Children of the Holocaust


Children of the Holocaust


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Opinion & Society

It Will Happen Again

By Bob Weiskopf

Ruth Wise, in an article in Commentary last year, quotes Michael Kamber, a correspondent for the Village Voice. Wise says, "Kamber's column describes Pakistan as a country of one hundred forty million inhabitants, ninety percent Muslim and seventy-five percent illiterate, all of whom seem to be obsessed with Jewish iniquity."

Wise quotes Kamber: "In interviews conducted while I was there, government officials would occasionally veer off into long diatribes about the Jews; fundamentalist religious leaders who educate hundreds of thousands of children in the country's madrassas, spoke of little else. In Islamabad… an elderly mullah responsible for the education of hundreds of youngsters said, 'to me the bombing of the World Trade Center seems the design of the Jewish Lobby. The Jewish lobby wants to pit Islam against Christianity.'"

St. Ambrose, in the late 4th Century celebrates the burning of a synagogue by a Christian mob, writing, "a synagogue is a haunt of infidels, a home of the impious, a hiding place of madmen, under the damnation of God himself."

In 1492, Isabella and Ferdinand, the Catholic monarchs, order the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, a country in which, most scholars agree, the Jews reached a pinnacle of glory in writings in philosophy, and theology. Until the Reconquest, Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in relative harmony.

I remember my mother's tattoo. She died when I was three and in my child's mind her death had something to do with the horror that is Europe. My new mother who came into my life when I was four, was a Polish immigrant who had escaped the conflagrations of Europe because she had come to America in 1928. She was different than all the others whose families had been destroyed.

I grew up in a Jewish ghetto - they congregated in a suburb of Cleveland - those survivors of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and the other camps. I seldom heard them talk about the war. But I knew from an early age that they were bound together in some club—truly a country club—because many came from the same rural area of Czechoslovakia. They were called Marmaroshers and they congregated at the Marmarosher Synagogue. They all spoke broken English and shared the horrors about which they seldom spoke.

But on several times a year on special holidays when a prayer called Yitzkor was recited in memory of the dead, and I was the only child in the room because my mother had died, I knew I was witnessing something ineffable, which made me want to run out of the room and explode. When the cantor recited the names of the death camps and the men started reciting the prayers, I felt in every pore of my body the overwhelming grief. I was an interloper- I should not have been there, among these all these crying men. To be in a room of so many men shedding so many tears with plaintive cries was more than I could stand. I knew the other kids were outside playing baseball or tag. But because my mother had died I was required to be there year after year.

I saw the secret cabal- the Jews at their most exposed and intimate, the true secrets of what it was to be a Jew. At their most open, there was only overwhelming grief. No plots to take over the world. No real hatred, no bitterness. They had all started a new life in America, that wonderful country that had taken them in. They loved America. Where was the Jewish lobby, the plots to take over the world? Who were these people who had learned to carry so much grief but wanted no revenge?

In that synagogue which I attended from the age of four to thirteen, I saw people who had been reborn from the depths of hell. I couldn't stand the grief and pain, so I ran away. Not physically. But in my heart. I broke away and I broke my father's heart.

Assimilation and intermarriage accomplished what Hitler could not accomplish, they said.

Was I that much of a traitor? "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken." I remember first hearing those words of Stephan Daedulus. I immediately understood that short, and to me, so relevant sentence. I truly thought I could escape. My father said to me as he got older "It will happen again to the Jews" A paranoid old man, I thought.

And now when the world is again heading toward some cataclysm, New York, Israel, Bali, Kenya, Iraq, Pakistan. A small group of people hardly mattering have taken on huge proportions in the Muslim world - center stage, bigger than life - ruling the world, bombing the world trade center, controlling the financial markets, and the media.. A cancer in our midst that must be destroyed.

The Arab press has taken over from the Christians—although the Europeans as always don't want to be left out of the hate fest. The Arab press burns with hatred of Jews. Not Israelis – Jews. The Iranians bomb a Jewish Center in Argentina. The Pakistanis are obsessed with the Jews. A country of one hundred million Muslims obsessed with twelve million people in the world, blaming this small band of placeholders for hate, for all the world's evils.

"It will happen again to the Jews," I say to my children. We sit around the dinner table rating who in our family is most obsessed with a good meal and how each person rates a good meal against other values in life. The focus turns to me and my son mocks me saying, "Well, you would rather read a book about the annihilation of the Jews than have a good meal." Everyone laughs in recognition of my obsessions. My son mocks me as I mocked my father. "A paranoid old man," he must think.

"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken."


from the November 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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