The One Lesson of the Holocaust

Millions of dollars have been spent building memorials to the victims of the Holocaust, even as Iran is spending its millions on building another kind of memorial to the Holocaust, in the form of nuclear technology that will be used to finish that piece of history that the Islamic terror state claims never took place.

Millions more are spent, by some of the same groups that claim an interest in Holocaust education, on bringing Muslim migrants to America and Europe to carry out the promise of an Islamic apocalypse in which, as the Hadith states, “The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.” That is what the Islamic Holocaust looks like. And it’s underway.

A Jew is murdered in France. Another in Jerusalem. And another and another.

The Final Solution, with its immediate extermination of the Jews, has been replaced by the Two State Solution, an intermediate process in which the land on which Jews can live in security is partitioned into smaller and smaller pieces.

The Lebensraum of Islam demands ever more breathing room. And fewer breathing Jews. Israel is carved up into smaller indefensible ghettos. The number of places where the world decides that Jews can be allowed to live, shrink. The rest become “settlers” who must be evicted for the sake of peace. Even if the place they’re “settling” is Jerusalem. The oldest Jewish city on earth.

And this Two State Solution, this intermediate process, has the almost universal backing of the major Jewish organizations who are so very deeply concerned about the Holocaust. It has the backing of the diplomats and politicians who put out canned statements urging that we learn the lessons of the Holocaust. The only lesson they have learned though is that another Holocaust needs better marketing.

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Soon There Will Be No More Survivors

Frances Irwin is 90 years old. She was born in Poland and lives in Brooklyn. She is a Holocaust survivor.

Frances is lonely, even though her son takes care of her. She collects used aluminum foil in a kitchen piled high with paper plates. She relies on an emergency wristband to call for help. When you ask her to, she is able to vividly recall the worst of her World War II experience. She displays a mix of shame and trepidation when deciding whether to roll up her sleeve and show the world her forearm, tattooed at Auschwitz.

The truth is that Frances, like all Holocaust survivors, is old. Like many survivors, she’s dependent on Jewish and social welfare. She’s not living as well as she deserves to live. One day, not long from now, Frances and the others like her will die. Then there will be no more Holocaust survivors left.

Writer Ron Rosenbaum once noted in these pages that one of the greatest risks of Jewish life today is the smothering sentimentalization of our memory of the Shoah. Frances’ closing chapter offers no “meretricious uplift.” The fact that she survived Auschwitz only to suffer at the end of her life is appalling and embarrassing. These are painful things to think about, let alone say. And part of the uneasiness comes from the way wealthy and comfortable American Jews have used “remembering the Holocaust” as the touchstone of their communal existence.

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Russian ice skating contest features Holocaust-themed performance

The social media sphere reacted with a largely cold reception after two “celebrity” ice skaters, donning Holocaust-era Jewish prison uniforms fitted with yellow stars of David, performed Saturday night on the Russian reality television show “Ice Age.”

Olympic ice dance champion Tatiana Navka, along with her skating partner Andrew Burkovsjy, slid and glided across the ice, in their chilling performance accompanied by “Beautiful that Way,” Jewish Israeli singer Acinoam “Noa” Nini’s vocal version of the theme song from the heart-wrenching Italian Holocaust film “Life is Beautiful.”

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A New Year Brings New Challenges

A National Geographic survey of American 18-24-year-olds found that 75 percent were unable to identify Israel on a map.

Like many of you, I am concerned about the ignorance of American students when it comes to the Middle East. They are misinformed by social media and the press, deluded by their boycott promoting classmates and indoctrinated by professors with political agendas.

Students used to go to the library and read books about the Middle East to learn about the various sides of the issues and come to their own conclusion. Today, most young adults look for information on the Internet. Jewish Virtual Library

The Internet, however, is not a benign source of objective information. In fact, it has become the world’s leading source of Israel bashing, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

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Ukrainian Holocaust Perpetrators Are Being Honored in Place of Their Victims

Olevsk, a sleepy if ancient town deep in the backwoods of Ukraine, became part of my life in 2003 when I came across a dozen testimonies about vicious pogroms there at the beginning of the German-Soviet war of 1941 to 1945. In the testimonies, survivors and witnesses describe how Jews were beaten, humiliated, and mutilated in the center of town in the summer of 1941. Many of their tormentors and killers were members of the Poliska Sich, a guerrilla force led by one of the most famous Ukrainian nationalist leaders during the war, Taras “Bulba”-Borovets. Taking his nom de guerre from a mythical Cossack leader, Bulba-Borovets ruled Olevsk and its environs during the early months of the German-Soviet war, while Germans were thin on the ground in this remote location. It was only after the pogrom violence and further abuse of Jews at the hands of the Sich that the Germans took over Olevsk in September 1941 and established a ghetto. The Sich then patrolled the ghetto and later provided the Germans with manpower to liquidate the Jewish population.

Discovering these documents, I felt certain that such brutal pogroms must have been included in the literature on anti-Jewish violence in western Ukraine and eastern Poland in the summer of 1941. Following Jan Gross’s powerful 2000 book, Neighbors, other historians tackled the difficult questions surrounding local participation in the Holocaust, and in particular pogroms in that fateful summer. Yet I soon realized that there was no mention of the pogroms in the scholarly literature; Bulba-Borovets, unsurprisingly, failed to mention them in his memoirs.

Five years after I discovered the testimonies, I found myself on an old Soviet bus traveling from Zhytomyr to Olevsk, making the first of three trips to learn more about what had happened there in 1941. Debarking at the town’s rudimentary bus station, I met the duo of Misha and Misha — two of Olevsk’s few remaining Jewish community members. The younger Misha, in his 40s, was the de facto head of the Jewish community. A local acquaintance referred to him as “The Last Jew of Olevsk.” He often helped Jewish visitors pay homage to their families. Younger Misha talked so quickly and peppered his speech with so many rural colloquialisms that my brain rushed to follow. Elder Misha was in his late 50s; he had a kind face and walked with a limp, struggling to keep up, both physically and verbally, with his younger counterpart.


When Alzheimer’s Disease Erases Holocaust Memories

“Where was I during the Holocaust?” my father—a widower, living in an assisted-living apartment—asked during a recent Skype call with my brother.

My brother and I knew very well where he had been during the Holocaust; we’d heard stories since we were children. But now that my father has been diagnosed with progressive dementia, “Never forget” has often turned into “I can’t remember.”

From an early age, I knew my father was a survivor. I knew how he and one of his two brothers made it through the war fighting the Germans as Jewish partisans in the Belorussian forest. Dad always talked about the war years. He’d spend hours around the kitchen table after dinner, drinking tea with my mother and their friends; or a little vodka with his landsmen with names like Yisroel Chanowitz and Judah Yungelson, talking loudly in Yiddish about how they survived and others had not.


A Visit to the Old and New Hells of Europe Provides a Reminder of Israel’s Importance

I just returned from a week-long journey through Hell! It began with a visit to the site of the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps in Poland (built by Nazi Germany during its occupation of the country), as a participant of the March of the Living, following a conference commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Nuremberg Laws and the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials. My week was consumed with recurring evidence of the worst crime ever perpetrated by human beings on other human beings – the Holocaust.

I traveled from the death camps to several small Polish towns from which my grandparents emigrated well before the Holocaust, leaving behind relatives and friends. During the course of my travels, I discovered the fate of two of my relatives. Hanna Deresiewicz (an original spelling of my family name) was a 16-year-old girl living in the small town of Pilzno when the Nazis arrived; she was separated from her siblings and parents. “The soldiers took several of the most beautiful Jewish girls for sex, and then killed them. [Among those] taken [was] Hanna Deresiewicz, 16.”

I also learned that another Deresiewics, named Benjamin, survived, though his wife and five children, along with his parents and siblings were all murdered. He may have been Hanna’s father, although I can’t document that. In the book Schindler’s Ark, on which the movie Schindler’s List was base, the following account is given: “[The Commandant of Auschwitz] suspended his 15 year old orderly, Poldek Dereshowitz, from the ringbolts in his office …” Although the book is fictionalized account, it is based on the recollections of an eyewitness. I cannot, therefore, be sure of the veracity of that episode. But seeing the name Dereshowitz associated with Auschwitz had an impact on me.