Shoah

70 Years

Since I did not get around to writing a post that lives up to the anniversary I will substitute Wren’s because I don’t think I could have written it any better.

It is very easy to demonise Germans for the Shoah and comfort ourselves with the idea that “it” can never happen again; it is a lot harder to start thinking about the idea that the Shoah did not exactly happen in a vacuum.
As a nice lady in Yad vaShem once told me: This is not about finding more people to blame, after 70 years we should really be moving past blame. It is about understanding why it happened so it will not happen again.

The Druid Bird

‘It seems all the stories we heard about the concentration camps in Germany were almost all true. But the only people in these camps were Jews and political prisoners. We both agreed that the Jews should be exterminated and the political prisoners were just fools.’

Garfield, 2004: 509, Our Hidden Lives, Random House, London.

Yesterday marked 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, to mark the occasion this week’s Wednesday post is going to be an insight into post-war Britain… and it’s probably not what you’re expecting.

I read a book recently about writing historical fiction, the book emphasised the importance of giving your characters era appropriate attitudes. When you’re writing characters that lived many years ago you have to understand and accept that they’re not going to have 21st century attitudes towards equality and discrimination. They’re probably going to be sexist, racist and xenophobic.

After the First World War…

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Of a Death in Vienna

This morning, as I was sifting through my pile of unread books trying to decide on which one to go for next I found one abandoned right next to John le Carré’s A Perfect Spy. It was the copy of Daniel Silva’s A Death in Vienna my Isareli friend had sent me years ago attaching a note of how it reminded her of “all the talks we had on [her] roof terrace” and how it summed it all up neatly to her. I felt guilty because even though I had promised I never got around to reading it in those rather chaotic years since.

silva - death in vienna

Maybe I should have stuck with the le Carré.

In the six years (is it really that long already?) I have had this blog I have avoided writing about the Shoah and the way it is dealt with from the Austrian perspective. In part because for a long time I would not have found the words to do so and, for a bigger part, because I did not want this to be a blog that contributed to reducing thousands of years of Jewish – or Austrian, for that – cultural history to a hand full of decades.

The conversation I had, back in Tel Aviv, with a bunch of business partners probably sums it all up neatly. It is a stereotype, I know, but one that does not lack of truth:

“They say Austrians are the best diplomats in the world. Because you made the whole world think Hitler was German and Beethoven was Austrian.” he said, challenging me with a smirk of Israeli bluntness.

I smiled back, took the challenge: “But why? It is true after all, isn’t it?” Now I have his attention.
“Wasn’t Hitler a German when he died? And wasn’t Beethoven buried at Vienna’s Central Cemetery?”
I fixed his gaze with a light, almost childish smile as I added: “If you determined nationality by their place of birth – how many Isareli heroes would you have left?”

He could not help but conclude that the rumour about Austrians, after all, seemed to be quite correct.

It is true that we Austrians were slack in prosecuting our war criminals, I will not argue against it nor will I defend it. We were no angels, we had our monsters too. And it is true that, just like the rest of Europe, we have the far right creeping into our parliament again and again. Since the recent Gaza war I have even seen an upwards trend in anti-Jewish resentment and the same old stereotypes against “wealthy world-Jewry”. Frankly, for maybe the first time I have started to grasp why some of my Jewish friends have never quite felt safe in Austria. But reading Silva’s views today that, apparently, made him a #1 bestseller made my blood boil with his blatant, uncritical use of stereotype.

In a nutshell after introducing Vienna as a place where “men still wear feathered Tyrolean caps [and] women still found it fashionable to wear a Dirndl” (I had to double-check here to confirm the book was actually published in 2003) Silva goes on to describe the Austrian secret service as run by a ultra-right wing maniac not only acting far outside the law but also quite capable of torture and murder in order to cover up for his Nazi friends. And all of that in light of human-rights activist groups that knew about it but nobody would quite listen to them. I had the feeling, sometimes, that he saw Austria as almost of the brink to a second Holocaust at the drop of a pen although that notion might have been exaggerated by my own hurt pride into my homeland.

waldheimat_intro

Anti-Waldheim Protests in Vienna, 1986 (C) Demokratiezentrum Wien

I was in Israel when former Austrian president and UN secretary general Kurt Waldheim died and I remember the uproar vividly. And when I read up on the subject what I found were pages and pages of 1980s Austrian newspaper reports condemning him; I found photographs of a wooden horse being dragged through the streets of Vienna with a plaque around its neck that said “I remember” in reference to Waldheim’s own claim not to remember a thing. And all of that even though even a Nazi-hunter as fierce as Simon Wiesenthal could never find any grounds to prosecute Waldheim for war crimes.

“Ich war nicht bereit, Kurt Waldheim als Nazi oder Kriegsverbrecher zu attackieren, weil er nach Einsichtnahme in alle mir zur Verfügung stehenden Unterlagen weder das eine noch das andere war.”

I was not ready to attack Kurt Waldheim as a Nazi or war criminal because after looking through all files available to me [I found] he was neither the one nor the other.

(Simon Wiesenthal, Das Amt und die Pflicht, in: Die Presse, Sonderausgabe “2000”, December 1999, S. 57f)

That is Austria too. The silent majority actually, I will argue.

Yes, there are still the elderly that will tell you casually over a cup of tea how “everything was better under Hitler”, our dirty laundry that will not come clean. And yes, there are also the young that once again will tell you the same old story of how “the Rothschilds” apparently somehow control the world. But that is not all Austria is just like during the occupation (I know I will be crucified if not blood-eagled for using the word) the frantic helpers of National-Socialist Germany were not all Austria was.

I grew up with stories – little stories, told casually, not as great deeds – of local farmers hiding Jews, of people leaving food out or giving clothes.  It was only during my time in Israel that I stumbled upon some of the bigger stories too. The most documented maybe is that of hostess Liesl Geisler-Scharetter feeding thousands of Jewish DPs on their way to Italy and Israel. Her story, though, is but one of many that were never told outside the family; it is far from unusual for my simple, hospitable people. If you can do those little things, then you do. It is the Austrian nature that we do not care about making a big fuss about those things because to us they are self-explanatory. We do them because they are right, not because of what others will say about us.

Liesl Geisler-Scharfetter doing the dishes for DPs fleeing to Israel (C) Alpine Peace Crossing

Liesl Geisler-Scharfetter doing the dishes for DPs fleeing to Israel (C) Alpine Peace Crossing

But then, yes, we also do not care about being heroes either. It is the Austrian nature to hide in the pubs and the homes during hard times and wait until the storm blows over. And if we have to do the occasional Sieg Heil and raise a couple of flags in order to be left alone then, yes, we will do that too. And in our complacency we looked on as Millions were killed, retreating into the comfortable bubbles around us with our fingers in our ears so we could lock out the torment going on around us.

Silva, and I realise many alongside him, see a systemic issue where there is none. Are there right-winged nutcases sprinkled all over Austrian society? Certainly. But I cannot for the love of me imagine we have a Manfred Kruz that can get away with killing and torturing in the name of keeping it all under wraps. If there was I am convinced he would find an end not unlike that of the rogue Zalachenko club in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest; brought to justice by our very own constitutional protection units working within the law and following due process of a modern and just legal system.

Frankly, I am sick and tired of Austria being portrayed as a backwater still stuck in 1940s thinking every time attacking Germany becomes unfashionable for one reason or the other. I am sick and tired of the one-dimensional view most of the world seems to have and I know we Austrians make it easy because it is in our nature not to care too much about what others think. Most of us will not raise an eyebrow on reading Silva’s accounts because we do not think it is worth the effort of trying to change how some Americans that have probably never left their own continent see us. My own mum, if she would read this would probably tell me I was wasting my energy – and I guess she is right about it too.

Migdalit

Chaos and Confusion

Shalom everybody,

there is a comment I’ve had to approve for quite a while now. I don’t know whether you know how it works on WordPress: but basically you can choose to approve each comment right away or have the comments of first-time posters emailed for approval – which I think works great against spam. Posters already known to the blog, by their email address I’d suppose, get approved right away and all I get is a notification via mail. Which comes in pretty handy if you are a lazy bum like me not checking in on the blog as often as I probably should.

So this comment reached me during my mail account right after it was posted on April 23. I probably got it before coffee or during some other altered state of mind since when I skimmed through the comment that was supposed to go on the “about Migdalit” page I quickly decided “spam” and left it alone, again being too lazy to log into the blog just to spam one comment. It was only today that I logged in – because I got another very nice comment that made me aware that probably I should really write more often and that there are people out there who actually give a shit about this blog.

However, approving said second comment I came back at the “spam”-comment and, right before the moment I would have spammed it stopped. ‘Wow’, I thought, ‘that’s the first spam that replies to a former comment.’ It wasn’t spam, indeed, and I feel like I have to apologize to its author, Òlofur Björnsson, for the long wait. But then, reading it again I became a bit wary about what to do with it:

Hello Alan [Price] if the Nazis had succeeded in exterminating the entire Jewish population of the World perhaps that would solved the issue of ” the extraordinary chaos and confusion that has reigned ever since “, that you speak of. By the way Mr Price are you a racist scumbag ?

I can only assume this was meant to be rather sarcastic but still, it leaves behind a bad taste. And than attributing Alan, who by the way runs an interesting, though not easy blog himself, as a “racist scumbag”, isn’t quite following the netiquette (do today’s kids know about the netiquette, after all?). So Òlofur, if you come back to the blog and read this, would you please be so kind to clarify. I’d be especially interested in where you find Alan a “racist scumbag” as the comment you refer to just says:

I am interested in the history of the Jewish immigration to Palestine prior to statehood and all of the extraordinary chaos and confusion that has reigned ever since.

And even after more then a year in German exile, where everybody really is oversensitive to any syllable that might be racist I just can’t find any racism in there. I’d rather second Alan on the term “chaos and confusion” when talking about different historic narratives in the region – which of course doesn’t exclude the option that some of this “chaos and confusion” was brought about on purpose. For bot you, Òlofur and Alan I’ve kinda summed it up a while a ago – as far as all of this can be summed up in a single post, you’re welcome to resume any pending discussion there or in this post’s comment section, but for the time being, Òlofur, I’m not approving your comment on the “About Migdalit” page, as I really think it doesn’t belong there.

so long and hopefully being back with more soon

yours,

Migdalit

Shimon Peres’ Address to the German Bundestag

Shalom everybody,

Today I found a final opportunity to go with the special quality of blogging: Having it published just after it happened.

I happened to turn to ARD – German public television – just at the right time to hear and see the address by Shimon Peres in the German Parliament, the Bundestag. A speech that moved me in so many way I wanted to share it right ahead. Perhaps I’ll add some thoughts of my own later on but for the moment it’s just Peres’ words:

I stand here before you, as the President of the State of Israel, the home of the Jewish People.

While my heart is breaking at the memory of the atrocious past – my eyes envision a common future for a world that is young, a world free of all hatred.

A world in which the words “war” and “anti-Semitism” will be dead words.

Distinguished gathering,

In the Jewish tradition that accompanies us for thousands of years, there exists a prayer in Aramaic recited when mourning the dead, in memory of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters.

The mothers, whose infants were torn from their arms, and the fathers, who watched in horror as their children were pushed into the gas chambers and their children go up in the smoke of the crematoriums, did not have the time to recite nor to listen to this ancient prayer.

On this occasion, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to recite this prayer, here and now, in the name of the Jewish people, in memory of, and in honor of, the six million Jews who turned to ashes:

“יִתְגַּדַּל וְיִתְקַדַּששְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא
בְּעָלְמָא דִּי בְרָא כִרְעוּתֵהּ
וְיַמְלִיךְמַלְכוּתֵהּ
וְיַצְמַח פּוּרְקַנֵה וִיקָרֵבמְשִׁיחֵה
בְּחַיֵּיכוֹן וּבְיוֹמֵיכוֹן וּבְחַיֵּידְכָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, בַּעֲגָלָא וּבִזְמַן קָרִיב וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן.”

“Exalted and hallowed be His great Name throughout the world which He has created according to His will.  May He establish His kingship, bring forth His redemption and hasten the coming of His Messiah in your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon, and say, Amen.”

And the prayer ends with the words which became a symbol in the State of Israel, a dream in the Jewish world:

“He, who makes peace in His Heights, may He, in his compassion, make peace upon us, and upon all Israel.  And they responded: Amen.”

My Friends, the leaders of the German people and its representatives,

In the State of Israel, and across the world, survivors of the Holocaust are gradually departing from the world of the living. Their numbers are daily diminishing.

And at the same time, men and women, who took part in the most odious activity on earth – that of genocide – still live on German and European soil, and in other parts of the world.

My request of you is:  Please do everything to bring them to justice.

This is not revenge in our eyes. This is an educational lesson. This is an hour of grace for the young generation, wherever they may be. That they may remember, and never forget, that they should know what took place, and that they never, absolutely never, have the slightest doubt in their minds that there is another option, other than peace, reconciliation and love.

Today, the International Remembrance Day for the victims of the Holocaust is the day on which the sun shone for the first time sixty-five years ago, after six evil years, its rays revealing the full extent of the destruction of my people.

On that same day, the smoke still rose above the bombed incinerators, and the blood-stains and ashes still heavily lay on the soil of the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The train-station platform was silent. And the “selection ramp” was empty of people. On the monstrous field of slaughter settled a deceptive atmosphere of tranquility.

The ear caught only the quiet, yet from the depth of the frozen ground emanated a scream that broke human hearts, and ascended to the passive and silent heavens.

On January 27th, 1945, the world awoke to the fact, somewhat too late, that six million Jews were no longer among the living.

This day not only represents a memorial day for the victims, not only the pangs of conscience of humankind in the face of the incomprehensible atrocity that took place, but also of the tragedy that derived from the procrastination in taking action.

This constitutes the lesson learnt from the world’s inattention in the face of the rising flames, and the killing machine that operated day after day, year after year, with no opposition.

Three years beforehand, on January 20th, 1942, not far from here, in “Villa Wannsee,” on the shores of the beautiful lake, a group of senior officers and bureaucrats, headed by Reinhard Heydrich, convened to devise and coordinate the “Final Solution” plan for the “Jewish Question.”

Adolf Eichmann diligently worked on a document that identified the target population intended for deportation and extermination.

It encompassed all the Jews in the European continent. From the three million living in Poland, Ukraine, and the Soviet Union, to the two hundred Jews living in tiny Albania.

Eleven million Jews were marked to die.

The Nazis performed an effective job, and from Wannsee the path led to Auschwitz, to the gas-chambers and the incinerators.

I stand before you on this day and in this place, distinguished leaders and representatives of a different Germany, democratic, as the representative of the State of the Jews, of the State of the Survivors, of the State of Israel.

I am humbled by the significance of this daunting and elevated position.  I believe and hope that you feel as I do.

I can see in my mind’s eye, at this very moment, the imposing image of my deeply respected grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Melzer, handsome and dignified.

I was blessed to have been his beloved grandson.

He was my guide and mentor.

He was the one who taught me Torah. I see him with his white beard and dark eyebrows, enveloped in his Tallith (praying shawl), among the congregation praying in the synagogue, in the town where I was born, Vishniev in Belarus.

I wrapped myself in the folds of his Tallith, and with much emotion listened to his clear and lovely voice.  It is still ringing in my ears, as he recited the Kol Nidrei prayer of Yom Kippur, in the hours and the moments when, according to our belief, the Creator of the world determines who to life and who to death.

I still remember him at the train station from which I, an 11-year-old child, started on my journey from my village to Eretz Israel.

I remember his poignant embrace. I remember the last words and the order that heard from his mouth: “My boy, always remain a Jew!”

The train whistled and started on its way.

I continued watching my grandfather until he disappeared from sight.

That was the last time I saw him.

When the Nazis came to Vishniev, they ordered all the members of the community to congregate in the synagogue.

My grandfather marched in front, together with his family, wrapped in the same Tallith in which I enveloped myself as a kid. The doors were locked from the outside and the wooden structure was torched. And the only remains of the whole community were embers.

There were no survivors.

Distinguished gathering,

The Holocaust raises painful questions that touch on the infinite depth of a man’s soul.

To which depth can the evil in man sink? And to which extent can a people that knew culture and respected intellect, remain silent?

What kind of atrocities can be performed? How much can a moral compass be silenced? A rational deliberation be crushed? How can a nation consider itself to be “a superior race” and others inferior?

And the question still remains today why did the Nazis see in the existence of Jews a great and immediate danger?

What induced them to invest in the killing machine such extensive resources?

What motivated the Nazis to continue operating with such determination to the very end, even though their defeat had already appeared on the horizon?

Was a Jewish power threatening to block the “thousand-year Reich?” Could the persecuted people, crushed by the boot of the oppressor, stop the destructive war machine of the Nazis?

How many divisions were at the disposal of the Jewish communities in Europe? How many tanks, war-planes, guns?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Nazi rabid hatred cannot be solely defined as “anti-Semitic.”

This is a commonly-used definition.  It does not fully explain the burning, murderous, beastly drive that motivated the Nazi regime, and their obsessive resolve to annihilate the Jews.

The war’s objective was to conquer Europe; not to settle scores with Jewish history.

And if we constituted, we the Jews, a terrible threat in the eyes of Hitler’s regime, this was not a military threat, but rather a moral threat.

An opposition to the desire that denied our faith that every man is born in the image of God, that we are all equal in the eyes of God, and that all men are equal.

A Jew, even when unable to defend himself, will still sanctify God’s name, and fulfill the commandments.

Since the day when the Jewish nation was founded, we have been commanded: “Thou shall not kill!” “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself!” “Seek peace and pursue it!” – in every situation, in every place.

This naïve Jew, who believes in these commandments, I now see in front of me, in the form of my good grandfather, the most honest and beloved of men.

The Nazis tried to demonize him.

They burned him and his brothers alive. The flames burned their corpses. But not their spirit.

They tried to depict my people in horrible propaganda films and on the pages of “The Stürmer” as parasites, sewer-rats, and the propagators of illnesses.

The Nazis tried to forget, and induce others to forget, the values of justice and mercy.

As a Jew, I always carry the pain of the holocaust endured by my brothers and sisters. As an Israeli, I regret the tragic delay in the establishment of the Jewish State that left my people with no safe harbor.

As a grandfather, I cannot come to terms with the loss of one and a half million children – the greatest human and creative potential that could have changed Israel’s destiny.

I am proud that we are the arch-enemy of Nazi evil.

I am proud of the legacy of our forefathers, diametrically opposed to the doctrine of racism.

I am proud of the revival of Israel, the moral and historic answer to the attempt to erase the Jewish People from the face of the earth.

I thank the Lord that peoples rose and crushed the madness, the evil and cruelty.

The Holocaust must always be prominent in our minds and in the conscience of humanity, and serve as an unequivocal warning in perpetuity.

As a binding decree to uphold the sanctity of life, equality among men, freedom and peace.

The murder of Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany should not be seen as a kind of astrophysical “Black Hole,” that ingests the past as well as the future.

The Holocaust must not become a barrier against faith in decency, in hope and in life.

I ask myself today how would the European Jews have wanted us to remember them? Only through the smoke of the incinerators? Or to also remember life before the Holocaust?

If there is a collective voice for the millions of European Jews, this voice calls upon us to look ahead. To be what the victims could have been and were not.  To create anew what we lost when they were annihilated.

The contribution of German Jewry, who identified with their country, to fields such as culture, science, the economy, and the standing of Germany as a whole, was extensive, out of proportion with the size of the community.

In the thousand years of their existence, the Jews of Europe moved with the forces of Europe’s advances.

From the golden era of Spain to the golden era of Germany.

The Jews of Europe were instrumental in advancing and developing the spheres of science, technology, the economy, literature and the arts of this continent.

This they achieved because when they were banished from their countries, they were forced into a nomadic life. They were

well-versed in literature, multi-lingual merchants, a people blessed with  doctors, writers, scientists and artists. Many of them played prominent roles in Germany’s culture and contributed to the world at large.

I am overwhelmed at the thought of the tremendous stream of visionaries and inventors that burst forth from the foundations of the Jewish towns, the Jewish ghettos. From the homes of the Jewish bourgeoisie, when Jews were permitted to enter the gates of the universities.

As with the stroke of a wand, there appeared Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber, Karl Marx, Herman Cohen, Hannah Arendt, Heinrich Heine, Moshe Mendelson, Rosa Luxemburg, Walther Rathenau, Stefan Zweig and Walter Benjamin.

Common to these dissimilar people is their tremendous contribution to human thinking, their contribution to modernism in their own exceptional way.

They guided the sight of Europe and the world to a new future.

And now we are left with the decisive lesson: “Never again” – never again a racist doctrine.

Never again the feeling of superiority.

Never again a so-called divine authority to incite, murder, scorn the law, deny God and the Holocaust.

Never again ignore blood-thirsty dictators, hiding behind demagogical masks, who utter murderous slogans.

The threats to annihilate a people and a nation are voiced in the shadow of weapons of mass-destruction, which are held by irresponsible hands, by irrational thinking and in an untruthful language.

To prevent another holocaust, we must educate our children to respect human life and to promote relations between peoples based on peace.

Respect individual cultures and universal values, turn every time anew to the Ten Commandments.

Unlock scientific secrets with lit torches, microscopes and telescopes, to advance into the realm of new remedies for human beings and their souls. Food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, air to breathe. Knowledge for humankind.

As the British Mandate came to an end, David Ben-Gurion, leader of the newly revived Jewish nation, declared the establishment of the State of Israel.

The Arabs rejected the U.N. resolution and their armies attacked Israel.

Indeed, a few hours after its Declaration of Independence, seven Arab armies invaded Israel, with the object of destroying it even before it was established.

We faced them alone. With no allies, with our backs to the last shores of hope that the Jewish People still maintained.

Had we been defeated in war, this could have been the end of our people.

The IDF won this desperate battle, in which historical justice and human heroism joined forces. Holocaust survivors were already serving in the IDF, and some of them fell in the line of duty.

The small Israel, while it was still licking its wounds, immediately opened its gates to the remnants of the Holocaust survivors and the multitude of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. All other gates were closed to them.

Distinguished gathering,

We remember that as we were still bleeding from our wounds, help came from an unexpected quarter, from the new Germany.

Two leaders, prominent in the annals of history, stretched their hands out one to the other, from the two sides of the abyss:

Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the father of the Democratic Federation of Germany, and David Ben-Gurion, the founding father and first prime minister of the State of Israel.

On September 27th, 1951, from the Bundestag podium, Adenauer spoke about the responsibility of the German people for the crimes of the Third Reich against the Jewish people, and the intention of his government to devise a compensation agreement for the loss of Jewish property and help in the revival process of Israel.

The decision of the government of Israel to hold direct negotiations with the German government provoked a stormy reaction thus far never experienced.

Holocaust victims with death camp numbers embedded in their arms were among the stone-throwers at the Knesset and there were those who sided with Ben-Gurion.

Ben-Gurion stood by his decision: there is a new Germany. With it we have to discuss the future, not only the past.

The distressed Knesset gave its consent.

The restitution payments helped in Israel’s economic recovery and contributed to its accelerated development.

It was my privilege at the time, as a young man, to serve as his assistant, and later as Ben-Gurion’s deputy at the Ministry of Defense.  I learned that while Israel was building its home, it also had to defend its sons.

Also here we found an attentive German ear, providing us with defense equipment.

Unique ties developed between Germany and Israel.

The friendship that was established did not develop at the expense of forsaking the memory of the Holocaust, but from the memory of the dark hours of the past. In view of the joint and decisive decision to look ahead – towards the horizon of optimistic hope. Tikkun Olam – putting the world aright.

The bridge built across the ravine was built by painful hands and shoulders that were carrying the burden of memory. It rested on strong moral foundations.

We built a living memorial for our brothers and sisters. With ploughshares that turned the arid desert into thriving orchards.

With laboratories that generated new life. With defense forces able to defend our survival. On the pillars of an uncompromising democracy.

We believed, and continue to believe, that the new Germany will be doing whatever needs to be done to ensure that the Jewish state will never again have to fight for its survival alone.

That murderous and condescending dictatorships will never again raise their heads, in our era.

David Ben-Gurion, who predicted a different Germany, was right.

Thank you.

From Konrad Adenauer, who found a common language with David Ben-Gurion, and Willy Brandt, who kneeled in memory of the Warsaw Ghetto heroes, and you, Members of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, from Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl, and other leaders, you strengthened the foundations and ties of friendship.

And institutions, financial organizations, cultural centers, intellectuals and doers, who contributed to the enrichment of these unique relations.

You, President Horst Köhler, you declared at the Knesset in Jerusalem that “the responsibility for the Holocaust is part of the German identity.” We very much appreciate this.

And you, Madam Chancellor, Angela Merkel, you have conquered the hearts of our nation with your sincerity and your warmth. You said to the American Senate and House of Representatives that “an attack on Israel will equate an attack on Germany.” We shall not forget this.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Close to sixty years have passed since the founding of the State of Israel.

We have withstood the test of nine wars.

We reached two peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.

We gave back that which fell into our hands in the wars to the countries with whom we made peace.

We remained a country small in size and poor in raw material.

Our land is barren, yet we were still successful in developing a model agriculture esteemed by many to be one of the best in the world.

We compensated for the lack of natural resources with cutting-edge scientific and technological advances that have brought us to the forefront of scientific developments. These accomplishments make up for the smallness of our land.

We have seen an ingathering of exiles. The major part of the Jewish people today lives in Israel.

We have regained our language.

We are the only country in the region in which its citizens speak the same language that was spoken four thousand years ago – the Hebrew language, the language of the Bible.

Jewish history continues to move forward on two parallel tracks:

The moral track, encapsulated in the Ten Commandments. The document which was written some three thousand years ago, has not required any change and has become the basis of western culture.

And the scientific track, which unravels hidden secrets and breaks genetic codes, concealed in the past from the eyes of men and which, unraveled, change our lives.

Israel is a Jewish and democratic state.  In it some million and a half Arab citizens live with equal rights. We shall not allow discrimination against anyone on account of their nationality or faith.

We overcame the global economic crisis and have returned to growth.

Our culture is modern and traditional at one and the same time.

Israeli democracy is ebullient. Without a dull moment.  It never remains idle, not even in times of war.

Israel’s victories did not eliminate the dangers it faces. We do not crave for land which is not ours.  We do not wish to rule other peoples. But do we have the right to close our eyes.

Our national ambition is distinct and clear, to make peace with our neighbors.

Israel supports the principle of the “two state solution”.

We paid a price in wars, we did not hesitate to also pay a price for peace.

Also today we are prepared to relinquish territories to achieve peace with the Palestinians and to enable them to establish an independent, prosperous and peaceful state.

Like our neighbours, we identify with the millions of Iranians who revolt against dictatorship and violence.

Like them we reject a fanatic regime, which contradicts the United Nations Charter.  A regime which threatens destruction, accompanied by nuclear plants and missiles and who activates terror in its country and in other countries.

This regime is a danger to the entire world.

We want to learn from the Europeans, who unshackled Europe from a thousand years of war, and bitterness and enabled Europe’s young to substitute the hostility of their forefathers by brotherhood.

It would be wise to learn from their experience, to dream about a Middle East in which its countries will depart from the conflicts of their parents on behalf of peace for their children.

Establish a modern regional economy that would fight new and common challenges: Hunger, desertification, sickness and terror.

Promote scientific cooperation to improve the standard of living and secure quality of life.

The common god of all is the god of peace, not the god of war.

Distinguished gathering,

I stand here before you as a man who believes that it is in your power, and in our power, to contribute to the creation of a new history.

Threats on Israel will not divert its heart from peace.

I believe that peace is attainable.

I stand here before you as the son of a people that aspires to contribute in every way they can to attain a world which is enlightened and lucid, where men will act as human beings to human beings.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a day of communion and reflection.

An hour of education and hope.

I started with Kaddish and will end with the Hatikva:

“עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָהתִּקְוָתֵנוּ
הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם
לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁיבְּאַרְצֵנוּ
אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם.”

“In the Jewish heart, a Jewish spirit still sings,
And the eyes look east, toward Zion,
Our hope is not lost, our hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
In the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Permit us, allow yourselves, to dream and realize the dreams.

source: German Bundestag

The Imbred Antisemitism of Upper Austria

Hello there,

Reading „der Lindwurm“’s blog on an Austrian Nazi-guy in a Klagenfurt hospital I started wondering about how much really is left of Nazi opinion in Austria. As a matter of fact the whole topic never was anyhow important to me until – and this awas mostly good luck – I ended up going to Tel Aviv. The only story of my own I can share here is on Skinheads in the Austrian town of Ried – besides Braunau the one Upper Austrian town to be known for a serious Skinhead problem. When visiting friends in Ried as a teenager I got to know first-hand about a „Skins night out“ – even if only later I learnt the term to go with it. We were just enjoying ourselves when we heard drunken singing comming close. I couldn’t even understand the words but the locals knew very well. And they knew the night was over; we went back home and in the next morning I saw the windows that had been destroyed by multiple flying objects.

Skinheads, true, but I have always had that theory that if you shaved the head of some other drunk, hitting-each-other youthgroup and put them in the midst of a Skinhead gang nobody would recognize – and vice versa. (I would love to try this one day!) I have never perceived Skinheads as a problem of nazi revival, but rather as a problem of empty youth’s heads filled with the first brainless slogan that came their way, paired with violence aired at the first target available. There is no nazi motive behind scaring other teenagers and breaking random windows. All there is as a motive is the orgasm of power in a group.

However I have a very dear and good Jewish Israeli friend – who has never actually been to Germany and to Austria only later – who wouldn’t get tired of explaining to me that Germans and Austrians were racist, antisemitic nazis in the midst of their heard as if it was bred into both peoples. When I had her over for Christmas / Yule a year later she told me she was afraid. She told me to think twice whom I told she was a Jew. But she trusted me enough to come.

There sure is trouble when you are actively looking for it. My father – to whom I owe the delight in debates and politics – said one sentence she took as a sign for hidden antisemitism and she would be telling me she told me for the rest of her stay. It was the old thing about „The Jews killed Jesus“ she keeps pointing at as the cause of the inbred antisemitism of Europe. And of course he – he’s my dad, remember – said so exactly because I had dropped the phrase would send her ablaze. My father might be Christian, but he is no kind of after-the-book Christian, but one by heard and daily life. Even if „the Jews“ indeed killed Jesus it would be no more for him then – plain – history. Besides before S. got me started on the issue I had never heard a sentence like „The Jews killed Jesus“, nor had I ever been aware of anyone using it to push antisemitism.

What I was pretty aware of during and before those weeks she spent with me in Austria was the out-of-the-book Austrian hospitality that arose as soon as I announced her comming. People all the way from my family to my friends made such an efford! People kept my telephone busy asking questions about kosher cusine. My dad, for instance, who runs a restaurant had invited us over for the staff Christmas dinner. He’s normally doing Austrian cuisine full of pork, creamy sauces and butter as a basic ingredience to every dish imaginable. S. would just offer she’d stick to vegetables but by dad wouldn’t have any of it. I don’t know how many hours I spent on the phone with him figuring out how to change the dinner so S. would have a decent meal. Funny enough that way we created a dish – a kind of a chicken „Schweinsbraten“ – that has made it to his menue as a low-fat alternative afterwards. People at the dinner – as far as their English supported it – were really great too. They were so warm and interested in Israel and kosher kitchen. Not from the conflict-perspecitve and not from the Jew-as-something-odd-perspecitive but simply from the „What do you eat there?“ „What are beautiful places to go?“ „Do you ever get to see snow?“ kind of angle. Exactly this was the naive, genuine reaction of random Austrians to the first ever Israeli and Jew they had met.

My mom made an efford showing off Austria. I know she was absolutely enjoying it. So we drove down to Gmunden – which is were the Alps start – and though it was terribly cold and we had a good laugh about S. being clad like a Yeti it was magic. We took a cable car up one of the mountains driving over the mist that covered the valley. At the snowy top of the mountain we had a breathtaking view at mountain tops rising over the mist. It looked like in a cheesy movie and my mom nearly bust from pride when S. pointed out it could stand besides the view of the Himalaya.

No, as far as (Upper) Austrians go, there definitely is no imbred racism or antisemitism or alike. There wasn’t a single raise of an eyebrow during all the stay that would have let me assume somebody objecting S. as a Jew or Israeli. There weren’t any second thoughts on whom to have her meet or where to take her to. What was there, instead, was an overwhelming hospitality I’ve heard people report on but had, until then, never experienced first-hand. Hospitality and pride showing off a small country I openly declare deserves it.

yours,

Migdalit

I love quotes! A How-To on going to war

Hey folks,

yesterday, when researching quotes for my democracy-article I found another rather intriguing quote from a not-at-all political correct source. (And one I know mentioning his name will boost my stats again *hehe*): Mr Hermann Goering, minister to a long-gone “1000 years” German “Reich”:

“Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

– H. Goering

Sometimes I think I have a clue where exactly in history to look for former US-President (George W. as well as George) Bush’s inspirations and historic mentors

Oh I just love historic quotes! And somehow I guess I’m into politically incorrect sources too:

“Don’t ever trust a statistic you haven’t forged yourself!”

– H. Goebbels

I just wonder whether those people who produced them some decades ago had any idea how accurate they would be …?

shabbat shalom and a magic weekend

yours,

Migdalit

Every man has a name

Blessed Be everyone,

Letters from Rungholt’s Lila recently took a lot of time to write down the story of some of her family members who died in Germany during the shoah. Read it if you can read German; it teaches a lot and it makes you think. And most of all I believe that taking the time to get to know their story honours the dead.

What really got me was however the song she posted at the end of her posting: “Lechol ish yesh shem – Every man has a name”

Lechol ish yesh shem
shenatan lo elohim
venatnu lo aviv ve’imo

Every man has a name

given to him by god

and father and mother

Lechol ish yesh shem
shenatnu lo komato
ve’ofen chiyucho
venatan lo ha’arig

Every man has a name

given to him by his grandesse

and his smile

and the way he was weaved

Lechol ish yesh shem
shenatnu lo heharim
venatnu lo k’talav

Every man has a name

given to him by the mountains

and his walls

Lechol ish yesh shem
shenatnu lo hamazalot
venatnu lo shchenav

Every man has a name

given to him by the stars

and his neighbours

Lechol ish yesh shem
shenatnu lo chat’av
venatna lo k’mihato

Every man has a name

given to him by his sins

and his longing

Lechol ish yesh shem
shenatnu lo son’av
venatna lo ahavato

Every man has a name

given to him by his haters

and his love


Lechol ish yesh shem
shenatnu lo chagav
venatna lo mel’achto

Every man has a name

given to him by his celebrations

and his work

Lechol ish yesh shem
shenatnu lo tkufot hashanah
venatan lo ivrono

Every man has a name

given to him by the seasons

and his blindness


Lechol ish yesh shem
shenatan lo hayam
venatan lo moto.

Every man has a name

given to him by the sea

and his dead.

It might be Beltaine, the giant fest of joy here in Europe, but at the same on the other side of the earth – where my boyfriend just claimed we already belong – the pole that makes the earth whole by mirroring it, it’s Samain.

Samain is the the fest of the dead and death. And this is just what the song reminded me of: Of how my people conmemorate the dead ones by telling their stories; saying their names out loud. Because every man has a name – and a story.

a peaceful Samain to all of you

yours

Migdalit