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Memory and Anger

by Harold M. Schulweis

I know the Rabbi who normally occupies this pulpit. I listen to him often. Never missed any of his talks. I try to understand him, and it has not always been easy. I wish him and you better luck tonight.

I sense, as I look about Jewish life, a mounting anger in our people. A barely concealed resentment. Anger leaked in public statements of many of our leaders – religious, political, secular, in Israel, at home. There is an "anger," a fear and a suspicion towards "them" – the "gentile world," the Church, the States foreign policy, the public media. There is an anger between us.

 –  American Jews returning from the World Zionist Congress report of microphones seized, the harassment of speakers, jostling and bullying beyond political.

 –  Read Jewish press. Between Agudah, Shas, Degel Hatorah, National Religious Party, Satmer, Belzer, and Lubavitch: far from spiritual delicacy among religious prevails.

 –  And among us in America: Orthodox and non-Orthodox: no dialogue, no fraternizing; a silent bridge, a Jewish apartheid. A society where Orthodox children do not pray or play with our own. We ironically may not succeed in preventing mixed marriage, but we will succeed in blocking Jews from marrying Jews. There are new sects: Jews who only associate with Jews who don't associate with Jews. In our local press there are statements filled with imprecations, villifications, insinuations, character assassinations.

 –  Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, presumed successor to J. B., in a talk at the National Convention of U.O.J.C.

 –  Dialogue is prohibited between Orthodox and Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, non- Orthodox Jews in the same way as is Christian-Jewish dialogue.

(The auguries of Itz Greenberg and Reuben Bulka; that we are on verge of civil war – division of a people less and less fantastic.)

Rabbi Yizchak Weiss, leader of the Beth Din Zedek in Israel, and Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, a leading posek of Israel's modern Orthodoxy,  both ruled according to halachah it is forbidden to save the life of a Reform or Conservative Jew on the Sabbath on the same grounds that it is not allowed to desecrate the Sabbath to save a Gentile's life. If it may be permitted, it is for pragmatic reasons. As Rabbi Weiss puts it, "If we permit the blood of their people to be shed, their doctors will permit our blood to be shed." "Their blood" – Conservative and Reform and "ours." We are getting closer to becoming separate bloods. There is anger in us.

On the issue of "who is a Jew," J. David Bleich, prominent American Orthodox rabbi and commentator on Jewish law and ethics, proposes to solve the problem of definition by recognizing Reform converts in Israel the same way the law recognizes Moslem and Christian converts – i.e., as members of a separate religion. If this is the Halachah, it is not drawn from the sources of love, but from the seat of anger which aggressively intends to "gentilize non-conforming Jews."

Interesting and strange, how is it that after 4 millennia, Jews can't even define themselves? Except by the phenomenologically: a Jew is someone who goes around asking "Who is a Jew?" What accounts for this alienation from each other, this absence of civility, this embitterment, polarization? In my last discussion with the late Pinchas Peli, he tried to calm me with an profound anecdote. Jewish psyche. Two Lubavitcher – discussing tensions: Di gange velt iz zirteilt oif.  "Them" and "us."

Ashkenazim and Sephardim.

Mithnagdim and Chasidim.

Satmar and Lubavitch.

Maskilim and Farbrengen.

You and Me.

More than humor in polarization. "Schismatic thinking"/ "dichotomous thinking" that divides, excludes. Characteristically, starting point begins with "them" and "us," but in split thinking inevitably spills with splitting "us" until you reach solipsistic sect. It is the nature of anger. Etymology: "Angere"  – Latin  –  to strangle. "Rage" in Latin = rabies = madness.

The rabbis warned about anger – anger is like boiling kettle:  "When the kettle boils, it spills hot water on its sides" (Keheleth Rabbah 7). It may begin with "them" – it spills on us.

Why? Why the anger? What else could be expected?  Who can expect a battered people who has absorbed such torture, humiliation, punishment to emerge unscathed, calm, whole?  Consider what happened within 12 years: Stark numbers:

  • 1 out of 3 Jews in the world were destroyed in our lifetime  
  • 2 out of every 3 of the Jews living in Europe murdered
  • Decimation of 90% of East European Jews
  • Killing of 1.5 million Jewish children who died not because of anything they did, but because they had been born. They died of Jewishness.

Who could expect no anger, no fear, no outrage; no recrimination; no guilt?

Anger is in us all:  I am the son and grandson of Polish Jews. I have heard their angers. My father came here from Warsaw. Have you read the Warsaw Diary of Chayim Kaplan – full and detailed Hebrew document running from September 1, 1939, to August 4, 1942?  In it is recorded an incident of a Rabbi in Lodz, forced by S.S. to spit on the Torah scroll in the Holy Ark. Fearful of his life, he complied and when his mouth dried and he had no saliva, the S.S. man spit into the Rabbi's open mouth. Can such memories not be expected to effect form the Jewish psyche?

The Holocaust is the dominant psychic reality of our lives. It is inescapable. It disturbs our conscious life.   Whatever the conference, argument, lecture, chose the topic  –  mixed marriage, anti-semitism, Orthodox, non-Orthodox, intifada. Listen, it is there like a dybbuk.  The Holocaust spirit clings to our skin, beneath our skin. The stench of the crematoria is in our nostrils. The spirit of the Holocaust hovers over the face of the Jewish deep. It's in the color of the air.

When I visited Dachau with a former inmate in the l960's, he told me casually that one could tell by the color of the crematory smoke who was being cremated. Yellow meant recently captured Russian soldiers because they still had fat in their bodies. Green meant emaciated, starved bodies of Jews or non-Jews imprisoned there a long time.

The soul of our people is in mourning. And in mourning there is anger. Something in us is still crying. Axel Springer, German owner of the largest chain of newspapers, takes his son to Bergen Belsen to place flowers at the grave of Anne Frank. "Dig the soil with your fingers until you find some bones of human beings. Take one and place it where you'll see it so that you never forget what we did to their people." Can I do less?

It has not been an easy mourning. As a father and grandfather to our children or grandchildren,  I am torn by conflicting impulses. I want my children to dig the soil for charred skeletons, the mass graves, the sadistic medical experiments. My children and grandchildren were not born yet, but they must know. Cicero said, "Not to know what happened before you were born is to remain forever a child." That is fatal innocence. And I want them to know me, my fears, my anxieties, my angers, my paranoia, my sensitivity even to verbal anti-Semitism, to anti-Semitic rappers, the rantings of skin-heads. I want them to know why my heart doesn't leap with joy at forecasts of united Germany; why while I watch the lid removed from Russia and Eastern Europe, I watch for an irrational surge of Pamyat anti-Semitism. So there are few consolations. There are not too many Jews left in Europe! You don't need many Jews for anti-Semitism! You don't need many reasons for anti- Semitism because an anti-Semite is someone who hates Jews more than is absolutely necessary.

I am non-survivor. I am a product of my people's memories. Earlier this year, a member of my congregation, a psychiatrist, told me in hushed tones in my study of his memories of Krystal Nacht. His father, a physician in Frankfurt, was arrested and brought into a dark room and seated before a desk on which were placed ten decapitated Jewish heads, each wearing a skull cap. "Here Jude, is your Minyan." His memories are now mine. That is a holocaustal definition of Jewishness. A Jew is defined by what hurts him.

So my children must know our hurt. I am paternal transmission of Jewish memory. Yet, there is another side tugging at me. I do not want to lay a stone upon their heart, to crush their his faith, trust, hope with a paralyzing cynicism, basic distrust. I do not want to frighten them into Jewishness, to make them feel as if they are cursed, condemned to leprous circle of the damned. I do not want to have them internalize the curse of Church Father St. Chrysostom: "Jews, God hates you."

The question is not whether to remember the Holocaust, but how are we to remember; not whether to mourn, but how to mourn. Mourning is a moral act. Here I turn to Jewish therapeutic wisdom. As Rabbi, I am asked, "How do we, you and I, mourn privately, personally, with death in the family?" I explain, "We are counseled by Jewish dialectic of mourning. Hold on – let go. It’s a delicate balance."

Through Kaddish, Yahrzeit, Yizkor, hold on to recollection. Immortality. Yet, at same time let go. Garments are cut, the fringes of the tallit are severed, the casket is covered and lowered into the earth for the sake of closure. Hold on  –  let go. Sit Shiva seven days and no more. Say the Kaddish eleven months and no more. Why no more? For the sake of letting go! Ours is a brilliant tradition that counsels "He who mourns more than is necessary does not mourn for the deceased but for someone else – perhaps even oneself."

Mourning requires balanced memory. The future calls for wisdom to pass "through the valley of the shadow and not be locked in it.  Those we mourn loved us, and living wanted for us life. Hold on – let go. Hold on to martyrdom, hold on to will to live.

But what in collective memory to let go? False lesson, false interpretations that leave a legacy of cynicism, deadly fatalism, a despair haunt our future. There are many who teach Holocaust as the confirmation of belief in a primordial fissure in the human species, an eternal split between "them" and "us.”  "They," the perennial Gentile persecutors, and "We," the eternal victims. "They,”   who carry in their genes the transmitted hatred of Ishmael, Esau, and Amalek. "We,”   Isaac bound to the altar forever.

It is split thinking, a mythic dichotomous thinking, in Tanya/Shneur Zalman/Maharil/Yehudah Halevi, a metaphysical biologism now surfacting recrudescence in religious circles and in secular the world. It is the rage of impotence. Uri Zvi Greenberg asserts, "There are two kinds of human beings in the world. Circumcised and uncircumcised."

According to the popular Israeli song of the 60s, "The whole world is against us… well if so, to hell with the whole world."

The rage must be understood. Max Scheler, the phenomenologist, called it "re-sentiment,”  the bitter secretion in a sealed vessel of prolonged impotence." It is born of powerlessness impotence, frustration and false hope, deep disillusionment. Poor uncle Nate worshipped Roosevelt and hung a portrait of FDR on wall. Roosevelt was a savior. Di yidden habon drie velten. That portrait was removed.

Understand anger, but be wary of it. For as rabbinic wisdom says, "Anger deprives a sage of his wisdom and a prophet of his vision."

What results from rage is blindness, a false interpretation of both past and future. History is transmogrified into metaphysics. Myth is superimposed upon history in the form of a Manichean dualism, a split universe that is rooted in an eternal hatred of Jews, as in Cynthia Ozick's declamation: "The whole world wants us dead." Wanted, wants, will want us dead

But this is not history, and you will not learn lessons for a Jewish future through its bias of apriori theology that gives immortality to Jewish hatred. Those who shout defiantly "never again" postulated on the pessimistic metaphysics of "ever again,” the eternal return of hatred past, present and future. This is the stuff of self-fulfilling prophesy.  That bias is psychologically and morally pernicious. It politically destroys our talent for diplomacy.

Recall Prime Minister Shamir's public response to Cardinal Glemp's inflammatory, anti-Semitic remarks which he lived to regret?  Surrounding the fiasco of a Carmelite Convent, "The Poles suck anti-Semitism in with their mother's milk. There is something deeply imbued in their tradition, their mentality." Will you fault Shamir? Shamir's father narrowly escaped being a victim of the Nazis only to be murdered by his fellow Poles. But Shamir's hurt, that rage can not guide our statesmen, that wholesale condemnation of Poles is xenophobic and is hurtful to the Jewish future, to the prospects of Israeli-Polish diplomatic, cultural and economic rapprochement. We must master rage because unconsciously it ends in "pedicide" –  shooting oneself in the foot.

Prime Minster Menachem Begin, a former Pole, after the tragic massacre at Sabra and Shatilla between Christians and Moslems, said (as quoted in the media, U.P.I, A.P.), "Goyim kill goyim and then they come to hang the Jews." That was not the voice of diplomacy. That was the voice of cumulative rage.

But understand Begin, the surviving Jew from Poland. He sent a revealing letter to the then-president Reagan during the shelling of Beirut: "Now may I tell you, dear Mr. President, how I feel these days when I turn to the Creator of my soul in deep gratitude. I feel as a Prime Minister empowered to instruct a valiant army facing Berlin, where among innocent civilians Hitler and his henchmen hid in a bunker beneath the surface. What happened to us from Berlin will never happen again."

These are not the words of a foolish man, a vindictive man. These are the words of a hurt man who is still looking for Hitler, even in a bunker in Beirut. He is still looking to get even, still looking to settle the score. His is the pathos fantasy of "re-sentiment,” born of remorse, regret, guilt over past Jewish impotence. Fantasy has no regard of chronology. Not "never again." In fantasy, time is reversible. 1980s are 1940s reversed. In fantasy we can do Auschwitz over again, and this time with a different ending. In fantasy Beirut is Berlin, Arafat is Hitler, Reagan is Roosevelt, all Arabs are Nazis. Secretary of State James Baker III is Asst. Secretary Breckenridge Long. In fantasy of re-sentiment, we can turn the clock back again. We can scale the convent at Auschwitz and pretend we are climbing the walls of the crematoria.

But we are locked in a dangerous anachronism of perverse symmetry.  

The pathos of the fantasy frightens me. Begin is one war too late, and it is another war with different enemies and different persons. If we see the present and future as simply a replication of one past, then nuns are turned into Nazis and convents into crematoria. See one of them, see them all, "they" are all the same. Metaphysical confirmation of vulgar and dangerous shibboleth. "Scratch a Gentile, any Gentile, you'll find an anti-Semite." Remember George Schultz, Bechtel and Maslow: "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." If the Holocaust becomes the single interpretive lens through which we see events, then all roads lead to Auschwitz. The rabbis fought against the depression, "Catastrophic thinking." Otherwise would overwhelm! Passover. That's nicely put! Rhetorical.

Hold on. Fine and well. “Let go” of the metaphysics of fatalism. But how do you handle the cognitive dissonance between Holocaustal reality and Jewish theology? How do you speak to your children of death, of six million, and then in the next breath turn to the Bible and Psalmist  –  teach them the basic faith of Judaism that men and women are created in God's image, that the human being is but little lower than the angels, when the massive evidence of Holocaust contradicts that trust? In this annus mundi can you find the smallest spark of human decency to deny that we have no friends, alone, abandoned surrounded by "them," who slaughter, maim or remain indifferent? Where do you look to overcome Holocaustal despair? Where do you look for God or His image?

There is evidence – hard, empirical evidence – of a powerful phenomenon from out of the hell of Auschwitz that is curiously neglected, unattended, untaught, unheralded, denied memory.

With me, it began in the 60s. I have met Gentiles, Christian men and women, flesh and blood beings from all walks of life and from every country occupied or intimidated by the Nazis, who risked life, limb, wealth of their families to hide and protect and save members of our people. Christian rescuers of another faith who hid our kin in closets, attics, sewers, pigsties, garbage bins, baking stoves, and holes in the ground. Christian people, those Begin called "goyim," who falsified passports and baptismal certificates with full awareness that apprehension meant incarceration or death.

Their names, their exploits are buried in anonymity, at best in footnotes. Our ignorance is costly and not part of Jewish memory. They know that amnesia is costly. Why along with the names of Hydrich and Himmler and Klaus Barbie should they not know the names of Jo Kleiman, Jan and Miep Geis and Victor Kugler, Elizabeth Voskuyl, Kralen. Those are names of Christians who kept Anne Frank and her family and the others hidden in the attic for two and a half years.

Why does the entry in the Encyclopedia Judaica under the entry of Anne Frank not record their names, or reveal the acts of altruism of these brave spirits, but dismisses them with seven words "They were kept alive by friendly Gentiles." Who are they? What happened to them after their crime of compassion was discovered? What happened to them in the forced labor camps, in Amersfoort camp? How do they live? Do they live? Where? Who cares? Are they nothing to our memory?

Why in our schools, in our Hebrew schools, Sunday schools, day schools, Yeshivoth, are our children ignorant of this sacred dimension of Jewish history? of the tens of thousands of Christians in every country, a figure ranging from 50,000 to 500,000 who acted? I am jealous for our children. I want them to have spiritual experience! A confirmation of Jews.

I have been blessed by the privilege of meeting others: Aart and Johne Vos (Holland), Hermann and Elizabeth Graebe (Germany), Alex and Mela Roslan (Poland), Jeanne Damann (Belgium) and a host of Jewish survivors who affected my theology and deepened by Jewish faith. I am jealous for our children. Why do we deprive Jewish children of the tears of joy, the exaltation of friendship and love and kiddush ha-shem? Why only the killers of the dream, only the Jew-haters? Why rob them of the knowledge of allies and friends?

I would have Jewish children meet and know as I do John Weidner, of Dutch descent and the son of a Seventh-Day Adventist, who while living in Paris witnessed a train deporting Jews to the east. An S.S. officer ripped a crying baby from the arms of its Jewish mother and crushed its head while German officers laughed. He heard the laughter.  John organized a network of three hundred co-conspirators known as the Dutch-Paris Express, and rescued over eight hundred Jews smuggling them through mountain trails across the border to safety in Switzerland, and across the Pyrenees to safety in Spain.

Captured by the Gestapo and placed in a tank of icy water, his head held to the bottom of the tank in a desperate effort to force him to reveal the identities of his co-conspirators. He did not. But other rescuers, among them his beloved sister Gabrielle, were arrested and taken away. Gabrielle died in the concentration camp of pneumonia. John Weidner is my friend and my people's friend. He is flesh and blood and I would have our children know him and others like him.

There is Aristedes de Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese Christian, a Consul stationed in Bordeaux who knew what was happening to Jews. He knew our people were being rounded up, stranded in France, deported to their death. He could have shut eyes and feigned muteness, but instead he defied his Portuguese superiors, sat up nights and days without food or sleep, issuing thousands of passports with Portuguese visas to stranded Jews. He was recalled by the Portuguese government. chastising him for disobeying orders. He continued defying their recall and even stopped by the consulate at Bayonne, reproached the Consul, asking him, "Why don't you help these people?" When the Consul refused to help, Aristedes took over and gathered seals and rubber stamps, opened the Chancellery to frightened Jews.

He was summarily dismissed from the Foreign Ministry, forced to sell his family estate in Cabanas de Viriato, and died in 1954 an impoverished, forgotten man. He was a husband and father of twelve children who knew the consequences of his acts: Why, Aristedes, did you open yourself to suffering?  Aristedes replied, "If thousands of Jews can suffer because one Catholic [i.e., Hitler], then surely it is permitted for one Catholic to suffer for so many Jews." In our midst are two of the children of Aristedes de Souse Mendes. John Paul Abranches and Carlos. Those are my friends! Those sons of a sainted father.

Will your children come home from Hebrew school, high school, college, to tell of Sempo Sugihara, the Japanese Consul stationed in Cracow who issued thirty five hundred transit visas to Polish Jews; who after the war was dismissed from his post disgraced on grounds of insubordination? Or of Paul Gruninger, chief of police in St. Gallen, Switzerland who lost his position and pension for enabling three thousand Jewish refugees to find sanctuary in Switzerland?

Three ordinary men: Mendes saved almost 10,000; Sugihara saved 3,500; Gruninger saved three thousand; between them 16,500 Jews. Is that not worthy to be placed in Jewish memory?

Take my family land of origin. What did it mean to help a Jew? In Nazi-occupied Poland, to offer a Jew a piece of bread, much less to offer him lodging for a night, meant death. In Stefan Korbonski's book, The Jews and Poles of W. War II, Korbonski himself a rescuer, recipient of Yad V'shem's Medal of Honor, reveals from records: 2,500 Christian Poles were executed for helping Jews. 96 Polish men were murdered in village of Biala for the crimes of hiding and feeding Jews. In Stary Ciepielow, the S.S. pushed 23 three Poles, men, women and children into a barn which they then burned down. because they helped Jews. A young Catholic Polish girl about age nineteen, caught in the invasion of her country, saw the humiliation and death march of Jews. Being stranded, abused, alone without parents and sick with anemia, she became the house-keeper for a German major. She defiantly hid twelve Jews in a cellar under the eyes of the Gestapo. She was apprehended and humiliated, but she would not surrender sustaining those twelve Jews. She guided the Jews to the forest and warned them of Nazi raids. On November 10, 1941, the Nazis issued a warning to all Poles "offering a Jew a night's lodging, food or taking them into vehicles of any kind" that such acts would be punishable by death. Outside there were "Shmalkoviki" or blackmailers, who for one quart brandy, or four pounds sugar, a carton of cigarettes were prepared to inform. But I know this Polish Catholic woman who risked her life. She has enriched my life. I would have our children, all children emulate this gallant, heroic woman named Irene Opdyke.

Speaking of Poland, the Roman Catholic Prelate Cardinal Glemp , after the fiasco of the Carmelite Convent, claims that the Polish people have not been educated to know what happened to Jews during the Shoah. And there will be Inter-Faith Center outside Auschwitz. I don't know what he intends to teach them. But I hope the Cardinal embroiled in Auschwitz convent tells them of another convent, Benedictine in Vilna, and of Anna Borowska, the Mother Superior of that convent. who with six Catholic sisters risked life and convent by hiding Jewish leaders of the Vilna Ghetto – Abba Kovner, Abraham Sutzkever, Edik Borak, Arie Wilner whom they dressed in nun's habits. The Mother Superior smuggled ammunition, hand grenades, and knives to the Vilna Ghetto resistance.

Let Glemp tell them of Anna Simiate, the Lithuanian librarian at the University of Vilna, who smuggled food and clothes into the Vilna ghetto to sustain the lives of Jewish children, and organized a rescue group in the Aryan side of the Ghetto. "I could no longer go on with my work. I could not remain in my study. I was ashamed that I was not Jewish myself." At end of the war Anna, received letters from her rescued children in Israel.

"My dear Mother, when will you finally come to us?" She arrived in Israel 1953, loved by her "children.”

Let Glemp invite to Poland Alex and Mila Roslan, my dear friends and the two young Jewish boys, now men, Yaakov and David Gilat. Learn from them. Yurek, age 10, "scarlet fever," divided medicine in Warsaw ghetto. Roslan sold his home to move and bribe.

Let Glemp tell them of the Polish sewer workers who hid seventeen Jews for fourteen months in the rat-infested sewers of Lwow.  Let him teach of "Zegota," code name for the Council for Aid to Jews (1942-1945)  created largely through Zofia Kosak Szczwaka, credited for helping 40,000 – 50,000 hunted Jews.

Why? Why is it important for Christians after the Holocaust to know of Christian rescuers? Why not speak only of Vatican silence? Accusation, blame. They must know that I am not interested in forcing a collective "mea culpa" on the Church. I am not interested in creating brooding among young Christians today over the guilt of their forebears, not interested in compelling the church to pay verbal tribute to our losses, or browbeating them to feel more anguish over the memory of our dead.

It tends towards a kind of masochism, defensive amnesia, denials, alibis, reaction formation (Bettelheim), which more often ends up in a defensive scapegoating of the victim. As a Jew, I don't want to hear accusations from outsiders (even friendly ones). I want to hear it from Jewish foundation.  Cardinal O'Connor: "I am here for myself, but I am here to plead to you, to you who are Jews, never, never, never for a moment permit yourselves or your children to forget the suffering. To those of you who are Christians, never, never for a moment let yourselves or your children forget the guilt. We need both. If we are going to bring about that kind of world that Rabbi Schulweis spoke about so poignantly, so longingly. Then I as a Christian must remember that essentially it was my people, my people who brought the Holocaust, and you as Jews must never permit yourselves to forget your suffering. Don't you be mindful of my guilt. Let me worry about my guilt. And you worry about your suffering, and we can maintain memory of the suffering, and we can maintain the sense of guilt, then please God, please God, it can't happen again."

The historian Yosef Yerushalmi said it well,  addressing a Christian audience:  "Not by your ancestors but by your actions will you be judged." I am more interested in the living. I am more interested in the Church transmitting to its believers affirmation of Christian heroes who transcended their circle of faith, transcended the culture of contempt and saved the innocent, the pursued. Christians need moral heroes to emulate. It is to our interest and the interest of world morality that the goodness is publicized and praised.

Do not fear that heroes will mitigate the tragic awfulness of the Holocaust. There are no heroes without villains. There are no sanctuaries without crematoria. When the Church recognizes Christian rescuers they teach of those who pursued innocence to death. They teach their congregations how true believers should behave.

Goethe wrote, "Speak to a person as he is and he will remain as he is; speak to him as he might be and he will grow to that level." Let the Church celebrate the German priest Father Bernard Lichtenberg of St. Heldwig's Cathedral, whose sermons denunciated Nazis and called his Catholic community to protect Jews, who asked to be deported with Jews to the Ghetto of Lodz and who died on his way to Dachau.

My mind boggles at 1,100 Jews in Berlin. Who were they? They are the heroes that may justify a newly-born Germany. Let them know of Elizabeth Skobstova, Mother Maria of Paris, a Russian poetess and nun who rescued Jews;  whose son Yuri (from a marriage before she became a nun)  was taken as hostage to stop Mother Maria's rescues of Jews. Yuri was taken to Buchenwald and tortured to death. Mother Maria continued hiding and saving Jewish youngsters. She ended up in Ravensbrueck concentration camp, and gave up her Aryan papers to a Jewish woman sentenced to crematorium. Mother Maria, too weak to walk, took her place; too weak to walk she was executed February 14, 1943. I wish the Church did more celebration of Christian rescuers. Let the Church celebrate Father Marie Benoit, the Capuchin monk who turned his monastery in Marseilles and later in Nice into a rescue agency for Jews, and who was known by the Jewish rescued as "Father of the Jews." Became head of Delegazione Assistanze Emigrati Ebrei, underground manufacturer of false documents.

Christians and Christian children need to have heroes to emulate. We need it. And I need it. My children need it. Will it help transmit the Holocaust by admitting into annus mundi into the hell hole the sliver of light, this record of altruism? As in all mourning, it will not change the grief, the loss, the anger, the nausea, the pain. But it will effect a different closure. Teach a different lesson.

It helps balance the lopsided pessimism and cynicism of Thrasymachus, Machievilli, Nietzsche and Hobbes  –  for whom the deep nature of human beings "homo homini lupus." It helps balance the distorted belief of Freud, for whom, beneath the cosmetized surface of civilization, lurks a human nature intent only on "gratifying aggressiveness, exploiting the capacity to work without recompense, sexually exploiting his neighbor without his consent, seizing his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture, and to kill him." What would Freud do with their altruism? This metapsychology of Freud runs counter to Jewish wisdom and Jewish conviction. Not that humans are cherubic saints, not that we must swing to the opposite, to the Spinozistic notion of homo homini deus. No Pollyanna naïveté, but what Erik Erikson identified as a mark of health and vitality  –  to develop "a favorable ratio of basic trust over basic distrust."

This phenomenon of altruism, of real, live, people who made "themselves into hiding places," people who lived out what Woodbridge summed up "there are times when people should be more afraid of living than of dying." These people refuted with their lives.

1. The Eichmann alibi that there was, and is an alternative to passive complicity with totalitarian murder.

2. The Waldheim alibi, "I knew what was happening but I didn't do anything”  In matters of life and death, knowledge is no cognitive sport. To know, to hear, to see, and not to lift voice or finger is to stand by and allow blood of innocence to be shed.

This phenomenon of altruism which we have barely scratched helps me repudiate the growing isolationism, the perverse notion that to be a people alone is our destiny and our salvation. If we raise the mechitzah so as to remove us from the world, we will be saved. That insularity, isolationism, that provincialism changes radically the character of Judaism  –  as a tradition whose God is the King of the Universe, and whose task is mending the tattered fabric of the universe.  That parochialism not only trivializes the nobility of the Jewish task, it falsifies and endangers our lives.

Yehudah Bauer (New York Times, last November) director of Holocaust Studies at Hebrew Union), "the perception of some Israeli politicians that all the gentiles were against us during the Holocaust is nonsense, just nonsense. The Jews in a number of countries were saved by the local population."

"No minority can survive without bonds to the others." Helen Fein, in her Accounting for the Genocide, demonstrates that in every German-occupied state in which Jews were saved, trust was involved, "often trust linking a network of strangers."

I will not teach my children that we were, are and will always be hated, friendless, alone.  We are never so alone as when we act on that belief. We were not alone in Holland, in Amsterdam where first general strike of metal workers and shipyard workers risked their freedom to protest (February 22, 1941) the round-up of Dutch Jews to Buchenwald and Mauthaussen. We are not alone in village of Niewlender where every Dutch household sheltered Jews in Holland, a land without woodlands or favorable topographic features. Eighty percent of the Jewish population of Holland's 140,000 Jews were destroyed by Nazis, but tens of thousands were saved by Dutch Christians.

The heroism of people and groups:  I think of Cornelius and Triny Roelfs, a blind couple who hid Jewish children; of Joop Westerville, who led Jewish children across low countries by train, horse and on foot. He was captured, flogged, tortured, labeled a “Jew-lover,” and finally shot to death. There is a forest of trees in honor of Jews.

We were not alone in Denmark, or in Athens. We were not alone in Bulgaria, a Nazi Axis ally pressured repeatedly by the German government to deport its Jews. But Vice President Demeter Peshev of the Sobranie would not allow that edict. Bishop Kiril and Metropolitan Stephan warned King Boris that his soul would be in jeopardy and that they would lay their bodies on the railroad tracks used to deport Jews. 50,000 Jews were saved. Is this not part of Holocaust memory? That little Finland, ally of the Nazis and at war against Russia, dependent on Germany for food and ammunition, would not, did not surrender its 2,000 Jews?  I want our children to know General Roatta  – Italian army and statesman in high diplomatic position – who despite the threats of Nazis, with defiance saved tens of thousands of Jews wherever the Italian Army had control  –  Croatia, Yugoslavia, Albania, Southern France.

I want your children to see a documentary film that is a classic witness to the conspiracy of goodness. In a village of France, Le Chambon sur Lignon, several thousand Protestants hid, protected and saved five thousand Jews. Among them, a child named Pierre Sauvage who has dedicated “Weapons of the Spirit”  to their memory. Shown in every church, synagogue, seminary, this is a therapeutic must.

We must put on our itineraries those of our national youth.  NCEY/ NFTY/ USY  itinerary takes them to re-opened Europe. Let them see Dachau, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, but let them make a pilgrimage to Le Chambon and Niewlender. Let them see the cemeteries and crematoria but let them see the human sanctuaries, caves, sewers, holes, and meet with those who loved our people and saved the remnants of our families.

For there is a mitzvah to be performed. It is called Hakarath Hatov and it is based on fairness, justice and Jewish conscience. It is unfair that hatred be promulgated and goodness be ignored. It is not fair that those who did what the God of creation hoped for should be ignored. Let them know that they are not forgotten. Let them know Jews care. Let them live out the waning years of their lives in dignity. Remember the evil, but do not forget the good.

And for good you need to look, look hard. Jewish memory is retroactive. In history there is no immaculate perception. Teach them the mitzvah of healing: Hakarath Hatov.

Why not more?  Moses of Novato. Graebe  –  Why, Herman? You lost possessions. "What would you do?" He placed a mirror of conscience. Would I unlock the door to a pregnant woman or a sobbing child? Would I provide this sedative, scrounge for food, handle their refuse, bury their dead body? Stefa Krakowska, an old woman, hid fourteen. "At night, secretly and in stages, they buried her dismembered body."

Memory must make us stronger and wiser. Remember the evil and do not forget the good. We remember for the future. Blow the breath of hope into the cremated ashes of our people that from the smoldering embers a spark may be salvaged.

"And it was chaos and darkness on the face of the deep and God said, 'Let there be light.' "


 

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