Dachau: The bitter fruit of a terrible evil, in full color

Color is an interesting thing.  I long ago realized that the 1920s and 1930s seem further away for me, visually, than the pre-modern era.  The difference is color.  When I think of the Middle Ages or the Renaissance or the Enlightenment, even though the images are frozen, they still are in living color.  Color gives them a vitality that makes them immediate:

Jan van Eyck Virgin and Child

Looking at that lovely Jan van Eyck, don’t you feel as if you could touch the Baby Jesus’s blonde hair or stroke his pink skin, or that you could bury your hands in Mary’s cloak and feel the warm fabric across your fingers?  They may be still, but they’re real.  Van Eyck stopped the moment for you, but you know that, when you’re not looking, their chests will rise and fall, and that the baby will turn towards Mary, and she will wrap her warm, loving arms around him.  Color matters.

Conversely, look at this photograph from the 20s:

1920s flappers
It’s not just the clothes that separate us from those dashing ladies.  It’s also that they’re the wrong color.  They’re not the color of living flesh.  Instead, they’re the colors of death and the grave.  Although the highlights and shades are there to give us dimensionality, they still look peculiarly flattened and unreal.  Their frozen quality will continue long after we turn our eyes away from them.

So it is with too many images of WWII.  Although it took place during the lifetime of many people who are still living, those of us who came of age after the war have a hard time seeing it as more than chilling historic pictures.  We have to keep reminding ourselves that these were real people who fought, and killed, and suffered, and died.  Many of us probably think “That can’t happen here.”  We think this not only because we foolishly believe that our Constitution, without further effort on our parts, is strong enough to protect us from tyranny, but also because a part of our brain says, “Did that really happen anywhere?”  Of course, we know that it happened at a specific place (Europe) and over a specific period of time (1933-1945), but those colorless images distance us from the humanity of the people involved.

Which is why you should watch this short color video showing the liberation of Dachau:

The dead are real people; the Germans dragged into the camp to see what their statist ideology had wrought are real people; the surviving prisoners, with such faint hope in their eyes, are real people.  It’s a terribly disturbing video because it drags us out of our 21st century American complacency and forces us to acknowledge that real people committed unbelievable heinous acts against other living, breathing, full-color human beings.

The New York Times’ dirty history regarding the Holocaust

She’s a high school senior, but damn! if she doesn’t give a stunningly good talk about the way in which the New York Times, despite knowing about the Holocaust, not only downplayed it, but effectively kept American policy away from helping Europe’s besieged Jewish population:

There is no anti-Semite worse than a Jew.  (See als0 Liberty Spirit’s J’Accuse!)

Hat tip:  Richard Baehr

Schools and parents who teach children to become chum for bullies

School-bully-001
One of my pet peeves is bullying.  I’m not talking about bullying amongst students, although I certainly don’t like that.  I’m talking about the bullying from school districts and Progressive parents who work overtime to ensure that children are brainwashed into fearing self-defense so much that they would rather be led as lambs to the slaughter than stand up for themselves.  The schools are dividing students into two classes:  the bullies and their institutionally created helpless victims.

I’m fulminating about this because of a story I found in the San Jose Mercury News.  There really was bullying going on — students attacked a 15-year-old classmate — but what makes me crazy is the fact that the mother ordered her child to take a beating, while the child celebrated the fact that it was better to get beaten up than to have problems with the school administrators (emphasis mine):

Ann Benediktsson, a 15-year-old Dougherty Valley High School student, was walking home on Thursday when a classmate approached her to say she would soon face a peer in a fight.

Ann’s mother, on the phone with her at the time, told her two things: Run home, and if a fight happens, do not fight back.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever had to say in my life,” Kate Benediktsson recalled. “I felt useless.”

[snip]

Minutes after speaking to her mother, Ann ran into her peer in a park along with over two dozen other students, waiting to witness the event. While Ann attempted to keep her attacker from pulling her hair and socking her jaw, the bystanders pulled out their phones and filmed. In a video Benediktsson obtained of the fight that she later posted to YouTube, students can be heard egging on the fight, sometimes cheering when Ann’s attacker made contact.

Ann never threw a punch.

“I am proud of how I handled it,” Ann said. “I’m glad I didn’t hit back because the principal and teachers would have just said it was a spat between teenagers.”

I cannot believe that a mother told her child to be a punching bag for bullies.  Moreover, I cannot believe that a mother told this to her girl child. One of the primary lessons women learn in every self-defense class is this:  if you fight back against someone who is assaulting you, you are likely to suffer physical injuries, but you are also much less likely than the passive victim to be raped or killed.

In the African savannah, when lions stalk wildebeests or gazelles, the lions do not like to have to work hard for their meal.  They want the lame and the weak stragglers, not the vigorous animals that put up a fight.  Human predators are the same.  A women who walks with an upright, energetic step, and who is aware of her surroundings, simply isn’t as appealing as the gal shuffling along with her head down.  And if that shuffling gal, when attacked, suddenly finds some gumption and fights back, the predator will often back off in any event and look for an easier victim.  (For more on the psychology of self-defense, I highly recommend Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence.)

The mother in the above news story essentially taught her daughter to be shark chum.  Moreover, while the mother ordered the “principled” stand, it was her daughter who ended up taking a beating.  The daughter was certainly an obedient child, but I do rather wonder if the mother would have stood there that passively if it was she, rather than her child, being attacked.

I wasn’t the only one thinking it’s a bad article that celebrates the next generation of victims.  Although the article garnered only eight comments, one of them was right on the mark as far as I was concerned:

ghosthunter007

sorry but I rather take a suspension and stand my ground than to be hit upon, that is the problem with parents these days oh don’t fight back, I taught my son how to defend himself and in doing so he is respected because those who tried to fight him lost. I hate bullies. Everyone should know how to defend themselves.

Ever since my kids hit school, I’ve given them a single message:  Never be the one to start a fight but, if someone else starts the fight, you make sure to end it.  And don’t worry about the school’s subsequent response.  If you had to use physical force to defend yourself, and if the school attempts to punish you, I will take the school on if I have to go all the way to the Supreme Court.  I’ve never had to make good on this promise, since no one has ever physically attacked my kids.  I suspect that, with my instruction ringing in their ears, they don’t walk around like shark bait.

By the way, I always back up this instruction to my kids by telling them that, had Jews not been conditioned by centuries of oppression to avoid arms, put their heads down, and try to appease authorities, its likely that the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened.  Please understand that I’m not blaming those victims.  First, no one could ever have imagined what the Germans intended to do.  Second, the Jews’ behavior wasn’t a conscious decision.  It was the result of a thousand years of conditioning.  Israel, thankfully, while not blaming the victims, nevertheless learned the lesson.  Like my children, Israel won’t start a fight, but she will finish it.

Incidentally, reading this news report about a school district’s institutional hostility to self-defense effectively bullying a child into victimhood, a behavior the child’s mother reinforced, reminded me of a post that America’s Sgt. Major wrote a couple of years ago at Castra Praetoria, explaining how to deal with bullies.  I highly recommend it, because it’s both enjoyable and instructive.

Shana Tova to everyone!

Tonight marks the first night of Rosh Hashanna, the Jewish New Year.  More specifically, tonight is the 5,774th year that Jews have honored this particular holiday.  It is, so far as I know, the oldest continuously operating calendar in the world.

Tonight also marks a Jewish New Year that sees the world balancing delicately on a thin red line, one that Obama drew a year ago, and that he today denied.  To those who point out his unequivocal words, he says “Pish tosh.  Truth is now, as it has ever been, defined by my needs at any given minute.”  It’s nice to own your own reality.

Because the red line at issue is in the Middle East, Israel and her Jewish subjects are always the Arabs’ first target, never mind their own ills and failures.  As has happened many times in the past, some Jews, both in Israel and the diaspora, wonder if there will be a “next year, in Jerusalem.”

But while this New Year happens to fall during a worrisome time, Rosh Hashanna is be definition a time of hope and renewal.  Yad Vashem reminds us of this with its collection of New Year’s cards from the years immediately before, during, and after the Holocaust.

I was particular struck by the cards the Jews created in 1940 in the Lodz ghetto (renamed Litzmannstadt after a German general).  Despite the ever-tightening noose the Nazis were putting around Poland’s population, the residents still took time to observe this essential moment in the annual calendar:

New Years card from Lodz Ghetto

I doubt many, if any, of the people in that picture taken in better times survived the war:

On September 8, 1939, the Germans occupied Lodz and renamed the city Litzmannstadt (after the German general Karl Litzmann, who had conquered it in World War I). Lodz was home to 223,000 Jews on the eve of World War II. At the war’s end, no more than 7,000 Jews from the Lodz Ghetto had survived the camps.

Seven thousand survivors out of 223,000 once vital, living people may sound like a depressing start to the New Year, but I have a point.  From those 7,000, as from all the other pockets of survivors across Europe and, from the Arab pogroms, across the Middle East, came one of the world’s most spectacular countries.

Israel is spectacular by every metric:  It is a thriving, pluralist, inclusive, liberal democracy that emerges like a glittering stone from a surrounding swamp of tyrannical medievalism.  It grants equal rights to all citizens, has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, has an armed force that is the wonder of the world (thanks, of course, to decades of American support), and contributes to scientific, technological, and agricultural advancements at a rate far in excess of its small size.  If you visit it, you find a dynamic, fun-loving people who are fiercely devoted to LIFE.  Unlike its surrounding neighbors, Israel is not a death cult; it’s a life force.

Many have tried, but none, ever, whether Babylonians, or Romans, or Germans, or Muslims, have succeeded in snuffing out completely this light unto the world.  And when this light in the world survives, we are all, every one of us, made better and brighter because of it.

So every year is a Happy New Year because Jews have survived for 5,773 years and will undoubtedly bring their ferocious will to live and to contribute to the world’s well-being for another 5,773 years.

Shana Tova, my friends!

Yom Hashoah

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day that was once a memorial day, a day of looking back, but is now a chilling tocsin of what the future might hold.  Everywhere in the world, antisemitism is on the rise.  Nor is this the cold, clinical antisemitism that once characterized England — the kind where people would sniff at someone and say “Oh, he’s a Jew.”  Jews might be socially ostracized and subject to petty humiliations, but they were not tortured, killed, or denied civil rights by their own government.

All over the world today, including in England, Jews are facing a worldwide rise in violent antisemitism that his not just a “chill,” is a scary, furnace-like heat.  (I keep mentioning England because it has swung more violently than any other European country from an “I don’t care” view of Jews to a blood-thirsty hatred for Jews and Israel.)  I don’t have the heart or the time to detail the attacks.  I will share with you a video showing what happens to Jews when the world turns on them, with the background music being an extremely rare recording of Bergen-Belsen survivors signing the “Hatikvah.”

By the way, David Goldman (Spengler) has the good news, which is that Jew hating-societies are dying off, because off low birth rates.  Jews stand for life (“I say to you, choose life“), so it’s not surprising that these cultures embrace death, their own and other’s.  The problem, of course, is that these dying cultures can still cause a lot of trouble as they grapple with their own convulsive death throes.

An armed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny — by guestblogger Lulu

In a recent interview on gun control in the wake of the slaughter of a classroom of innocent children and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Ben Shapiro said that one of the purposes of an armed citizenry is to prevent government tyranny. Piers Morgan harrumphed condescendingly in response, as if the very thought that Americans might need protection at this time from a potentially tyrannical government was wacky in an extremist, even paranoid way.

In the face of a relatively peaceful society with a government not waging literal war on its citizens, Morgan’s emotions seem understandable. Why do you need weapons against tyranny when the government isn’t attacking you? That’s absurd! Paranoid! But by the time an unexpected situation is desperate, even catastrophic, if citizens are unarmed, it is too late and virtually impossible to acquire weapons.

In the face of real tyranny, an unarmed civilian population is completely defenseless. History has shown us over and over again that events that trigger the collapse of a society, including all legal boundaries and ordinary decency, happen in the blink of an eye. Jews living completely normal lives in Europe in the 1930s could never have imagined that, just a few years later, their own governments (because several occupied countries were complicit with the Nazis) would herd them en masse into buildings filled with poisoned air in order to slaughter each and every one of them. The collapse was total and dizzyingly brisk. In areas of Eastern Europe it was overnight.

So here’s a question for Mr. Morgan: Once your own government, or a successful invading with which your government conspires, isolates you in ghettos, deprives you of food and possessions, and denies you any civil rights, including the right to possess a weapon, what do you do? At that moment, do you walk into a gun shop to buy protection for yourself? For citizens to have a chance at defending themselves against this overnight societal collapse, they need the gun before, not after, their government turns on them. Israel learned this lesson well, which is why the citizenry is armed.

As was everyone with a functioning soul and conscience, I too was horrified by the Sandy Hook massacre. It was another reminder (as if we needed one) that evil and insanity exist – and that, when mixed together, these two are a horrifying combination. Much needs to be done to help the mentally ill and to keep them away from weapons, and to help identify when their behavior is escalating dangerously so that we can react and get help sooner.

The question in terms of responses, though, is whether disarming our civilian population would make us more, or less, vulnerable and whether doing so would make our children more, or less, at risk. Reasonable people can logically accept the necessity of strict background checks for gun owners and laws about gun storage so that children, mentally ill people, and thieves cannot access them. But will eliminating guns entirely protect children? I took a look at the biggest mass slaughters of the past 100 years. This is what I learned.

Armenian children

Between 1915 and 1923 about 1,000,000 Armenians were slaughtered by the Turkish military by order of the Ottoman government.

Primary methods of slaughter: mass burnings, drowning, starvation, exposure, death marches.

Child victims? In the hundreds of thousands.

Ukranian children

In 1933, Josef Stalin, leader of the USSR, engineered a famine in Ukraine enforced by the armed military. Between 7,000,000 and 11,000,000 peasants starved to death. At its height, 25,000 people died of starvation per day.

Primary method of slaughter: starvation.

Child victims? In the millions.

Jewish Children

Between 1939- 1945 the German government organized the systematic slaughter of all humans they deemed undesirable. Their primary target was Jews, but victims included gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people, and the mentally ill. Those who enforced this slaughter were armed police and soldiers. After concluding that bullets were too expensive, the Nazis and their allies applied less expensive slaughtering techniques.

Primary methods of slaughter: mass gassings, mass burnings, beating, exposure, starvation, worked to death, buried alive, medical experimentation, torture.

Child victims? Between 2-3,000,000 children were murdered.

Chinese children

Mao Tze Tung, leader of Communist China, and the greatest mass murderer of all time, slaughtered between 49-70,000,000 people during the so-called “Great Leap Forward.” Forty-five million people died in 4 years alone in work camps and gulags.

Primary methods of slaughter: worked to death, starvation, exposure, torture, beatings.

Child victims? In the millions.

Cambodian victims

Between 1975-1979, 2,000,000 Cambodian civilians were systematically slaughtered by their government, the Khmer Rouge.

Primary method of slaughter: starvation, exposure, and, because bullets were too expensive per Khmer Rouge officials (“Bullets are not to be wasted”), death was delivered by hammer, axe, spade, sharpened bamboo sticks, and burial alive.

Child victims: In the hundreds of thousands.

North Korean child

Between 1984 and 1988, between 240,000 and 3,500,000 citizens of North Korea were starved to death by their government engineering and incompetence. Armed police and the military enforced this policy.

Primary method of slaughter: starvation, work camps, and gulags.

Child victims? In the tens of thousands.

In 1994, a government sponsored massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda led to the death of 800,000 people in one year. Guns were expensive, so the Hutus used other methods.

Primary method of slaughter: machetes, clubs, knives, bombs.

Child victims? In the tens of thousands.

The common thread to these mass killings was that tyrannical governments using armed agents (military and police) carried them out against ordinary citizens who were either entirely unarmed, or under-armed. Were guns involved in the slaughter? Certainly. As these pictures show, guns were used against unarmed people to herd them, terrify them, and control them. Guns were used like cattle prods to move large numbers of people and to frighten them into cooperation. Repeatedly, governments bent on large scale mass slaughter found shooting to be too slow and costly. The Nazis abandoned their Baba Yar-type ravines for industrialized death factories. Resistance only occurred when civilians were able to gather together weapons to fight back. Without weapons, civilians were entirely defenseless against armed tormentors.

Planning to deal with tyranny after tyranny occurs is too late. An armed citizenry is the best system of checks and balances against a government getting too big, demonizing particular groups of citizens too much, and lacking any meaningful opposition within the country. Tyrants always look for easy victims and seek to disarm them. A population that can and will protect itself in advance of a tyrant’s encroachments effectively prevents any tyranny from occurring.

[Bookworm here:  I am willing to bet that, in everyone of the countries Lulu describes above, if you had asked people months or a few years in advance whether they would be subject to tyranny and genocide, they all would have answered, "No way!  It can't happen here.]

Is working as a porn star the cure for mental health issues?

Did any of you catch a story the other day claiming that a study of porn actresses showed that they’re happier and better adjusted than their non-porn peers?

The report in the Journal of Sex Research found that porn stars are not more likely to have psychological problems than other women.

In fact, they discovered those in the sex entertainment industry had a more positive outlook on life with higher self-confidence and more flattering views on their body image.

‘In terms of psychological characteristics, porn actresses had higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction and spirituality compared to the matched group,’ the report summarises.

Wow!

The way that study reads, it sounds as if those dealing with depression or other mental health issues should head for the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, home of myriad porn studios, rather than seeking out more traditional options, such as a therapist, anti-depressants, or, in more serious cases, a full-care residential facility.  Sadly, we have a thread of depression running through my family’s history, and various family members have (or could have) benefited from some or all three options.

Such options weren’t always available, of course.  My mother’s maternal uncle and her paternal grandmother both suffered greatly from mental illnesses that were probably bi-polar disorder in his case and histrionic personality disorder in her case.  The Nazis dealt with these problems quite efficiently by killing my great-uncle and great, great grandmother.  I don’t know about my father’s family’s mental health history, although most of them ended up being killed by the Nazis too.  Maybe all of them could have avoided these fates if they’d become happy porn stars.

Let me say that I don’t believe this study at all.  For one thing, it’s got a very small sampling:  171 porn actresses.  For another thing, these actresses were compared to some magical “average” woman.  Lastly, I’m dubious about this kind of self-reported happiness, given the lives they lead.  I know people who practice . . . hmmm . . . let’s say “alternate” sexual lives.  These women tell me, almost aggressively, that they’re “happy” with their choices and that having myriad sexual encounters with nameless, faceless men makes them feel like sex goddesses.

That’s what they say.  What I see are women who rely heavily on pot and other drugs to maintain an anesthetized distances from their life choices.  Indeed, the study acknowledges greater drug use amongst the porn actresses studied:

While the report challenged the stereotype of porn actresses as drug addicts, drug use was found to be more prevalent among the entertainers. They were more likely to have tried ten different types of drugs compared to the control group.

These women also age much more rapidly than their cleaner-living peers.  I don’t know if it’s the sex or the drugs, but you can tell that they’ve been around the block a few thousand times.

Of course, if you report yourself as happy, maybe you are happy.  After all, our emotional well-being is a state-of-mind and, as the saying goes, mind over matter works:  if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.  If these women are convinced that they’re not prematurely aged, substance using (not necessarily “abusing,” but “using) people whose lives are defined by their exhibitionist sexual habits, but are, instead, desirable, beautiful women, than I guess they are — their perception of reality defines their reality.

We know, though, that young girls who are sexually promiscuous are less happy than their peers.  Hearing that porn stars are happy shouldn’t be used as an indicator that exhibitionism is a recipe for happiness.  At most, with such a small sampling, the study shows that people with unusual predilections have found their niche.  Most people, I suspect, would find that niche to be a very demoralizing place, indeed, and certainly not a panacea for depression or just routine unhappiness.

Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) *UPDATED*

As a Jew, the Holocaust is always with me.  When I whine about something (which I often do), I’m instantly stricken with guilt because I know that, 70 years ago, across Europe, women with lives similar to mine (middle-aged, middle-class) were suddenly pitched into a nightmarish maelstrom from which there was no escape.

Am I shlepping heavy groceries from the car?  At least I have food.  Do those new shoes I bought pinch my feet?  Not only am I shod, but my shoes haven’t been stripped from my body as a preliminary to herding me into a gas chamber.  Am I feeling a bit ill or suffering a migraine?  I could be laboring in the quarry at Mauthausen, starved, diseased, abused, and alone.

I don’t have survivor’s guilt.  I have second-generation survivor’s guilt.  On the one hand, I know how lucky I am and how blessed my life is.  On the other hand, I can never, ever escape the mental images of those who thought they had my luck, only to see it vanish as if it had never happened.

We only think we’re not on the volcano’s edge.  We all are.  It’s just that some of us have lives that allow us to pretend the sulfurous fumes aren’t actually rising up around us.  I may not live a Hobbesian life at this moment, but there is actually very little between me and a moral entropy that threatens violence and horrible death.

One day a year, we take the inchoate guilt and anxiety that plague most Jews (and many non-Jews?) and declare it an official remembrance day.  That day is Yom Hashoah.  With every passing year, there are fewer people alive who have first hand memories of the Holocaust.  It is therefore up to us to carry the torch and try, through the act of memory, to beat back the darkness surrounding us.

Here is my post on the Holocaust, one that looks at those who lived through it, those who escape from it, and those who were pitched into a Pacific, rather than European, Holocaust.

Here is Bruce Kesler’s post about the village that saw his family’s end.

Here is The Political Commentator’s post.

And here is a link to a book that Bruce recommended: Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. The book isn’t actually about Europe as a whole.  It’s about a specific geographic area bounded by Germany and the Soviet Union, but one that tellingly did not include Germany itself or the core Soviet States.  It was in this territory, Belarus, Poland, the Ukraine, etc., that the Nazis and the Soviets put into effect the greatest killing effort in human history, something that would not be seen again until Mao visited his Great Leap Forward on his own hapless Chinese people.

In this geographic area — the Bloodlands of the title — the Soviets and the Nazis systematically starved, shot, gassed, and creatively killed millions of fellow Europeans, many of whom the Nazis shipped in from far-flung geographic points.  The victims’ crime?  They were enemies of the state, whether because they were Jews, gypsies, farmers, POWs from the opposing side’s armies, political dissidents, political ignoramuses, or anything or anyone else the state feared.

The book’s lesson is clear from the first page:  While one can easily find individuals with no conscience, an individual’s reach is limited.  That’s not the case when it comes to a start whose citizens allow it to seize unfettered power.  A state that has no conscience (and when does a state collective ever have a soul?) can too easily become a killing machine.

When savvy people figure out that I’m a conservative, they often ask why.  I think they are surprised when I don’t launch into a long discourse about policies and goals.  I say only one thing:  “I fear anything that consolidates too much power.  The bigger an entity, the more mischief it can do.  I like to keep political power reasonable diffused.  A government should be big enough to be useful, but not so big that it becomes both unstoppable and very dangerous.”

UPDATEBenjamin Netanyahu’s Yom Hashoah speech.

Are the headline writers dumb or malevolent? *UPDATED*

As you already know, I’m sure, the Ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem are fighting hard to segregate men and women in public spaces in Jerusalem.  I posted about the fact that Mr. Bookworm analogized this small group, which is fighting against a democratic, egalitarian government, to the sharia law that exists across large segments of the Muslim world.  I doubt Mr. Bookworm arrived at this thought by himself.  I haven’t been reading the New York Times lately, nor listening to NPR, but I’m willing to bet that their coverage implies that this comparison is real and valid.

Today, the AP managed to state outright that the Ultra-Orthodox are aping the Nazis.  Here’s the AP headline:

Ultra-Orthodox Jews use Nazi images in protest

The implication, of course, is that the Ultra-Orthodox Jews outfitted themselves in swastikas and jackboots.  What the Ultra-Orthodox really did was to dress themselves up in concentration camp garb, thereby sending the message that they are helpless prisoners of a Nazi-style Jewish government:

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered Saturday night in Jerusalem to protest what they say is a nationwide campaign directed against their lifestyle. The protesters called Israeli police officers Nazis, wore yellow Star of David patches with the word “Jude” – German for Jew – dressed their children in striped black-and-white uniforms associated with Nazi concentration camps and transported them in the back of a truck.

The Ultra-Orthodox’s stunt was tacky, offensive, ugly, distasteful, and inappropriate.  But the more correct description of this tasteless bit of street theater would be that “Ultra-Orthodox Jews use Holocaust-era Images in Protest.”  For the AP to have implied otherwise adds one more layer of indecency to the whole protest — and, worse, it’s a layer of indecency that dovetails perfectly with the Leftist (especially the European Leftist) effort to paint Jews as Nazis.  It’s bad enough when radical Jews describe each other as Nazis, without having the media pile on too.

UPDATE:  Somehow, this post seems apropos, insofar as it explains that the OWS add-on to the Rose Bowl Parade relied on Nazi imagery to depict the Jews’ alleged influence on world finances.

Is it just me or is there something very wrong with this picture?

For reasons unclear to me, myriad conservative sites are hosting an advertisement for Alan Grayson, a Progressive’s Progressive. You might remember Grayson from his last go-round in Congress.  This is not a guy who’s shy about sharing his convictions.  During the health care debate, he gave a quick and easy summary of the Republican position:  “‘Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.”  When called upon to apologize, he basically apologized for having been too mealy-mouthed in his criticisms of Republicans: “I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.”

Maybe the above quote explains why, when I think of Grayson, I’ve got the Holocaust on my mind.  (Grayson, by the way, is Jewish.)  How else to explain my reaction every single time I see this ad:

It’s that shadow under the nose, I know it is.  But whenever I see his picture in that ad (not any of his other pictures, just the one above), I see this:

I’m not saying Grayson is Hitler.  Indeed, I would never say that, because I don’t think there is any comparison.  I do think he’s an angry man with awful political ideas, but that’s the end of it as far as I’m concerned.  Considering that I don’t harbor bad thoughts towards Grayson, and I’m sure his campaign doesn’t, it leaves me wondering why his campaign would choose an image that, with that shadowy upper lip, creates the visual suggestion that he is a bad guy.

Or, as I asked in my post title, is it just me?

Man’s inhumanity to man *UPDATED*

I’ve long had a conflicted emotional relationship to Poland.  I know that Poland bore the brunt of the first official Nazi invasion in WWII, back in August 1939.  I also know that the Poles suffered horribly under the Soviets.  In the modern era, it was the Poles whose bravery exposed the weaknesses in and started the destruction of the Soviet system, and the Poles have been a staunch American ally in the post-Cold War world.

All that I know, and yet I’ve never been able to forgive them for the fact that Jewish genocide in Poland worked so well because so many Poles were gleeful and enthusiastic participants in the process.  There was a reason why the most successful death camp of all (Auschwitz) was in Poland.  The Germans knew that the local population would be more amenable to its presence than would be true in other nations.  Other nations showed themselves willing to give their Jews away (the French, the Dutch, etc.), but they still might balk at mass slaughter on home ground.  The Poles wouldn’t. (One could say that the other nations were hypocritical, and the Poles were not, but that’s a post for another day.)

Of course, that held true for so many Slavic and Baltic nations — and it turns out that Yad Vashem has been paying attention to all those little, regional killing fields and death camps.  There’s a heart wrenching article in today’s New York Times about a project to document the local killings.  This is an extremely important project because it helps to explain what we still see today:  neighbor turning on neighbor, whether in Serbia or Rwanda, or somewhere else in the world.

UPDATEEric‘s fact-filled comment deserves to be up in the post:

I just had to come to the defense of Poles regarding the Holocaust.  Poles were essentially given a bad rap by the Communist.  I know this is not a prevailing wisdom, especially among my fellow Jews.  But the World War 2 history is a hobby of mine, and I am especially interested in the Jewish resistance.  So, I researched the subject.  The better known ZOB (Jewish Combat Organization) indeed did not get much support from the Polish Home Army.  The ZOB came into being only in mid-1942, and the Poles considered them a bunch of leftist demagogues.  But there was another organization, ZZW (Jewish Military Union).  That one was an integral part of the Polish Home Army, starting from late fall of 1939.  They received weapons and ammo from the Poles.  They were also as big in numbers and much better trained than ZOB.  Unfortunately most of their leaders were killed in action during the Ghetto Uprising.  And the Polish officer to whom the ZZW leader reported was jailed by the Communists after the war.  Just as a side note, his name deserves to be mentioned: Henrik Iwanski.  He lost both sons and a brother in action during the Ghetto Uprising and was heavily wounded himself.  Another interesting tidbit is that the Polish Auxiliaries were not used by the Germans against the Jews during the Ghetto Uprising.  The Germans brought in the Lithuanians.

I would recommend the book “Two Flags” by Marian Apfelbaum, the nephew of the ZZW leader.  Sorry, for the plug, but here is my review of the book:
http://conservativlib.wordpress.com/2007/10/07/two-flags-the-untold-story-of-the-warsaw-ghetto-uprising-and-its-relevance-today/

I suspect that the reason why the majority of the death camps were in Poland was the simple fact that that was where the majority of the European Jews lived.  The French were by far worse than the Poles, and the French Government has finally admitted it recently:
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/32818_France_Finally_Admits_Role_in_Holocaust

A Holocaust story that’s true

You’ve no doubt read about the false Holocaust love story that’s caused Oprah such anguish.  I have a real story for you.  I knew the players and can speak to their veracity.

Harry’s parents were able to get him out of Germany during the late 1930s.  By that time, he’d already suffered mild brain damage from being beaten by a gang of Hitler youths, but while it impaired his speech, it affected neither his intelligence nor his moral sense.  Harry spent the early war years in England and then joined the British military, spending the later war years fighting the Nazis.

At the end of the war, Harry returned to Germany to find his parents.  He learned that, shortly after the war started, they’d been snatched from their home and taken first to Dachau, where they survived long beyond what anyone would have expected from two middle-aged, middle-class Jews, and then to Auschwitz, where they died in the gas chambers.

Their survival in Dachau was because of their shop girl.  When they were arrested, Lotte, a German girl who loved them dearly, moved to the town nearest Dachau and found work there.  Every day, she gathered together food and, at extraordinary risk to herself, smuggled it to Harry’s parents.

When Harry learned what Lotte did for his parents, he vowed to care for her.  Since he was young, healthy and a skilled mechanic, there was every reason to believe he could fulfill this vow.

Harry finally located Lotte living in some distress in the chaos that was post-war Germany.  Although she was a good decade older than he was, and he remembered her only vaguely from his childhood, he married her immediately and cared for her to the end of her days.

When I met them, they were in their 50s, and presented at first as a rather typical, ponderous German couple.  There was nothing to distinguish them from any other older Germans you might meet touring America.  The only truly noticeable things about them were (a) how much older she was and (b) how solicitous he was.  It was only later, when I Iearned their true story, that I realized I’d been in the presence of moral greatness, his and hers both.

Rest in Peace, oh Righteous One

From today’s news:

Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who saved thousands of Jewish children during World War Two by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, died in the Polish capital on Monday after a long illness, local media said.

[snip]

Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said: “Irena Sendler’s courageous activities rescuing Jews during the Holocaust serve as a beacon of light to the world, inspiring hope and restoring faith in the innate goodness of mankind.”

Using her position as a social worker, Sendler regularly entered the ghetto, smuggling around 2,500 children out in boxes, suitcases or hidden in trolleys.

The children were then placed with Polish families outside the ghetto, created by Nazi Germany in 1940 for the city’s half a million strong Jewish population, and given new identities.

But in 1943 Sendler, who led the children’ section of the Zegota organization which helped Jews during the war, was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo.

She only escaped execution when Zegota managed to bribe some Nazi officials, who left her unconscious but alive with broken legs and arms in the woods.

Yad Vashem makes pictures available on the internet

Today’s news about yesterday:

In honor of Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day, marked in Israel on Thursday, Yad Vashem expanded its Internet presence this week by opening an online database containing nearly two-thirds of the 200,000 photos in its archives.

[snip]

Earlier this week, Yad Vashem launched two YouTube sites. The English version includes sound bites from President Bush and French President Nicholas Sarkozy on their visits to the memorial.

“I would hope that as many people in the world come to this place, it would be a sobering reminder that evil exists and a call that when we find evil we must resist it,” President Bush says.

The YouTube clips also includes short video testimonies of survivors, among them Zanne Farbstein. She and her two sisters were among 1,000 women who were the first Jews to arrive at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

Auschwitz was the Nazis’ largest concentration camp. It is estimated that up to 2.5 million people were murdered or died there.

“I worked sorting clothes and I found Father’s prayer shawl. There were five crematoria. They burned day and night. Transports kept arriving and there was no room in the crematoria, so the children were thrown into pits and burned – little children…Alive!” Farbstein recalled in one video.

“We were all sick, so we would drag each other to work. Until one morning my older sister Edith said: ‘You know what? I can’t go on any more. Enough!’

“I cried. I shouted. Nothing helped. I had torn shoes. She had good shoes. She said to me, ‘Let’s exchange shoes.’

“So we went to work. When we returned, she was no more,” Farbstein said. She and her other sister were in Auschwitz together for three years, waiting for death every day, she said. “That was the worst part: the fear.”

Farbsten says she never would have believed that she could live a normal life – marrying and having children and grandchildren. “Sheer joy!” she says.

You can find the photo archive here.

Judge not lest you be judged

A few days ago, I posted about the rise in antisemitism around the world. One of my readers, who I know is a good and kind woman, decried this trend, but then said something interesting: “And now many Jews insist that we hate Muslims to support them. [snip.] [E]very anti-Islamic article posted makes it that much harder to side with the Jews. No one should be forced to side with one ethnicity over another.” In other words, if I understand her correctly, by bad-mouthing Muslims, Jews are making themselves look bad and are therefore less sympathetic.

(This statement is not unique to this reader, and I don’t want any of you to pick on her. She’s part of a larger trend, and this trend definitely deserves consideration. Indeed, I am grateful to her for being honest so that we can discuss this matter. Any personal attacks against her are strictly off limits and I will delete them as soon as I can.)

The view my reader expressed seems to be a variation on two Biblical principles: “Judge not lest you be judged” and “turn the other cheek.” I’ve always understood these doctrines to apply to the individual, not to the state, and to mean that, within a civilized society, people have to avoid the sins of hypocrisy and should strive to get along with their neighbors. Multiculturalism, however, elevates these Biblical precepts to national policies that insist that victims of threats or aggression may not defend themselves. As one commentator said, in many circles, it is now worse to judge evil than to do evil. (I’d like to give attribution to that speaker, but I can’t find his name anywhere. He’s a British lecturer, if that helps any of you come up with his name.)

I’m actually happy to judge evil — because I know, with certainty, that I am not evil. That is, I don’t have to worry that, in judging others as evil, I might in turn be judged. I can cast rhetorical stones because, while I have my petty sins (I’m lazy, a bit hot-tempered, and I’m greedy when it comes to chocolate), I am not evil. The same holds true for Jews. As a group, they have the same foibles as the average run of citizens, but they are not, collectively, evil. They do not aim their guns intentionally at children, they do not use children to hide their own guns, and they do not revel in the deaths of children. Jews can judge those Muslims who got what they asked for (Gaza) and then launched more than 5,000 rockets into Israel, with the intent to kill civilians. Jews can judge those Muslims who have as their religious doctrine the requirement that the desired end of days be triggered, in part, by the slaughter of Jews. We are allowed to judge when we see evil.

I actually attribute this naive belief that all people are innately good — a belief that, in the modern era alone, should have given way in the face of the Nazi death camps, in Pol Pots killing fields, in Mao’s Great Leap Forward, in the Soviet Union’s lengthy auto-genocide — to a surprising source: Anne Frank. Since the 1950s, every single reasonably educated American has read Anne Frank’s luminous diary. And most American teachers — certainly mine, when I was in junior high school — spent an inordinate amount of time reiterating to us Anne’s most famous words, written on July 15, 1944, exactly two years after she and her family went into hiding to escape the Nazis:

It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. [Emphasis mine.]

Thanks to those words, just about every Western school child learns that “people are truly good at heart.” I think it was that sweet sentiment that my reader had in the back of her mind when she left her comment. In that world view, if everyone is good, it does indeed lessen the virtue of one group of people if they imply that another group of people may not, in fact, be “truly good at heart.” The problem is that Anne Frank was completely and totally wrong.

Before I get into the global wrongness of Anne’s position, it’s useful to understand the context in which Anne wrote those words, as well as to remember what happened to Anne within days of writing them. As Anne freely admited in the next sentence following her famous thought, she wrote those words because she needed to give meaning to a life spent in hiding and a world that had devolved into sadistic chaos.

Two weeks after writing her homage to human kind’s innate goodness, because of a tip from an informer, the Annex’s residents were rounded up by the Nazis and shipped off. Here’s what happened to them: Mr. Van Daan was gassed immediately on his arrival in Auschwitz. Mrs. Van Daan was shuffled from Auschwitz, to Bergen-Belsen, to Buchenwald, to Theresienstadt, and finally to another unknown camp where she apparently died shortly before war’s end. Peter van Daan survived a death march from Auschwitz to Mauthausen, only to die three days before the camp was liberated. Mr. Dussel, after having spent time in either Buchenwald or Sachenhausen, died in Neuengamme a few months after being arrested. Mrs. Frank died in Auschwitz from starvation and exhaustion. As for Anne and Margot:

Margot and Anne Frank were transported from Auschwitz at the end of October and brought to Bergen-Belsen concentrationton camp near Hanover (Germany). The typhus epidemic that broke out in the winter of 1944-1945, as a result of the horrendous hygienic conditions, killed thousands of prisoners, including Margot and, a few days later, Anne. She must have died in late February or early March. The bodies of both girls were probably dumped in Bergen-Belsen’s mass graves. (From the Afterward to The Diary of a Young Girl : The Definitive Edition, published by Anchor Books Doubleday in 1996)

Anne Frank did not die peacefully or gracefully. Instead, her last days on earth were a nightmare of cold, hunger, loneliness and fear:

Anne was briefly reunited with two friends, Hanneli Goslar (named “Lies” in the diary) and Nanette Blitz, who both survived the war. They said that Anne, naked but for a piece of blanket, explained she was infested with lice and had thrown her clothes away. They described her as bald, emaciated and shivering but although ill herself, she told them that she was more concerned about Margot, whose illness seemed to be more severe. Goslar and Blitz did not see Margot who remained in her bunk, too weak to walk. Anne said they were alone as both of their parents were dead.

Why am I emphasizing all this? Because I want to make it clear that Anne Frank was wrong. People are not innately good. Her words were whistling in the dark, written to give herself faith and courage under terrible circumstances. They cannot and should not be used as a yardstick for measuring human being’s natural state. And for Liberals to cling to this “ideology” moves beyond optimism into self-destruction.

Anyone who has children knows that, while they have a tremendous capacity for love, and have within them the seeds for reason and kindness, their innate state is more Lord of the Flies than anything else. Children are naturally violent, greedy and jealous. What tempers children is a society’s externally imposed value system. And these value systems don’t spring out of whole cloth. They are the results of centuries of give and take, violence, refining, and thought.

In a chauvinistic way that I’m not even going to bother to defend, I think our modern Judeo-Christian value system is one of the best ever created — and it’s not innate, it’s learned. I’ll go even further here: I don’t like the current fundamentalist Islamic value system, with its denigration of women, Jews, and non-Muslims, and its obsession with visiting extreme physical violence (and I include beheading and other slaughters) on those so denigrated.

I don’t think we in the West are innately good, or that those in the fundamentalist Islamic Middle East are inherently bad. I do think, however, that we have the better value system, and that it’s terribly dangerous for people to put their faith in Anne Frank’s touching but misguided words about humans’ innate goodness. Worse, this is not merely the misguided approach of a single good and kind person. Instead, a vast portion of the American population has bought into a teenage girls’ “whistling in the dark” musings and now tries to impose this naive view on American (and Israeli) foreign policy, hampering those countries’ ability to protect themselves against those whose value system calls for its enemies subjugation and death.