The president had been trying to honor a famous Pole, awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a resistance fighter who sneaked behind enemy lines to bear witness to the atrocities being committed against Jews. President Obama referred to him being smuggled “into the Warsaw ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself.”
For years, Jan Karski’s students at Georgetown University knew he was a great professor; what they didn’t realize was he was also a hero. Fluent in four languages, possessed of a photographic memory, Jan served as a courier for the Polish resistance during the darkest days of World War II. Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale, and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself.
This is something that someone probably should have noticed beforehand and realized that it was not only historically inaccurate but that it would cause our Polish friends to be upset about something that, even 67 years later is still an open wound for them.
For good reason: According to this paper, in addition to three million Polish Jews,
Documentation remains fragmentary, but today scholars of independent Poland believe that 1.8 to 1.9 million Polish civilians (non-Jews) were victims of German occupation policies and the war. This approximate total includes Poles killed in executions or who died in prisons, forced labor, and concentration camps. It also includes an estimated 225,000 civilian victims of the 1944 Warsaw uprising, more than 50,000 civilians who died during the 1939 invasion and siege of Warsaw, and a relatively small but unknown number of civilians killed during the Allies’ military campaign of 1944-45 to liberate Poland.
President Obama has a long track record of insulting the Poles. In 2010 he chose to play golf on the day of the funeral of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski, the Polish First Lady, and 94 senior officials who perished in the Smolensk air disaster. Eight months earlier he humiliated Warsaw by pulling out of the agreement over Third Site missile defence installations in Poland and the Czech Republic.
AND, the media’s too busy paying attention to The (other) Donald,
Oh wait, sorry, the MSM is of course completely ignoring this because Trump talking to Blitzer about Birther crap is obviously of much greater importance to our country than our relationship with our strongest ally on the European continent.
Maybe Obama will send Donald Tusk an iPod; that would make the news.
Obama is more than a leftist; he is also a Chicago politician. And big-city politicians of both parties discover that a cheap and easy way to rally voters from particular communities and interest groups–or at least to prevent a stronger vote for the opposite side–is to express public sympathy with whatever cause those constituencies hold dearest, even if those sympathies tend to contradict each other. Those politicians who care about being caught in the middle will be candid in expressing their own views, while remaining open to the views of others; those who believe they can get away with being all things to all people, or who see the whole exercise as just another way of feeding the voting machines, will fall into the trap that Obama has just sprung on himself.
For Obama, all foreign policy is domestic policy. That is true, to some extent, of all presidents, but especially of this one, whose fundamental ambition is the transformation of American society, and who is running a desperate divide-and-conquer strategy he hopes will enable him to carry that transformative agenda into a second term.
The President is going to speak the same day as Iran’s Ahmadinejad, Libya’s Gadhafi and Zimbabwe’s Mugabe; you have to wonder whether Syria’s al-Assad and/or North Korea’s Il-sung had scheduling conflicts. Doesn’t anybody at the White House check people’s work before they send it out?
Germany will walk out of the U.N. General Assembly if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust in a speech he will give Wednesday, and it wants other European Union countries to do the same, the foreign ministry said.
“We will leave the hall if President Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust or makes anti-Semitic statements … we are making efforts toward a unified European position,” a spokesman said Tuesday.
Just last week Ahmadinejad was denying the Holocaust.
Why is the UN inviting him anyway?
I’ll be talking about this (and about Gaddfi’s tent, they tell me) in today’s CNN Live’s Blogger Bunch at 12:15PM. See you there.
Why, you may ask, am I, a lapsed Catholic, posting on Holocaust Rememberance? Because forgetting the Holocaust and what it means dehumanizes all of us: The evil in the world who wants us to forget the Holocaust will envelop us if we do.
To our great distress, we are witness today to the widespread suppression of the Holocaust from our religious consciousness. Admittedly, it is difficult to deal with the Shoah. One of the ways of dealing with it, which certain people have employed, is simply removing it from our minds, ignoring it – not in the historical sense, but in the religious and spiritual sense. I am not speaking of the pernicious phenomenon of Holocaust denial, which maintains that the Shoah never happened. Rather, I am referring to the absenting of the Shoah from the public memory and from our religious awareness, whether consciously or unconsciously – particularly here in Israel.
Nidra Poller wrote this shortly after September 11, 2001:
A Polish shtetl in 1942. Why not Przemysl, where my father was born. The Einsatzgruppen and their Polish henchmen have finished off the neighboring town and, on their way to Lvov, they plan to stop in Przemysl. And kill men, women, and children. In the most atrocious fashion. And deport the “survivors” to nearby Oswiecem. Routine. It’s become as natural as a harvest. Good-natured, hard drinking, husky peasants and brave Nazi soldiers doing what has to be done. So sure of themselves, of their rightful domination, of their indomitable power, that it wouldn’t even occur to them to be on the alert as they pass from their last killing ground and make way at daybreak for Przemysl.
Surprise! US Marines swoop down upon the advancing column and wipe it out. Forgive me, there is something childish about this dream, this just short of divine intervention. But my father, olav ha shalom, was a Marine and I was a child past the age of reason. They wouldn’t send him to the front, because of his age and his four children, but he wanted to fight the Nazis and in this dream I give him his chance. He is in the platoon that attacks the Jew-killers who were on their way to Przemysl. His cousins are not herded like beasts into the forest, stripped, shot point blank on the edge of the mass grave, covered with quicklime, with earth, their lives stifled, their voices still choking in our throats. They are not murdered, they live, and I am not an orphan in Europe.
And the American troops, instead of winning the war slowly and at great cost in human lives, win it quickly, almost in a flash, with fantastic weapons and overwhelming military superiority. And the American government makes the rescue of Europe’s Jews a priority instead of a hush hush while we’re at it task. And my Jewish friends in Europe would not be remnants, they would be loaded down with more family than you could handle, running off to bar mitzvahs in Budapest and weddings in Warsaw.
How could you not wish it had turned out that way? Well of course you do, my friend who sent me the petition, because that was in the past and you know how it turned out and you suffered unbearable loss in your own life because it didn’t turn out that way. The Americans didn’t get there soon enough.
Today they are ready and willing to get there ahead of time. So the antiwarriors won’t hear of it. The World Trade Center attack? Oh, that was a year ago. What has he done to us lately. Besides, Saddam Hussein didn’t sign that one. So how can you prove what he was going to do if you have the good fortune of stopping him before he could do it? The antiwarriors want proof. Just as they would have asked for proof, as the Einsatzgruppen trundled along from one shtetl to the next, that they really intended to massacre all the Jews there as well.
And even when they get the proof they pretended to want, they turn it down. Last fall the official French position was: no to Bushy unilateralism. Take the question to the UN. To their great surprise, Bush brought the question to the UN, where the French did their best to undermine his efforts to put real teeth into the resolution. Nevertheless the antiwarrior camp swore by inspections. They got inspections and for the past month you would think there was a journalist under every inspector’s collar. The rallying cry was: they haven’t found anything…which proves there is nothing to find. And every holier than thou antiwarrior had personally read the 12,000 page report and concluded that there again, no news is good news. Now the inspectors are saying that something is fishy. The other day they found some very rich material on enriching uranium stashed away in the home of a respectable Iraqi scientist but that won’t faze the antiwarriors because nothing proves that the gentleman actually intended to enrich uranium. And by the way, where is Oussama bin Laden? And what do you intend to do about North Korea? …. I just opened a book to check on the spelling of Einsatzgruppen, and came upon a murky photo of Jews beaten to death in a public square by Ukrainians in 1941. The image superimposed in my mind with the unbearable aftermath of a terrorist attack in Israel, torn bodies in a lake of blood. And bystanders–then the local folks, today the TV audience–looking on with blind eyes.
….No matter how well one thinks they understand the horrors of Aushwitz, no matter how well read on the subject they may be, no matter how many old newsreels and photographs they have been exposed to, nothing- absolutely nothing- can prepare anyone for what they will see
Imagine a large industrial or chemical plant complex. Then, triple or quadruple the size. That is how big the killing factory was. Make no mistake- it was not an internment camp- it was a death factory.
One and a half million Jews perished in that camp alone- of that number, half a million were children under 16 years of age. This is not an exaggeration or calculation. By their own admission and record keeping, those who perpetrated the evil, have told us so. These numbers do not include the millions of Poles and others put to death in Auschwitz.
Background reading Rabbi Shaul Robinson of the Lincoln Square Synagogue recommends: The Shoah Foundation, Steven Spielberg’s initiative to record testimonies of Holocaust survivors, has many interviews with Holocaust Survivors on-line.
A short film by Alan Heath on Chelmno nad Ner, the first Nazi death camp:
Here’s a brief list of commemorations in the NY metropolitan area area, via Patty: This year, the community-wide Reading of the Names for Yom HaShoah will begin on Wednesday, April 30, and conclude on Thursday, May 1. The Reading will take place at Cong. B’nai Jeshurun, 257 West 88th Street (between Broadway & West End Avenue). The LSS time slot is 1:30 am, Thursday morning.
Upper West Side Commemoration Evening
Jointly presented by five Upper West Side Synagogues, this year’s Yom HaShoah Commemoration Ceremony will be held at Congregation Ohab Zedek 118 West 95th Street on Thursday evening, May 1 at 8:00 pm. This program will feature Auschwitz Survivor, Dronia Brandman, who will give riveting personal testimony, followed by a moving audio visual presentation and a candle lighting ceremony to remember the Six Million who perished.
Join the Drisha Community in commemorating the Shoah:
Black on White Our generation assumes the responsibility of remembrance through poetry, drama, art and song. Omer laws observed
12:45pm Thursday May 1
37 West 65th Street, 5th floor, New York 10023
Original poetry, artwork & performances by Amy Gottlieb, Carly Sachs, Elana Bell, Etta Abramson, Sonia Gordon-Walinsky, Leah Raub and others
Synagogue for the Arts:
Remembering for the Future In conjunction with: Battery Park Synagogue, Jewish Community Project Downtown, Tribeca Hebrew, and Stanton Street Shul
Thursday May 1, 2008 7:00 P.M.
The commemoration will feature: The remarkable talent and music of the Hevreh Ensemble • Guest speakers from the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Helen Hoffman and Shayna Goodman • Prayers and reflection led by Rabbi Jonathan Glass and Cantor Zachary Konigsberg • and candle lighting by the youth of downtown Manhattan.
Reception to follow
Admission is free
at the Synagogue for the Arts 49 White Street New York, New York 10013 (between Church & Broadway) Synagogue for the Arts: 212 966-7141 firstname.lastname@example.org
YOUNG ISRAEL OF HILLCREST:
169-07 Jewel Avenue Hillcrest, New York
You are cordially invited to the Young Israel of Hillcrest for its ANNUAL YOM HASHOAH COMMEMORATION The Annual Memorial Observance for the Six Million Martyrs
And Remembrance Day for Jewish Martyrdom and Heroism
GUEST SPEAKER: John Loftus President of the Florida Holocaust Museum Author of “The Secret War Against the Jews” and “Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, the Nazis and the Swiss Banks”
And Featuring: ChazzanYitzchok Wargon
Thursday, May 1, 2008, 8:00PM Admission is Free
Shabbat M’Shoah Letekuma:
Lincoln Square Synagogue will mark the special Shabbat between Yom HaShoah and Yom Haatzmaut with a special community Shabbat Lunch. The event will feature an honored guest speaker : Prof. Benjamin Ish-Shalom, the Founder and President of Beit Morasha and Beren College, is one of the world’s leading proponents for Jewish unity and moderation. Prof. Ish-Shalom is the Founding Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Jewish Studies – the “Joint Conversion Institute”, an innovative conversion institute that combines Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform perspectives on Judaism while meeting the requirements of Jewish Law, which was established by the Israeli Government and the Jewish Agency following the recommendation of the Ne’eman Commission.
The recipient of the prestigious 2004 AVI CHAI Prize for Leadership in Promoting Jewish Unity, Prof. Ish-Shalom was commended for his “extensive and diverse efforts to develop a shared cultural foundation and promote fruitful dialogue among the different segments of Israeli Jewry.” With a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought from the Hebrew University, he has served on the faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Technion, and Yeshiva University, has lectured worldwide, and has published numerous books and articles on Jewish Thought and Philosophy. In addition to his teaching at Beren College, Prof. Ish- Shalom currently teaches at Bar-Ilan University.
Cost: $45 Register online at lss.org, or call the Shul office 212 874 6100
Congregation Ramath Orah
Please join us this motzai Shabbat, Saturday night, May 3rd at 9:30 PM for a very meaningful Yom HaShoah/Yom HaZikaron event, as we remember the vitims of the Holocaust and Israel’s fallen soldiers and terror victims. The program will be kumsitz style, with candles, songs, stories and divrei Torah throughout the night, led by Merav Miller and the CRO Rabbis. Come and share your own stories and thoughts as well. We will end before midnight with the singing of HaTikvah. Please wait until Shabbat ends before preparing to attend this program. We hope you can join us for this important event.
Additionally, CRO members will be reading names of Shoah victims from 8:00 AM – 8:30 AM on Thursday, May 1st at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun (257 W 88th St.). Contact the office at 212.222.2470 or just show up at that time slot to take part in reading the names.
A Brazilian judge barred a samba group on Thursday from featuring a Holocaust display and a dancer dressed as Adolf Hitler in its Carnival parade after fierce complaints from Jewish groups.
State judge Juliana Kalichszteim ruled the Viradouro samba group, or school, would be subject to a $110,000 fine for the float and $28,000 for the Hitler impersonation if it went ahead with its original parade plan.
The Viradouro samba school’s position was that
the float was “extremely respectful” and was meant as a warning about the horrors of the past so that they never happen again.
However, following complaints from Israelite Federation in Rio de Janeiro state and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the judge ruled that
“Carnival should not be used as an instrument of hatred, any kind of racism and clear trivialization or barbaric and unjustified acts against minorities.”
Were the Viradouro go ahead with their original plans, they would be liable for $110,000 fine for the float and $28,000 for the Hitler impersonator.
In dramatic contrast to the floats carrying sequined, scantily clad dancers smiling and gyrating, the Holocaust entry will show only motionless, skeletal figures piled on top of each other.
Its creator defended the float, which will move along under the theme “It’s Horrifying”.
“It’s a very respectful float. It’s going to depict it [the Holocaust] as a sort of alarm, so that it never be repeated,” the creator, Paulo Barros, said.
“I believe the carnival is also a way of showing what happens in the world,” he said.
At first glance I found it obscene, but I sent the link to a Brazilian friend.
My friend explained that the Carnival season is not only a time for a huge party (obviously), but also a time for social discussion and critique. Many social issues are brought to public attention during this time of the year.
The intention of the Viadoro group who came up with the float is to bring the Holocaust back to people’s minds. My friend says,
it is intended to be very shocking, very lifelike, to show the horrors of the Holocaust even during a very festive occasion
Additionally, the Viadoro are singling out this float by not having people on it as a show of respect. The purpose of the float is to bring the Holocaust back to public view, lest people forget it.
Nothing could be more public than a float down the Sambodromo.
Having considered my friend’s comments, I think that this may be a very effective way to highlight Holocaust awareness. The question remains, is the setting appropriate?