oxymoron67: (Default)
On January 27th, 1945, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz, the most notorious of the Nazi concentration camps.

OVer one million people died at Auschwitz, somewhere around 90% of those were Jewish.

In 2005, the United Nations declared Jan 27th to be Holocaust Remembrance Day, to commemorate the wanton murder of Europe's Jews (six million), the Roma and Sinti (2 million), people with disabilities, gays, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many others.

We need to remember. Many of the survivors of the Holocaust are gone now. We owe to those who survived and those who did not to remember. Too many people deny that the Holocaust ever happened. Others question its relevance.

The Holocaust reminds us how easy it is for us to lash out against others in hatred and jealousy. We must remember.
oxymoron67: (history)
Gad Beck, the last known gay Jewish Holocaust survivor, died in Berlin on Sunday, just a few days shy of his 89th birthday.

He stayed in Germany, working in the underground, helping Jews.

After the war, he went to Palestine, where he helped defend the new state of Israel

An amazing man. RIP.

I haven't read his (auto)biography yet. But I will.
oxymoron67: (history)
The Rescuer by Dara Horn

Varian Fry was an American journalist and classicist living in Berlin in the 30's, when he was horrified by the Nazi's rise to power.

He returned to the U.S., but, after the fall of France in June 1940, he got involved in a project to spirit artists, scientists and intellectuals out of Vichy France.

When Germany (and after 1938, Austria) became too uncomfortable for major artists and intellectuals, they moved to Paris. Once France fell, they were essentially screwed.

Fry, on behalf of a committee, flew to Vichy France and smuggled many intellectuals out. Once, when Marc Chagallhad been arrested, Fry even managed to get him freed.

Fry's actions irritated the State Department, which was trying to remain neutral at this point. After about a year, he was deported back to the US, where he faded into obscurity. Many of the artists he saved wouldn't give him the time of day.

In 1991, Fry was declared one of the Righteous among the Nations, an award given to those who aided victims of the Holocaust. Heis one of only three Americans to receive this honor.

This book is a quick read -- I did it in two hours-- and not particularly detailed, but it does give an overview of Fry's life and the situation he was in.
oxymoron67: (Default)
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

William Dodd was a history professor at the University of Chicago in 1933 when fate intervened.

Dodd was a friend of the newly-elected FDR, who was seeking to fill vacant ambassordships. One of the open slots was Ambassador to Germany. Hitler had just come to power in January, and many thought the country in chaos, so no one wanted the otherwise plum position.

Dodd was not a professional diplomat, but he was a historian who had studied in Germany and had an abiding love for its culture and people. Dodd was not FDR's first or even third choice, but he got the nod.

Dodd accepted, though he wanted to finish his massive book The Old South.*

So Dodd, his wife and children moved to Germany. This book focuses primarily on Dodd and his daughter, Martha as, at first, they defend Nazism and Hitler -- things seemed very normal to outsiders for a while-- then, slowly, they realized the fanaticism and horror that surrounded them.

This book is on the level of Devil in the White City and Isaac's Storm. i's meticulously researched and told ina way that builds suspense, especially if you know the history of the era.

Great read.
oxymoron67: (Default)
Remember Us by Martin Small and Vic Shayne

Martin Small was born in the town of Maitchet, in Poland in 1917 into a large loving Jewish family.

This is the story of his family life ... and then World War II and the Holocaust.

He lost his entire immediate family, and most of his extended family. Small himself was sent to Mauthausen, one of the worst concentration camps. Small barely survived that, but he did.

Once he recovered, he helped defend Israel in 1948 then emigrated to America, where one of his mother's sisters lived. He lived the rest of his life in the United States.

This book is a very good read. Small doesn't go into what happened at Mauthausen in detail by choice, so while there is discussion of the savagery there ... for instance, the 186 steps from the quarry.

Just look it up.

This was a well-written book. It;s a good read, of a personal story of the Holocaust.

Small started writing this in his late eighties and died at age 92 (of cancer) after it was published.
oxymoron67: (Default)
Dr. Tina Strobos has died.

Dr. Strobos was a Dutch woman who harbored Jews, communists and resistance fighters in occupied Holland during World War II.

Hers was not a "final stop" for those fleeing from the Nazis, rather it was a way station, sort of an underground railroad in The Netherlands. She was questioned many times by the Gestapo but kept silent about her secrets.

She learned to help those at risk at the feet of her parents, who harbored refugees during World War I. Her parents were atheists: I know people who would be surprised by this: that atheists wouldn't have these kinds of values. I am not surprised by this at all. You find decent people from all beliefs (or lack thereof), you find assholes from all beliefs (or lack thereof as well (see Rick Santorum).

What does interest me is that Dr. Strobos was, by all accounts, middle class. If you look at some of the Righteous, especially in Eastern Europe, many lived on the fringes of society, rejected by the mainstream.

One of the two Holocaust survivors who I've met was hidden for several years by a not-particularly successful or well-liked Polish farmer. He (the Holocaust survivor) said that he felt the farmer (who hid more than ten people) understood what it felt like to be an outcast, and therefore decided to protect other outcasts.

RIP Dr. Strobos.
oxymoron67: (Default)
On Jan 27th, 1945, Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

In 2005, the United Nations established Jan 27th as Holocaust Remembrance Day.

This year, the focus is on children during the Holocaust. About 1.5 million children were murdered in the Holocaust. Newborn babies were taken from their mothers and killed. Upon entering concentration camps, most pre-adolescent children were killed outright or used for medical experiments.

Read more about it here.

Why do I bring this up? We must remember. Six million Jews, two million Roma and millions of others (gays, lesbians, Slavs, and many others) were systematically exterminated. The vibrant Jewish culture of Eastern Europe was destroyed. Roma culture was devastated.

Many people today think that the Holocaust is unimportant. After all, it happened so long ago. And those people are mostly dead now. So, who cares?

I've heard this from several people, among them my brother.

The fact is, the Holocaust highlights how easily we slip into barbarism. That barbarism had happened again since... Stalin (both before and after), the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur... I could continue, the list is much longer.

It's a lesson we need to remember and think about.
oxymoron67: (Default)
It had an article about the rerelease of William Shirer's two volume The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

It was released in 1960, which is an important year in terms of WWII and Holocaust remembrance.

Post-Nuremberg, most people in the West (The Soviet Union is a different case) wanted to just get on with their lives and pretend that all the death and destruction hadn't happened.

No one talked about it. There were some Nazi hunters, but, by and large, the West wanted to forget.

Then, in 1960, two things happened.

Israeli agents kidnapped Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and brought him to Israel for trial and this book was published.

I think that the Eichmann Trial did more to refocus attention on the Holocaust, but the book... it discussed the regime.

When I was in my mid teens (certainly before my junior year in high school), I read both volumes of Shirer's work. It was shock, horrifying, enraging ... and totally engrossing. It's an amazing work, but not an easy read. More than once, I had to put it down.
At one point, I was alternating reading chunks of it with short stories from The Collected Works of Mark Twain, which I had received as a birthday present.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is worth the read.
oxymoron67: (Default)
I'm watching Nazi Hunters on the National Geographic Channel right now. This episode focuses on Paul Touvier, a French collaborator who was an important figure in the Milice, the Vichy French version of the Gestapo. Touvier worked with Klaus Barbie, the butcher of Lyon.

Touvier was responsible for the deportation and murder of Jews and resistance fighters.

After the war, Touvier was condemned to death by the French courts. Unfortunately, he was in hiding, protected by reactionary factions in the Catholic church. In fact, when Touvier was arrested, he and his family were staying in a monastery run by the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), a group so reactionary that Pope John Paul II excommunicated them.

I'm not surprised that SSPX would shelter this man. Many members of SSPX are Holocaust deniers.

In the early 90's, Touvier was convicted of Crimes Against Humanity. I think he;s the first Frenchman to be convicted of these charges.

This episode reminded me of a few things:

1) The Catholic church -- well, elements of the Catholic Church, helped many Nazis escape. This is part of why I oppose the canonization of Pope Pius XII the pope during the war. His ties and deal with the Axis have never really been made public.

2) American intelligence authorities also helped many Nazis escape, at least partially because they had information on the USSR, the new enemy.

It was an interesting documentary. If you can catch it, you should.
oxymoron67: (Default)
The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn

The author's great-uncle, his wife and four daughters stayed in a small town in what is now the Ukraine when the rest of the family left for the United States in the early 20th Century.

They were murdered during the Holocaust.

This is the story of the author's search for his lost family members: what they were like as people, how they lived, how and when they died. It's a story that takes Mendelsohn around the world to interview the pitifully few Jewish survivors of that small town

If it were just this, the book would be worth reading. But, like any book that relies on oral history, details are foggy. The author never really learns much about the two youngest daughters or his great-aunt, for example, and many of the stories, while they get the broad strokes right, differ in the details.

Mendelsohn weaves stories from Genesis into the narrative and discusses the memories and how they can fool us.

Most of the time it worked well. Sometimes, though, I admit that I thought to myself, "If I wanted to read Proust, I'd just read Proust."

This was not always an easy book to read, but it was worthwhile.

Speaking of difficult but worthwhile books, I also finished Disposable People: New Slavery int he Global Economy by Kevin Bales.

This book discusses slavery in the 21st Century, focusing on specific places. Chapters are devoted to sex slavery in Thailand, enslavement by unscrupulous managers in the Brazilian rain forest and Pakistani brick ovens, and old fashioned chattel slavery in Mauritania.

It discusses how people are lured into selling their daughters into prostitution in Thailand, and how, when they become sick, they are tossed aside. The Brazilian and Pakistani examples involve bosses making loans whose conditions can be changed by the lenders only. In all three cases, violence is used to intimidate and coerce.

Mauritania is different. The slave owners have owned slave families for generations, and tend to treat them better than the previous examples, but still use them for forced, unpaid labor.

Equal parts scary, depressing and infuriating, this book is a very difficult read. Not because it is poorly written, because it is not. It is very well written and informative. Just not a very up with people sort of thing.
oxymoron67: (Default)
On Jan 27, 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated.

In 2005, The U.N. declared Jan. 27th Holocaust Remembrance Day.

When we think about the Holocaust, we focus on the Nazis and the Germans, and rightfully so. This, however, does not mean that others did not play a major role.

So, let's look at The Vel d'Hiv round up.

In July of 1942, French police rounded up over 10,000 Jews and sent the to the Velodrome d'Hiver, a bicycle arena. Most of these Jews were not French citizens, but refugees from countries and areas occupied by the Nazis.

It was a very warm July, and the Ve d-Hiv had a closed glass roof. It also only had one source for water. The victims were detained there for five days before being shipped off to camps in France, such as Drancy, then later shipped to Auschwitz.

While this round up was done under orders of the Nazis, it was the French police that led the raid and detained the victims.

There were protests about this. The Catholic Church, whose role in the Holocaust is ... um... difficult, protested, for example. Even those in the puppet Vichy France regime were not happy about this.

This particular round up was about 25% of the total number of Jews deported from France. Of that 40,000 (approx.), less than one thousand survived.


Sep. 12th, 2010 03:46 pm
oxymoron67: (reading)
Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neil Bascomb.

Adolf Eichmann oversaw the Final Solution. He escaped the Nuremberg Trials with fake identification and the aid of other Nazis. In order to leave Europe, he followed the same paths laid down with the covert help of high ranking officials in the Vatican and American intelligence.

By the mid-fifties, many in the West had given up on hunting Nazis: the Cold War was more important and, to be honest, the Holocaust was such a horror show that most people wanted to put it behind them. In fact, several former Nazis were serving in the West German government.

Still, some didn't give up. including Simon Weisenthal and the district attorney of Hesse in Germany. among others, kept building up pressure, and when Eichmann was finally confirmed to be living in Argentina, Mossad sent a team to kidnap him. Eichmann stood trial and was executed by Israel in 1962.

This trial reminded everyone of the horrors of the Holocaust and allowed the survivors of that horrible time to talk about what happened to them.

This book reads like a good adventure story. Read it.
oxymoron67: (Default)
English novelist re-imagines Anne Frank's life. Because the story of a girl trapped by the Holocaust NEEDS sex.

The book is the fictional diary of Anne Frank's neighbor Peter van Pels. There was attraction there, but this novel, aimed at the YA audience, has scenes of "intimacy". (Sex? Cuddling? What?)

The author claims that the important part of the novel is van Pels' time in the concentration camps.

I'm not opposed to YA novels about the Holocaust. However... this isn't Pride and Prejudice, you can't just add something new to it: zombies in Austen's case; teen sexing in this one. Also, Pride and Prejudice is FICTION. Anne Frank's isn't. Anne Frank's story actually happened, and I do think this is disrespectful of her story.

This feels like bad fanfiction to me.

I just think some things shouldn't be touched.

Let one of our fellow primates speak for me:

oxymoron67: (reading)
It is alas protected now, so I can't link to it.

However, I can still discuss the main topic: the rise of "Scientism" as a religion: as in a belief in science precludes a belief in God.

The reality is that it doesn't, however, that's not what I'm going to focus on.

One of the arguments this article (and lots of anti-science people) makes is that the Nazis were absolutely committed to science without conscience because of their views on Darwinism, and this is why we need religion: to give us ethics.

This argument doesn't quite work. While Hitler may have twisted Darwinian theories to fit his twisted worldview, the fact is, he and his Nazis only exploited Xenophobic feelings that were already present. The anti-Semitic, anti-Romany and anti-homosexual feelings were reinforced by the Christian faiths that were present in Germany (and Europe) for hundreds of years. These feelings were not new, nor is the concept of a government using them to its own advantage.

To jump up and down and say that Darwinism played an important role in the Holocaust without acknowledging the role that religion played in fanning the flames of the hatred that the Nazis exploited is to ignore the central lesson of the Holocaust: that ordinary people mostly didn't care that their neighbors were being hauled away and slaughtered because those neighbors were different.

This whole "different" = "evil" was, for a long time, wholeheartedly supported by religious authorities (for an example read about Bartolomeo de las Casas). In fact, it wasn't until 1938 -- well after the Nazis were in power, that Pious XI published his Syllabus against Racism -- aimed at the Nazis, but the cultural damage had already been done. One encyclical doesn't balance against hundreds of years of tradition.

So, yes, discuss the role that Darwin;s theories had in the Nazi belief system, but don;t deny that the Nazis were able to accomplish what they did by the racist tradition that were promulgated by the various Christian faiths at the time.


Jan. 28th, 2010 11:44 am
oxymoron67: (history)
was the 65th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.

It's also Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I've done some research into the Holocaust, though I find I can't do it for long without needing to "come up for air". I just... the cold, sick horror of it scares me.

I wish I could say that we've learned something from the Holocaust, but Darfur and Rwanda and East Timor and the Congo and the Yugoslavia wars and Cambodia and so many others prove that we haven't. Or maybe we learned the wrong lesson... that these horrors going on in out of the way places (to Western eyes, anyway) tend to get ignored.

After 9/11, I attended a rally at the University of Illinois, where I was going to grad school. At that rally, one speaker asked "Why do we hate when hating is so hard?"

That speaker was wrong. Hatred is easy. Painfully easy. That's why we have to work so hard NOT to hate.

Sad news

Jan. 12th, 2010 01:17 pm
oxymoron67: (Default)
Miep Gies has died at age 100.

Miep Gies and her husband hid Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis for two years during World War II. She is also the person who hid Anne Frank's diary.

In interviews, Ms. Geis said that she didn't think of herself as remarkable, that she was doing what she had to do, that sheltering the Franks was the only really human course of action.

This is an extremely common sentiment among the Righteous.

We need more people like them.
oxymoron67: (Default)
Holocaust Denying bishop "apologizes", Vatican says that he didn't go far enough, looks like they re-excommunicated him.

I'm thrilled: after much too much screwing around, the Vatican got this right.

The bishop apology was a "I'm sorry my words offended you" apology.

The Vatican said that this was insufficient. And it *IS* insufficient. For ANYONE to deny the Holocaust is sinful, for a man of God, especially so.


Yes, the Vatican should have taken care of this before re-admitting the St. Pius X Society into the folds of the faith.

One wonders if Benedict XVI would have been so reckless with a liberal Catholic splinter group.
oxymoron67: (Default)
The pope lifted the excommunication of the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X.

There is a long backstory here. I'll try to summarize: a French archbishop, upset at Vatican Council II's changes to the mass, founds an convervative organization and dedicates it to St. Pius X. This bishops actions are look at as a challenge to papal authority, and he is not allowed to consecrate bishops, which, since only bishops can consecrate priests, means that the organization would die off soon after the archbishop's death.

The archbishop consecrated some bishops anyway. And was excommunicated for doing so, back in the late 80's.

(This is the WAY, WAY, WAY short version.)

Well, since all the archbishop in question and JP2 have both since died, those who remain entered into negotiations, and the society has been welcomed back to the mother church.

Which was fine by me. I may disagree with some (or many) of the Society of St. Pius X's beliefs, I have no issue with their having a voice in the church. Well, I did until the following became public...

One of the reinstated bishops is a well-known Holocaust denier.

This led to one of the most mind-bogglingly strange defenses of a flawed decision I've ever seen.

Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health, was commenting on the row in an interview published by the Spanish daily El Mundo.

Barragan described Williamson's denial of the Holocaust as a "stupidity," stressing that the British-born bishop had already made the claims a year ago.

"Any one of us can say a stupidity, and are we going to be excommunicated for that?" the cardinal asked.

He explained that a stupidity was a sin if it was done "consciously and with wickedness," whereas people were excommunicated only if they "essentially disobeyed" basic dogma of the church.

Denying the Holocaust is NOT JUST STUPIDITY. Denying the Holocaust inherently means that one is denying that the murder of ten million people never happened (not to mention the suffering of millions more). How is that not wicked? How is that not cruel? How is that not sinful?

How can a Cardinal in a faith that is supposedly based on the concept of God's love for us all NOT SEE THIS? (How can the pope not see this?)

And soon after this happened, a member of the order publicly denied the existence of the Holocaust, defending the bishop.

So, now that we know exactly what kind of nutjobs these people are, why are we still letting them call themselves Catholic again?
oxymoron67: (Default)
Tuesday was the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

Somewhere between nine and 11 million people died in the Holocaust: Jews, Romany, Slavs, the disabled, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses were the most prominent targets.

I have a hard time understanding murder on this scale: the number is just too large; the cruelty too systemic. It was a bureaucracy of murder, really.

I talk about the Holocaust when I'm teaching and several of my students have complained, saying that they already know about the Holocaust, and why bring it up again?

I bring it up again because, as a culture, WE MUST REMEMBER. The Holocaust was Hell on Earth unleashed by many everyday people who either enthusiatically took part, supported it, or opposed it but did or said nothing because of fear*. The Holocaust exposed a very simple, basic truth: we are, all of us, capable of evil.

I need to visit Yad Vesham's site again, to look at some of the stories of the Rigtheous, and remind myself that we are all capable of goodness as well.

*And, yes, this lack of action is also sinful. There is a thing in the Catholic faith called a sin of omission: it occurs when you know the right thing to do but you don't do it.


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