Holocaust, when Christianity refused to take up the burden of teaching and remembering and went about the business of “evangelizing” the world while rejecting its responsibility to the six million who died and the survivors who all but died,as it sat outside the circle of doom watching, evil slipped out the back door to ravage a hundred other neighborhoods, to include Nigeria. For all the hours of Bible study, the lesson of King David and Uriah and the prophet Nathan’s conviction of the king was ignored as having tragic application to itself. We, Western Christianity, the world-in-general, have not stepped one step to the right or left of active lethal bystanderism, it seems, because, at least in part, we have accepted our burden, have never taken the time or recognized the urgent necessity to stop to learn and apply the lessons of the catastrophe that Moshe Baran and a few others survived. We have never taken the time to relieve the burden on the shoulders of the Jewish community to remember and memorialize. We claim to know the enemy but the enemy slips by, unnoticed, to ravage and tear apart. We have seen the enemy and in some way it is, at least in part, us.

    That Moshe must even mention that his beloved wife of blessed memory, Malka, would be in pain to see the world as it is angers me. It should not be so. It should not be this way. The burden should have been shouldered, the beaten man left by the side of the road tended to. The resistance must regroup and reestablish itself in the forests of now. As for me, I will use the anger to do more.

    Thank you, Ruth, for re-blogging this. And thank you, Moshe, for sharing the truth of what you see. The anger I feel right now will become good fuel to feed the work of resistance.

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