On Monday 27 January 1945, the Russian Army liberated Auschwitz. What the soldiers found was unimaginably horrific, a factory designed for the annihilation of ordinary people – Jews, Poles, Soviet PoWs, homosexuals and Roma.
This was not an aberration; this was one of a number of murder factories, including Belžec, Sobibór, Treblinka, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Majdanek, Maly Trostenets, Salmište and Janowska. Auschwitz is so notorious not because it was the worst, but because it was the biggest, was left mostly intact, and it murdered the most people – between 1.1 and 1.5 million.
These camps either had to be built from scratch or modified to inflict death on an industrial scale. They all had to have a good train link for the easy transport of victims.
Topf & Sons, Siemens, Bosch, Kori, Thiessen Krupp, Zeiss and more were the companies directly involved in building or servicing crematoria and gas chambers.
Adolf Hitler intended to eliminate all 11 million European Jews. In the end, the Nazis managed to eliminate 6 million. Jews and others were murdered by poison gas, beatings, starvation, overwork, shootings, medical experimentation and being driven to suicide.
And yet now anti-semitic incidents are occurring in increasing numbers in Europe and America at levels few ever thought possible within 75 years of the Holocaust.
In the Middle East, virulent anti-semitism has existed continuously from the early 1920s, and continued unabated during and after the war. Anti-semitism did not first arise after Israel captured the West Bank in 1967 in the Six Day War.
Relations between Arabs and Jews in Palestine became irrevocably based in anti-semitic hatred when the British appointed the Arab nationalist and anti-semite Mohammed Amin al-Husseini as the Mufti of Jerusalem. The Mufti was an administrative position for a Sunni Muslim cleric in charge of Jerusalem’s Islamic holy places.
Al-Husseini was the most important Nazi collaborator in the Arab world and worked tirelessly for the ethnic cleansing of the Jews in Palestine and in the Middle East.
Before he became Mufti, al-Husseini organised attacks on Jews. In 1920 he instigated Arab riots which resulted in six Jews being killed and 200 injured. The British imprisoned al-Husseini, but in order to reduce tensions in the region, he was pardoned and appointed Mufti. The British thought his release would ensure ‘that the influences of his family and himself would be devoted to tranquility’.
AL-Husseini’s malign influence ensured that Palestinian leaders would perpetuate venomous anti-semitism against Jews and Israelis.
The Palestinian leadership uses the tropes, lies and terminology used by the Nazis in the 1930s. Having embedded these attitudes in the minds of their people for so long, it’s unlikely that Palestinian leaders can persuade their people to support peace negotiations.
Every party and militia in the Palestinian Territories refuses as a matter of ideology to recognise Israel. Their goal is to remove the Jewish state, to leave only Muslim Palestine.
At the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz II – Birkenau by the Russians on 27 January, there were two particularly powerful speeches; by Marion Turski, a survivor, and by Ronald Lauder, heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics empire.
Turski’s theme was not about his own experience; his theme was how Auschwitz did not ‘just fall from the sky’. He quoted the famous Italian scientist and novelist Primo Levi, who himself was an inmate of Auschwitz: ‘It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.’
Turski explained how the Germany of Beethoven, Goethe, Schiller, Heine, Einstein and Mendelssohn could also create industrial-scale killing factories. It would start with an inscription saying that Jews were not allowed to sit on certain park bench. It was unpleasant, unfair, not right, but there are other benches that could be sat on. And so it would go with coffee shops, swimming pools and playgrounds.
Once something became ‘normal’ the regime moved on to banning Jews from the professions and from owning shops. The Nazis mediated the alienation and the stigmatisation step by step until ordinary Germans became mere bystanders. The outside world played a part too.
In 1938, America and European countries convened the ‘Evian Conference’ in France to discuss the plight of Jewish refugees fleeing persecution by Nazi Germany. Thirty-two countries and 24 organisations attended. It decided not to increase immigration quotas, except for the Dominican Republic and later Costa Rica. Hitler noted this and was emboldened.
By then the Nuremberg Laws had stripped German Jews of their citizenship. Classified as ‘subjects’, they became stateless in their own country. When Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938, the 200 000 Jews of Austria became stateless. The world’s leadership did nothing.
In July 1979, former US vice-president Walter Mondale described the hope represented by the Evian conference: ‘At stake at Evian were both human lives – and the decency and self-respect of the civilized world. If each nation at Evian had agreed on that day to take in 17 000 Jews at once, every Jew in the Reich could have been saved. As one American observer wrote, “It is heartbreaking to think of the …desperate human beings … waiting in suspense for what happens at Evian. But the question they underline is not simply humanitarian … it is a test of civilization.’
Two months after Evian, Britain and France ceded the right to Hitler to occupy the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, rendering 120 000 more Jews stateless.
In November 1938, a massive pogrom, Kristallnacht, was launched across Germany, resulting in the destruction of over 1 000 synagogues, massacres and the arbitrary arrest of tens of thousands of Jews. Hitler knew then that there would be no significant consequences.
In March 1939, Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia, taking in a further 180 000 Jews, while in May 1939 the British barred Jews from entering Palestine or buying land there.
The move from common anti-semitism to genocide is a gradual process until, at some point, it speeds up.
Ronald S. Lauder is the chair of the extraordinarily named ‘The Pillars of Memory Authentication of Auschwitz II – Birkenau’, which is testimony to the foul phenomenon of Holocaust denial. Despite the undeniable proof of the Holocaust, the Jews still have to provide evidence of their suffering to counter the Holocaust denial of the extreme right, the extreme left, and Arab and Iranian anti-semites.
Lauder chillingly observed that if he had been born in his parents’ native Hungary in 1944 rather than in February 1944 in New York, he and his family would likely have been murdered together with the 450 000 Hungarians who were exterminated later that year. Lauder echoed Turski’s comments about the Evian Conference, reiterating the world’s enabling of Hitler.
As Lauder says, in 2020 right-wing extremists feel emboldened to speak the same lies. So do left-wing and Muslim university students, who appropriate the right to determine whether Jews have the right to a country by still equating Zionism with racism. Politicians in America and Britain can express their hatred of Jews and Israel with no consequences. A Holocaust survivor can be brutally murdered in France by a Jew-hating young Muslim who is acquitted because he was under the influence of dagga. Being under the influence would normally be treated as an aggravating factor.
Lauder said: ‘The world did not care. That’s when [Hitler] knew that he could build this factory of death.’
Lauder ended by referring to the incomprehensible fact that over 1.5 million children were murdered. Murdering children may seem inconceivable to us but the Nazis’ logic was flawless: the Jew would not be completely exterminated unless the children were murdered, so that there would be no future generations of Jews.
Those 1.5 million children would never have children, nor would the adults who would still have been able to bear children, if they hadn’t been murdered.
In 1939 the world Jewish population was 16.7 million. By the end of the war it had fallen to 10 million. Eighty years later, by 2019, the world population was 14 606 000 – still 2 million less than its pre-war number.
Lauder said that the same lies of the Nazi era are now commonplace. Whilst governments must speak out forcefully against the racists, this is not enough. He said that the countries present had to stop casting votes against Israel in the UN to support the UN’s ‘constant and shameful fixation’ on Israel. In the past 7 years there have been 202 country condemnations in the UN, 163 against Israel and 39 against the rest of the world put together. That has nothing to do with Israel’s unique evil; it’s just about anti-semitism.
Once the ‘Non-Aligned’ nations gained dominance at the United Nations (UN) in the 1960s, the prejudice against Israel and Jews became the dominant narrative.
The nadir of this phenomenon occurred in 1975 when these countries supported the Soviet Union’s UN resolution to declare that ‘Zionism is racism’. Russia did not actually believe it, but because of the threat that anti-semitism was going to be included in the UN definition of ‘racism’, Russia would have been declared a ‘racist state’. So Russia acted first.
The resolution was rescinded 16 years later but the damage had been done. This was epitomised when the anti-semites of the Left and the Muslim world turned the ‘UN 2001 World Conference against Racism’ into a now infamous anti-Jewish hate-fest.
However in 2019 the UN released its first comprehensive report on anti-semitism, in which it declared that Boycott, Disinvestment, and Sanctions – a group calling for Israel to be internationally ostracized – is ‘fundamentally anti-semitic’. BDS has always held that negotiations are not relevant because the only action that needs to be taken to end the conflict is for Israel to withdraw from its occupation. This is patent nonsense; it just tries to give validity to the refusal to negotiate.
When the Palestinian leadership lies about Israel committing a genocide or a massacre, or uses its media to spread Jew-hatred, or turns a blind eye to the sale of ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, the most infamous anti-semitic book ever written, the world must condemn Palestinian leadership, not indulge it or excuse it.
The world at least owes the Jews this.
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