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Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust’

Another pundit bites the dust. Jeffrey Lord, a Mr T defender on many CNN shows, has had his contract with the network terminated. I would usually turn the channel whenever his smugly leering mug appeared because he always seemed to me insincere. Nothing worse than a reluctant ideologue. And guess what he said – in a Twitter tirade no less – to Angelo Carusone, the President of Media Matters for America?

“Sieg Heil!” 

“Nazi salutes are indefensible,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement. “Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network.” https://www.washingtonpost.com

This particular German phrase is banned in Germany. You can’t put air quotes around these two words and pretend you don’t know what they mean. In English the phrase means “Hail Victory;” in reality, it goes along with the Holocaust and an arm in the air and black shirts.

Kayleigh McEnany, another Mr T media consultant left CNN recently. She is now the RNC’s spokesperson, working for Mr T’s very own network. You can’t make this stuff up, in fact I wish I was making it all up.

Let’s skip over to Google shall we. James Damore, an engineer wrote some of his thoughts in a company memo on the reason we see nearly 75% more men in the tech industry and in leadership positions, and then he got sacked. His words of choice were “Biological Differences,”  which seems pretty tame on the surface. After all, we women are the ones giving birth and nursing if we so choose. That can sometimes put a dent in a woman’s career.

But we are not back in the 60s when women could be asked if they planned on having children in a job interview. On a deeper level, Damore was implying we’re not FIT for such complicated, intellectually stimulating and challenging work. Remember, initially we didn’t have women astronauts because of that little “time of the month” problem. No, it’s actually 2017 and young girls are encouraged to pursue Stem careers (science, technology, engineering and maths) – just ask my niece Lynn!

But I have to admit that censorship of any kind scares me. In fact, the ACLU is taking up the case of Milo Yiannopoulos’s free speech rights. He is that ex-Brietbart editor who was drummed out of speaking at a California campus, a British citizen who is ‘dedicated to the destruction of political correctness,’ an alt-right agitator extraordinaire. The Washington, DC Metro removed Yiannopoulos’s ads on their trains for his new book…now a train system is a utility and I guess they don’t have the right to discriminate. Right?

And believe it or not, I’m glad the ACLU is doing what it’s supposed to be doing – protecting our rights! When “Hate Speech” collides with “Free Speech” we have a fundamental question that speaks directly to our democracy and may end up at the feet of the Supreme Court. This is an essential thing that differentiates us among many nations, we don’t ban words or burn books, our only admonition is not to yell “Fire” in a big, crowded public room.

Yesterday I spent much of my time pointing out to a certain two year old, who loves his new Superman cape, we need to use our “inside voices.” We teach our children about tone and decibel levels effortlessly, we want them to grow up in a civilized world. Unfortunately, we have a President who needs someone to manage his Twitter speech, to explain to him it’s like yelling “FIRE” at North Korea, in an “OUTSIDE” voice.

This was my view yesterday morning on my way to the Zoo. Nashville has sent out the Bat Signal because we need a hero!

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The photographs I have left of my Father, who died when I was a baby, are in black and white. As are my baby pictures, stuffed into a bag in an album that has lost its binding. The Flapper gave me to her friends, my foster parents, after her automobile accident because her only other choice would have been an orphanage. My sister Kay was already taking care of my two brothers, and they had to go back to school, so who else would take care of me?

Nell only had one child, and her daughter was in nursing school when I arrived in Victory Gardens after the War in 1949. And so I was raised by a grandmother figure, as Nell was already in her 50s. And she catalogued my childhood lovingly, pasting black and white pictures with tiny black paper edges onto every page. Only my memories conjure up the white and pink explosion of the dogwood tree outside our kitchen window, the red and white tile in the one bathroom, the green grass under my feet with the white sheets billowing above.

Our TV was in black and white, and after school I would walk home from the bus in my maroon plaid Sacred Heart School uniform, to catch Nell watching Art Linkletter on Kids Say the Darndest Things. A small piano stood in a corner with brass feet and hard white teeth. Our first dog was black and brown, I remember sitting on Daddy Jim’s feet while he read the black and white newspaper, and smoked his pipe after work. I would lean back on his knees and stroke the dog’s fur, listening to his critique of the day’s news. Maybe this is when I thought I might have something to say about world events? clr-on-tricycle-20170127

When we view history through a black and white lens, we lose something of the nuance. The tone is off, and it becomes harder to relate to something that happened so long ago. It creates the distance we need to survive certain tragedies, like my Year of Living Dangerously – my psychologist brother Jim’s description of 1949. Which is why finding this photographer, Marina Amaral, is like finding a jewel in the coal dustbin of time.

Amaral’s passion is restoring and colorizing old black and white pictures. And I found a picture she posted online of a child, a Czechoslovakian girl who was the same age as my sister Kay in 1949, when she died at Auschwitz in 1943. Her name was Czeslawa Kwoka; and I remembered Nell’s given name was Kosty, which was probably changed at Ellis Island. On Amaral’s webpage, you can move a line back and forth over the child’s face, and bring color to her cheeks and blood to the cut on her lip.

“Color has the power to bring life back to the most important moments,” http://www.marinamaral.com

Today more than ever, on Holocaust Memorial Day, we must remember that the Holocaust started with the rhetoric of hate, and the silence and indifference of the rest of Europe and America. And we must vow to resist in any way we can, and we must say her name, Czeslawa Kwoka.

Photograph courtesy of Marina Amaral.

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Tomorrow I will be voting for our First Woman President! I am so proud to cast this vote, to pull the lever or press the button in honor of my Grandmother, Anna Robinson, who wasn’t allowed to vote when women suffrage was passed because she had married an “alien” Irishman. Immigration is the grand story of this great country, not it’s problem. But first let me fill you in on the last few days.

Returning home to my newly retired husband was a bit strange. People are asking me how is he doing, like we got a diagnosis of some dreaded disease. Yes, he still shaves in the car and puts his pants on one leg at a time. Don’t forget, Bob was never a 9 – 5, Monday through Friday kinda guy; he worked plenty of weekends and like a commercial pilot, had lots of free time around the house. I’ve already set some limits – no reorganizing the linen closet for instance. But do feel free to search and destroy random stinkbugs while cleaning out any expired cans from the pantry! Thanks Babe!

The Virginia Film Festival coincided with my return from Nashville, so we ventured out to the Historic Downtown Mall for dinner and a show. Only the film was midday, so dinner at the Nook came later, guess we are slipping into early bird specials already. We saw a documentary about the Holocaust…I know, I know. In the midst of this bizarre and stressful election denouement, why submit ourselves to such heartache. But it was a film about children, and I thought it might be uplifting.

The film, “Not the Last Butterfly,” was inspired by a poem written by Pavel Friedmann, “The Butterfly,” about never seeing another butterfly in the transit ghetto that was Theresienstadt outside of Prague in the former Czechoslovakia. Commonly called Terezin, it is sometimes mis-identified as a concentration camp, but it was a Walled Ghetto of Limbo for Jews awaiting their fate at the hands of the Nazis. It was a stop along the way for 15,000 children between 1941 and 1945. Pavel the poet was shipped to his death in Auschwitz in 1944. Only 100 children survived Terezin.

He was the last. Truly the last.
Such yellowness was bitter and blinding
Like the sun’s tear shattered on stone.
That was his true colour.
And how easily he climbed, and how high,
Certainly, climbing, he wanted
To kiss the last of my world.

I have been here seven weeks,
‘Ghettoized’.
Who loved me have found me,
Daisies call to me,
And the branches also of the white chestnut in the yard.
But I haven’t seen a butterfly here.
That last one was the last one.
There are no butterflies, here, in the ghetto.

In an effort to make this horrific history approachable for schoolchildren today, a teacher in California came up with the idea to create 1.5 Million butterflies: yes, One and a Half Million to memorialize the total number of Jewish children who were murdered during the Holocaust.

Under the leadership of a mosaic artist, Cheryl Rattner Price, they set about designing a curriculum that would include each child making by hand a ceramic butterfly and painting it, while simultaneously learning about one particular child who perished during the war. It was a profound undertaking, and quickly spread around the globe and to many different faiths. A rock festival in Poland created butterflies. A Catholic school in Oregon took on the Butterfly Project. The installation has taken flight at the San Diego Jewish Academy, but the butterflies are arriving from all over the world.

Remember I had just returned from Nashville. I had given the Love Bug butterfly kisses on her cheek. So when they showed the archival footage of children during the Holocaust, I thought of my grandchildren. When they showed Jewish stores and synagogues burning during Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, I thought of the the Black church that was burned down in MS last week, with “Vote Trump” painted across a wall. Slowly, tears streamed down my face, because I understood how hatred starts out. Slowly, hatred of the “Other” becomes socially acceptable, so that the electrician who came to fix our phones said, “Why should they get a free ride, when I had to pay for my wife to come here?”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/02/vote-trump-painted-on-wall-of-burned-out-black-church-in-mississippi/

So tomorrow I am voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton, for my grandchildren. I am voting for Love, because I don’t want to go back to a time where Women and Blacks were humiliated and disenfranchised in this country. I don’t want to go back to that great America where LGBT people were ridiculed and denied their rights. The Germans didn’t believe Hitler meant what he said, but we need to believe Trump means what he says; and he likes nuclear weapons and calls our military a bunch of “losers.” We cannot elect such a man filled with hate.

For more information about the film, or to see if you can arrange a showing at your school, please visit: http://thebutterflyprojectnow.org    img_5559

 

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Today a great teacher, writer and survivor of the Holocaust Elie Wiesel has died. He was 87 years old  and will be remembered as a beacon of peace by leaders all over the world. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 he said,

“Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides…Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”         http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36696420

Silence and indifference is the constant evil for every culture. Remember this if you are thinking of not voting in November – and remember what a certain GOP candidate had to say about John McCain, being captured, in another war.

I didn’t know Wiesel was just 15 when his family was torn from their home in Romania (now Hungary) and shipped to Auschwitz. But after our Danube tour, I must confess I was torn between the Baroque beauty of the countries we visited, and the underlying horror of WWII. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/travel/tracing-jewish-heritage-along-the-danube.html?_r=0

As we walked over the pebbled courtyard into the majestic Benedictine Abbey in Melk, Austria, I thought about the Jewish people being herded through this very same entryway in transit to death camps. I thought how my children would have been treated, my husband, my family. Me. The sound of our 21st Century shoes crunching on the stones made me close my eyes to the blinding sun.

We began our tour with Sixty Shoes in Budapest, and we ended in the beautiful city of Prague. But at Melk, we learned that the abbey was saved under Emperor Joseph II in the 1700s because it was a flourishing school. A student of the Enlightenment, Joseph tried to limit the influence of the church over the state, shuttering and demolishing many mansions and abbeys, and ushered in an era of peace where all religions were accepted: “Joseph’s reforms included abolishing serfdom, ending press censorship and limiting the power of the Catholic Church. And with his Edict of Toleration, Joseph gave minority religions, such as Protestants, Greek Orthodox and Jews, the ability to live and worship more freely. “

Imagine that, an Era of Enlightenment (1685-1815) was happening in Europe while our new country was evolving, grappling with its native inhabitants, a constitution and slavery.

Today students are still studying at the Abbey amid majestic artwork and architecture. But we must never forget what Elie Wiesel has taught us, and his words from his first book, “Night.”

“Never shall I forget that night that first night in camp that turned my life into one long night. Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever, those moments that murdered my god and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never.”  

This is the second largest synagogue in the world, and it is in Budapest.

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Last week my half-brother Brian was buried in Germany. He was laid to rest on Yom Ha’Shoah, the day Israel honors the victims of the Holocaust. Unlike the rest of the world, surviving European Jewish people were living with the grief of their systematic slaughter by Nazis every day and every night after WWII. It was a nightmare that came true with each new dawn. So they chose a different way to remember this evil; not by calling it International Remembrance Day, on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, but by placing it on the Jewish calendar, in the month of Nisan, a week after Passover.

“Holocaust and Heorism Remembrance Day” was chosen to commemorate, to honor the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Since the early 1960’s, the sound of a siren on Yom Hashoah stops traffic and pedestrians throughout the State of Israel for two minutes of silent devotion. The siren blows at sundown and once again at 11:00 A.M. on this date. All radio and television programs during this day are connected in one way or another with the Jewish destiny in World War II, including personal interviews with survivors. Even the musical programs are adapted to the atmosphere of Yom Hashoah. There is no public entertainment on Yom Hashoah, as theaters, cinemas, pubs, and other public venues are closed throughout Israel.

My brother Brian married a wonderful German woman, Hildegarde. He adopted her family as his own, and although I know nothing about her, I can assume she was touched by the War. Was her first husband or father killed for resisting, or were they collaborators? I know she loved my brother very much, and that she was an excellent cook. She never really learned to speak English so that the two times I met her, I had the feeling she understood more than she could say. I never visited them in Germany primarily because Bob had no wish to go there.

Brian was almost 20 years older than the Flapper’s sixth child (me). Even if our family hadn’t been torn apart in our Year of Living Dangerously, I probably would not have known him well. But he was the one who got me to question the Catholic Church, because I have a vague memory of him asking me if I thought it was fair that only Catholics went to heaven. When my widowed Mother married a Jew, my status as a lapsed Catholic was complete at age 16. Remember, at that age we think we know everything, and certainly I did. But my ideas about faith, redemption and heaven have changed over the years.

This morning I was reminded that a great theologian left the safety and security of the US to return to Germany. Seventy years ago In April, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged by the Nazis at a concentration camp. He was a Lutheran pastor, a Nazi dissident and a true Christian martyr – a spy for the German resistance. A pacifist at heart, he nonetheless helped plot to kill Hitler, while the other Christian churches had opted to collaborate with his evil plan.

And I wondered what would I do. Would I have sent my children off to Hitler youth meetings? Of course not, we would have been rounded up and sent to our deaths. I like to think that church and state should forever be separate, but at that time of pure evil, should we not have seen more morally righteous pastors standing up for the Jews, the handicapped and homosexuals? What did they preach on their pulpits?

When evil looms, what would you do? CCIytTJWIAAUV78

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I was listening to a story on NPR the other day about Violins of Hope. It was about how a professor in NC was looking for musical instruments that were played in the concentration camps of WWII. Nazis would pluck Jews with violin cases in their hands off the cattle cars and direct them away from the ovens and into an orchestra. Many had not been played since, but were stored like a scar that can never be erased; “So I opened the violin, and there inside there [were] ashes.” After awhile, it became difficult to drive. http://www.npr.org/2012/04/15/150645417/violins-of-hope-instruments-from-the-holocaust

A week after the seventh day of Passover, Jews around the world mark the Day of Remembrance, or Yom Hashoah, differently. In Israel a siren is heard at sundown and again at sunset for 2 minutes of silence when everything, including traffic, stops. Families in America may light a a yahrzeit (memorial) candle on this day and recite Kadish (the prayer for the dead that never mentions death) in order to bear witness to the unthinkable.
http://www.ushmm.org/remembrance/dor/video/?content=whyweremember

Bob’s Grandparents came to this country before the war. Still, many relatives were lost. The only woman I ever met with a number on her arm, passed away on the second day of Passover this year. She was the Mother of a cousin in NY, and was married to another survivor. They both died with their families around them in great old age. They met as youngsters after the war in a refugee camp in Italy. That love can survive that period of time, the Shoah, is miracle enough.

Silence and indifference to suffering, silence and indifference to injustice, fear and hate speech are part of what lead Europe off the brink of sanity in the 1930s. Today, more than 30 death camp violins have been restored and music from the camps has been recreated. Today the Auschwitz violinist can play his instrument again.

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