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Never Forget: Grandson of Auschwitz Commandant Fights For A Nazi-Free Europe May 17, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Genocide, History, Nazi / Fascist, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: well, I am not a great believer in elections as a means of fighting fascism, but I still think the message here is relevant, not to mention chilling.  Not only are right wing neo-Nazi movements burgeoning throughout Europe, but around the globe, and that includes the United States.  This is grounds for alarm of the highest nature.

by Abby Zimet

With upcoming elections in a Europe beset by rising neo-Nazi frenzy, a new campaign by Swedish Social Democrats against the resurgence has a high-profile leader: Rainer Hoess, 48, grandson of Rudolf Hoess, the infamous commandant of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp who presided over the murder of over a million Jews and others before being captured and hanged near the crematorium he was so proud of. Hoess, who wears a Star of David around his neck, has spent years researching the Nazi movement, talking to survivors, and speaking to German schoolchildren about the dangers of right-wing extremism. He also appeared in the critically acclaimed documentary “Hitler’s Children.” The Swedish campaign, dubbed “Never Forget. To Vote,” stresses that “Nazi influences are growing in Europe for the same reasons they did back then. The social safety nets have been torn, and people are left behind…Hopelessness is what comes first. Then the hatred.”

Hoess on his murderous grandfather: “Generation after generation, we bear the same cross he put on our shoulders.”

 

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This Holocaust survivor stands with Gaza–Will you? December 11, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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It’s strange to see President Obama accepting a Peace Prize as he escalates a war. As a Holocaust survivor whose parents perished at Auschwitz in 1942, I know all too well what war looks like. I also know what peace looks like and I can tell you this: Sending 30,000 more U.S. troops to fight in one of the poorest countries in the world, Afghanistan, is not making peace.

As President Obama accepts a Peace Prize he does not deserve, it’s a good time to model what real peacemaking looks like. That’s why-at the ripe age of 85-I’ll be joining the Gaza Freedom March on December 31. Over 1,000 peacemakers from around the world will join hands with 50,000 Palestinians in Gaza as we walk together to the Israeli border. As Jews, Christians, Muslims, atheists, and members of many faiths we will come together as one humanity to condemn the brutal invasion of Gaza one year ago and demand that Israel lift the siege that has brought 1.5 million people to the brink of disaster.

You can show your support for real peacemaking by endorsing the Gaza Freedom March and telling your friends and community about this historic event!

Around the globe, solidarity actions are already being planned for the week of December 27th–find one near you and join in the action!

You can also make a peace prayer flag. Send them to us and we will carry them on the march. The peace prayer flags are an easy and powerful way to make sure your voice is present at this historic event. 

Peace is not just making nice speeches, as President Obama did in Cairo when he told the Arab world that “we understand that the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable” and that America would not turn its back on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for justice and dignity.

That is why I am asking you to help us “walk the talk” by supporting the Gaza Freedom March.

With love for all humanity,
Hedy Epstein

and the CODEPINK team

Rules of War Weren’t Made for Only One People February 15, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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Posted on Feb 14, 2009
Sachsenhausen
AP photo / Sven Kaestner

Visitors to Oranienburg, Germany, pass the gate of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp last month. The words on the gate translate loosely as “Labor liberates.” 

By Robert Fisk, www.truthdig.com

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Independent.

The third and very final part of the “normality” of war. I have just finished reading Lyn Smith’s Forgotten Voices of the Holocaust. I admit to a personal interest. Lyn is a friend of mine for whom I have been recording my memories of Middle East wars for the Imperial War Museum. Nothing I have ever seen can equal this, however, and I can give only one example from the terrifying, outrageously brave and moving book this is.

It is the testimony of Leon Greenman, a British Jewish inmate of Auschwitz-Birkenau who arrived at the extermination camp with his wife and child. It speaks for itself. All other passages pale beside it:

“We were bullied out of the train and stood about waiting. It must have been about half past two in the morning. It was dark, a blue light was shining on the platform. We saw a few SS men walking up and down. They separated the men from the women. So I stood right in front of the men and I could see my wife there with the child in her arms. She threw me a kiss and she showed the baby … Then one of the prisoners in a striped uniform commanded us to follow him. Well, we turned to the left and walked a little way for two or three minutes. A truck arrived, stopped near us and on the truck were all the women, children, babies and in the centre my wife and child standing up. They stood up to the light as if it was meant to be like that – so that I could recognise them. A picture I’ll never forget. All these were supposed to have gone to the bathroom to have a bath, to eat and to live. Instead they had to undress and go into the gas chambers, and two hours later those people were ashes, including my wife and child.”

I recalled this searing passage this week when I received a letter from a reader, taking me to task for my “constant downplaying of the suffering of the Palestinians on the grounds that their deaths and suffering are minimal when compared with that of the Second World War”. Now, I should say at once that this is a bit unfair. I was especially taking exception to a Palestinian blog now going the rounds which shows a queue of Palestinian women at one of Israel’s outrageous roadblocks and a (slightly) cropped picture of the Auschwitz selection ramp, the same platform upon which Leon Greenman was separated from his young wife and child more than 60 years ago. The picture of the Palestinian women is based on a lie; they are not queuing to be exterminated. Racist, inhumane and sometimes deadly – Palestinian women have died at these infernal checkpoints – but they are not queuing to be murdered.

Yet our reader does have a point. The Second World War, she says, “does put it in a category apart … but surely if one is caught up in any war and sees one’s loved ones killed or maimed, one’s home destroyed … then that must be the greatest cataclysm in one’s life. The fact that a hundred others, a thousand, a hundred thousand, a million are suffering likewise is immaterial to the individual’s suffering. The Second World War lasted six years. The Palestinian suffering has lasted over sixty…”

And yes, I’ll go along with this. If it’s an individual being deliberately killed, then this is no less terrible than any other individual, albeit that this second person may be one of six million others. The point, of course, is the centrality of the Holocaust and – Israel’s constant refrain – its exclusivity. Actually, the Armenian Holocaust – as I’ve said on umpteen occasions – is also central to all genocide studies. The same system of death marches, of camps, of primitive asphyxiation, even a few young German officers in Turkey watching the genocide in 1915 and then using the same methods on Jews in the occupied Soviet Union. Numbers matter.

But our reader has another point. “After all,” she says, “in the Second World War, after the entry of the US and USSR on our side, people could feel pretty positive about the outcome. But where is such hope for the Palestinians? And now to cap the horror the BBC is refusing to even show an appeal to help Gaza…” I’m not at all sure that W Churchill Esq would have entirely placed such confidence in the outcome of the Second World War – he was initially worried that the Americans would use up their firepower on the Japanese rather than against Hitler’s Germany.

I think, however, there is yet one more point. The rules of war – the Geneva Conventions and all the other post-Second World War laws – were meant to prevent another Holocaust. They were specifically designed to ensure that no one should ever again face the destruction of Mrs Greenman and her child. They were surely not made only for one race of people. And it is these rules which Israel so disgracefully flouted in Gaza. It’s a bit like the refrain from Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara and a whole host of other apparatchiks when the torture at Abu Ghraib was revealed. Well, yes, they told us, it was bad – but not as bad as Saddam Hussein’s regime.

And of course, this argument leads to perdition. True, we were bad – but not as bad as the Baath party. Or the Khmer Rouge. Or Hitler’s Germany and the SS. Or the Ottoman Turks – though I noticed movingly that one of Lyn’s Jewish Holocaust survivors mentions the Armenians. No, the numbers game works both ways. A thousand Palestinians die in Gaza. But what if the figure were 10,000? Or 100,000? No, no, of course that wouldn’t happen. But the rules of war are made for all to obey. Yes, I know that the Jews of Europe had no Hamas to provide the Nazis with an excuse for their deaths. But a Palestinian woman and her child are as worthy of life as a Jewish woman and her child on the back of a lorry in Auschwitz.

Holocaust-Denying Bishop, Will Review Evidence Before Changing His Mind February 8, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Religion.
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www.huffingtonpost.com, February 7, 2009

BERLIN — A bishop who faces a Vatican demand to recant his denial of the Holocaust said he would correct himself if he is satisfied by the evidence, but insisted that examining it “will take time,” a German magazine reported Saturday.

Richard Williamson is one of four bishops from the ultraconservative Society of St. Pius X whose excommunication was lifted by the Vatican last month. The decision sparked outrage because Williamson had said in a television interview he did not believe any Jews were gassed during the Holocaust.

On Wednesday, the Vatican demanded that Williamson recant his denial before he can be admitted as a bishop into the Roman Catholic Church.

Williamson made clear he does not plan to comply immediately, and rejected a suggestion that he might visit the Auschwitz death camp, the weekly Der Spiegel reported.

“Since I see that there are many honest and intelligent people who think differently, I must look again at the historical evidence,” the British bishop was quoted as saying.

“It is about historical evidence, not about emotions,” he added, according to the report. “And if I find this evidence, I will correct myself. But that will take time.”

The magazine suggested that he could make a personal visit to Auschwitz, set up by the Nazis in occupied Poland, which stands as the most powerful symbol of the Holocaust. More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died there.

Williamson replied: “I will not go to Auschwitz,” Der Spiegel said.

Der Spiegel said Williamson, who lives in Argentina, insisted on having questions faxed to him and sent his replies by e-mail. It said their authenticity was confirmed in a phone call by Williamson and a lawyer for the Society of St. Pius X.

Williamson has apologized to Pope Benedict XVI for having stirred controversy, but has not repudiated his comments, in which he also said only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews were killed during World War II and none was gassed.

“I was convinced that my comments were right on the basis of my research in the ’80s,” Der Spiegel quoted Williamson as saying. “I must now examine everything again and look at the evidence.”

Jews Agree with Holocaust-Denying Bishop, We Can’t Believe the Holocaust Happened Either January 30, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Humor, Race, Religion.
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www.huffingtonpost.com, Posted January 30, 2009

Elayne Boosler

A decision this past Saturday by Pope Benedict XVI to reinstate four bishops has sparked controversy in the Catholic Church and beyond.

One of the clergymen, Bishop Richard Williamson, is a Holocaust denier. Last week, he spoke to Swedish television.

BISHOP RICHARD WILLIAMSON: I believe that the historical evidence is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler. I believe there were no gas chambers.

 

 

Well Bishop Williamson, no one ever said the Jews were “deliberately” gassed by Hitler. Everyone knows it was a terrible accident. That is why it is important to check your smoke detectors at least twice a year. Dude! We know that six million Jews died (along with millions of others), because the Nazis kept meticulous records (and would never have found humor in Dilbert). Okay, benefit of the doubt, I’ll give you ten thousand heart attacks, a quarter million pneumonia due to the thin pajamas, a half mil for starvation, and maybe a mil being worked to death. That still undeniably leaves almost five million Jews being killed in camps. What’s your theory? Bug zappers?

I think it’s great that a bishop (or pawn) in the Catholic church, reinstated by no less than the Pope (deliberately reinstated), questions historical evidence instead of being a blind follower. Bravo! Despite living witnesses, both victims and liberators, despite actual film footage of the gas chambers, ovens, and corpses, despite a trillion books written by historians, victims, and eye witnesses, despite world trials in Nuremburg, despite admissions by Nazis themselves, despite Shelley Winters winning an Oscar for The Diary of Anne Frank, Bishop Williamson denies this happened. What would it take to convince you? Maybe we could check Germany’s gas bill from 1939-45. There had to have been a spike. I wish you could have seen how few relatives were left to show up at our seders in Brooklyn when I was a child. Hey, maybe I could show you the actual photographs my father took and brought back from his two years in army hell, which culminated in his unit helping liberate Buchenvald. Remember, that was before Photoshop.

Say, why don’t you go visit Auschwitz now? You can see the ovens, and Disney swears they had nothing to do with developing the attraction after the fact.

The bishop finds no “historical evidence” to prove the Holocaust happened, yet despite no film footage, living witnesses, or verifiable first hand accounts, Bishop Williamson has no trouble believing that god had a son on earth by immaculate conception, who could raise the dead, and then returned from the dead as well. So what does this say about the nature of belief? It says that Bishop Williamson hates the Jews. But hey, this Pope spreads a big tent, like the circus, so welcome back.

You know the joke about how we thought Iraq still had weapons of mass destruction because we had the receipt? Well it’s kinda like that. We know the Holocaust happened, because the Pope at the time made the deal with Hitler to let it happen. Hey, here’s a good joke for the Pope to open with the next time he appears at Yankee Stadium: “Forget the Holocaust, I can’t believe the Red Sox winning the World Series happened!!” You’re welcome.

Jewish council in Germany breaks ties with Vatican January 30, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Religion.
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Reuters, International Herald Tribune
Published: January 29, 2009

BERLIN:

The Central Council of Jews in Germany is breaking off contact with the Roman Catholic Church because of Pope Benedict XVI’s rehabilitation of a bishop who has denied the scale of the Holocaust, its president said Thursday.

Last weekend, the pope lifted the excommunication of four traditional Catholic bishops, including the British-born Richard Williamson, who has made statements denying the full extent of the Holocaust of European Jews.

Williamson said in an interview with Swedish television a week ago that he believed that there were no gas chambers and that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, rather than the six million widely accepted by historians.

“Under these conditions, there will certainly be no talks between myself and the church for the time being – I stress the words ‘for the time being,”‘ Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Council of Jews, said in the Rheinische Post newspaper. “I would like an outcry in the church against such actions from the pope.”

The Central Council of Jews confirmed her quotes.

In Italy, a priest who is a regional leader of the same traditionalist group Williamson belongs to, made headlines Thursday by telling a local newspaper “gas chambers existed at least for disinfecting” inmates but he was not sure they were used to kill them.

The priest, Floriano Abrahamowicz, defended Williamson and said that while it was “impossible for a Christian to be an anti-Semite,” the whole Williamson affair was part of a “very powerful campaign against the Vatican.”

He told La Tribuna newspaper in the northeastern city of Treviso that Williamson had been “imprudent to get into technical matters” about whether people had died by gassing or not.

Addressing the uproar over the rehabilitation of Williamson in his weekly audience with the public on Wednesday Benedict said he “renewed with love” his “full and indisputable solidarity” with Jews, whom he called “our brothers of the first covenant.”

He said he had repeatedly visited Auschwitz, the site of the “brutal massacre of millions of Jews, innocent victims of blind racial and religious hatred” and said the Holocaust “should be a warning for everyone against forgetting, denying or diminishing its significance.”

But tensions remained after Israel’s highest religious body sent a letter to the Vatican asking to postpone an annual meeting and voicing “sorrow and pain” at the pope’s decision to welcome the bishop back into the fold.

Tragedy Repeats Itself December 30, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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 Dec 28, 2008, www.truthdig.com

Waltz with Bashir
iffkv.cz

By Sheerly Avni

Several months ago, when Ari Folman was promoting his new animated documentary, “Waltz With Bashir,” the film screened for a Palestinian audience in Ramallah, less than 40 miles from his home in Tel Aviv. 

The director was asked not to attend.

Folman had already traveled far and wide to promote the movie, which had received wildly enthusiastic accolades everywhere from Cannes to Auckland. But the French company presenting in Ramallah had asked the 45-year-old war veteran not to come to this screening so close to home, because it was not sure it could guarantee his safety. The company had a point: “Waltz With Bashir,” a graphic and violent series of recollections of the 1982 war in Lebanon, told almost entirely from the point of view of Israeli soldiers, culminates in bloody live footage of the aftermath of the infamous Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp massacres in which thousands of Palestinian men, women and children were murdered by Christian militia with Israeli troops stationed directly outside the camps.

As it turned out, the audience response in Ramallah, though passionate, was the kind every filmmaker dreams of: There was high demand for more screenings, because there wasn’t enough room in the theater for all the people who wanted to see the film.

This did not surprise Folman, whose intent for his documentary was always to tell a universal story, not a specifically political one: “I show how stupid wars are,” he said in a telephone interview. “I wanted to make a movie that no teenager could watch and think ‘Oh, sure, war sucks, but those soldiers are cool.’ There is nothing cool or glamorous about war.”

Folman should know. He was just 19 when he was flown over the Lebanese border for the Israeli offensive in 1982, and as we learn in the film, he passed the flight daydreaming about a romantic death in battle, hoping to inspire regret in the heart of the girlfriend who had just dumped him. What the boy found instead was fear, and absurdity, and enough trauma to blot out his memories.

It would be 20 years before Folman, now a successful screenwriter and director who barely even thought about his time as a soldier, would be forced to grapple with the meaning of his wartime experiences. He was 40 years old and tired of his time in the Israeli reserves, where he’d been put to work writing scenarios for military videos explaining, among other things, the proper care and feeding of gas masks. The army agreed to let him go—but only if he would agree to a series of exit interviews with a therapist.

Thought not a big believer in psychotherapy, he took the deal. Over the course of eight or nine sessions, he realized that he had no memory whatsoever of the massacres themselves, even though he had been stationed nearby. He then set out on a quest, both personal and professional, for answers to the questions that had come up in therapy: What had happened to him in Beirut? What had he seen? Why couldn’t he remember? What had the war done to him?

Folman sought out classmates, as well as men from his old unit and the first Israeli reporter on the scene of the massacres, and gathered their stories. He consulted an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder. He reached out to his best friend, Ori Sivan (listed in the credits as “filmmaker and shrink”), and he set out to make a film that would capture the surrealism of war and the fluidity of memory. He had already experimented successfully with animation for his popular Israeli TV show “The Material That Love Is Made Of,” and so he hired the artist Yoni Goodman, a gifted illustrator, and then set about trying to raise the money to get his movie made. Despite the modest $2 million budget of “Waltz With Bashir,” potential investors were reluctant to back the film—the first feature-length animated documentary ever made, and Folman ended up having to mortgage his house.

“I knew it had to be this way,” he explained. “If I couldn’t animate the film, I couldn’t do it at all.”

Folman and his animators filled the movie with dreams, memories and nightmares, all set to a soundtrack that alternates between rock music and Max Richter’s haunting score: A pack of dogs running rabid and wild though the streets, an exhilarating sequence of young soldiers boogie-boarding at the beach (Folman admits this was an intentional homage to “Apocalypse Now”), a teenage soldier dreaming that he’s being swum to safety by a giant naked woman, and, finally, Folman’s only clue to his blocked memory: a recurring dream about emerging naked from the sea.

The film owes much of its visual impact to the artistry of Goldman and his animation team, but its dramatic tension derives from Folman’s own Jason Bourne-style search for his missing memories. But when it comes time for the moment of revelation, the “Bourne moment” that might unlock his memory, Folman’s friend Ori hits him with an apparent anticlimax: the suggestion that his obsession stems from a much earlier moment in history—that his dreams are connected to an earlier massacre, an earlier nightmare.

“It’s all about those camps,” Ori suggests in the film. “Your parents were in Auschwitz. The massacre has been with you since you were 6 years old. … You felt guilty; you were cast for the role of the Nazi. It’s true you didn’t massacre. You just fired flares.”

As a child of survivors, said Folman, he had long been preoccupied by questions of circles of responsibility during the Holocaust. “How much did they know? Did they realize there was a mass murder happening? How many knew what was going on in the camps?

The same questions plagued him as he searched for his own memories of the Palestinian massacre, and as he spoke with soldiers who had been nearby. “What I learned was that people had all the elements, but they found it too complicated to put it together in one frame, because mass murder is not in our system. … You don’t think that things like that are happening just around the corner, even if you are participating in a war.”

In part, this is a particularly Jewish/Israeli problem, one which Folman does not shy away from: Is a culture that has experienced genocide more likely to recognize it the next time it appears? Not necessarily, says Folman, speaking personally again. “For us who grew up in those kinds of families, are we more ready to listen to those kinds of stories? On the contrary, I think it is harder. The Holocaust was like a one-time experience in the history of humankind for us. We are not ready for anything else.”

But Folman is adamant in insisting that there are no easy comparisons to be made between the Nazi murder of the Jews and the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla. “There is no comparison, there can be no comparison. But mass murder is mass murder, and it is something that the imagination cannot believe or accept, even while it is happening.”

War is horror beyond human comprehension: This is the theme of “Waltz With Bashir. “This film,” insisted Folman, “could have been made by an ex-American soldier in Vietnam, a Russian in Afghanistan, an American today in Iraq. … It could have been made by anyone who wakes up one morning and finds himself hundreds of kilometers away from home, in a remote city that has nothing to do with him or his life, nothing whatsoever. He doesn’t know what he’s doing there, he is terrified, and he has no clue.”

Asked if working on the film had turned him into a pacifist, Folman answered: “For that I didn’t need to make a movie. I became a pacifist by my second day in Lebanon.”