Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Language Of A Symbol & The Wail Of Mourning

Tonight in Israel, and all over the world begins Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day. In light of the absolute refusal to try and understand the absolute evil that the Swastika represents to the Jewish people, presented on the forum of Absolute Write, and the subsequent incredibly vile, irresponsible, foolish and depraved remarks made on that forum and in the comments here at Cobwebs Of The Mind (for all articles in this series click here) about Hitler and his "final solution", I can actually think of no better time to post this.

In our last post, Silence Is Not An Option, the original poster of the Swastika had this to say in the comments:
I deeply apologize for offending you.

In order to honor you and display the boundless respect I have for you, I shall leave my swastika up and continue to use the symbol, so that you may have further fuel with which to draw traffic to your blog.

-Bartholomew
This comment brought a few who could not believe their eyes. It required no further explanation. The poster of the Swastika made it clear this was not done of any desire to spread love of the Buddhist symbol (was there ever any question?) nor any desire whatsoever except to antagonize. The truth comes out. But when he was called for it he sent in this as well:
It was a sincere apology. I don't want to offend anyone. But I'm not going to cater to anyone's whim, either.

Besides, this cause is obviously important enough to warrent the amount of time Teddy has spent on it. So let him spend it.

He could go find some real Nazis, or some other hate group and attack them instead, but that would take courage, a commodity Mr. Gross has in short supply.
Again the cynicism speaks for itself. Nor is it important enough to grace with a reply. It simply shows the true nature of the swastika bearer. Besides when a group of people do sport the swastika, when they attack and vilify anyone who does not agree with them - well that by definition is a "hate group". However, there is one phrase here, (misspelled by the author of the comment) that I do think is worthy of a reply. That is the paragraph that says:
Besides, this cause is obviously important enough to warrent the amount of time Teddy has spent on it. So let him spend it.
So let us for a moment discover and explain why this very subject is indeed important enough to spend the time I have spent on it. Why any sane person would be morally and ethically culpable for not spending time on it.

Holocaust Remembrance Day begins at 8:00 PM Israeli Time with a ceremony at Yad Va'Shem the central Holocaust Museum in Israel. The name Yad VaShem - literally meaning: "a place (or can mean 'hand') and a name" comes from Isaiah 56:4-5 part of a chapter which traditional Jews read on every fast day.
“For so says the Lord to the eunuchs who will keep My Sabbaths and will choose what I desire and hold fast to My covenant, I will give them in My house and in My walls a (Yad VaShem) place and a name, better than sons and daughters; an everlasting name I will give him, which will not be discontinued.”
There in this house of Yad Va'Shem chosen to give the martyred an everlasting name, 6 people, survivors of the Nazi Swastika bearers, light six torches to represent the six million murdered by the Swastika bearers. TV is only allowed to show documentaries dealing with the Holocaust. There are no comedies, no mysteries, no movies shown for a period of 24 hours.

Tomorrow at 11:00 AM Israeli time the wail of the air-raid sirens is heard throughout Israel. At that moment, everything stops. People stand is silent mourning. Traffic pulls over to the side and not a car moves - not even on the highways. Cafes and restaurants and stores are filled with silent, unmoving bodies with lowered heads. We remember. We promise ourselves and our children and our children's children and their children - that we will never forget. That we will never allow this to happen again.

Evil is evil is evil. Once it accomplishes its goal, once it is allowed to tarnish the face of humanity, once we allow it to flourish with our silence - once that happens - we cannot go back and change the course of the past. We can only move forward promising ourselves that it will never be allowed to happen again. That we will not be silent ever again in the wake of its ugly, menacing stance. That we will not allow it to taint our world and certainly not our souls.

There can be no jokes about mass murder. There can be no excuses. There can be no possibility of alleviating one of the role that specific person played perpetrating the evil. We, as the ones who populate this planet, cannot allow such a thing to happen. It is not a question of degree nor a question of time. If we refuse to recognize evil - as evil - we become an accomplice to its goals and needs. We would share in its destruction and depravity.

It is astounding and indeed shocking that grown adults do not understand this basic aspect of the human condition. It is sad that teenagers have no clue about the collective past of humanity and certainly should act as a siren call to all those who view education in a serious light. It is beyond explanation how those who lay claim to seeking the truth and presenting a balanced and fair argument can, in all honesty, sport a swastika and spew forth the argument that it must be reclaimed for the Nazi's are of the past and memories serve no purpose.

Of course, there are always and will always be those who are simply fools. They see nothing beyond their own lives and needs and wants. Perhaps they are children in need of growing up; perhaps they are adults who cannot or will not for whatever reason accept the wisdom and lessons from the past. It makes no difference. It makes it no less important, no less critical, no less imperative - that those who do understand the nature of evil - remember, act, and refuse to be silent.

I have allowed comments to appear on this Blog, whose nature causes shivers among sane adults. I have allowed both spoiled children and those calling themselves intellectual adults, to call us ignorant, stupid and a great many other names - in their attempt to justify the depravity that they continue to display. I have rarely reacted to the lies that I have seen posted in other blogs and on the Absolute Write Forum. There simply was no need to. The remarks made stood in all their glory by themselves. They were the most telling witness to the truth behind the words and the symbols.

A symbol. That is how it began. This is how it ends. Just a simple, stupid symbol. And yet one look at that symbol, one memory of it, causes such blackness to open up in one's mind, that nothing can wash away the shadow of evil it leaves, while we shiver in its dark veil. A symbol that haunted the world for 15 years, and brought it near total destruction. A symbol which caused all light to vanish. A symbol which takes credit for more deaths and more destruction than any other symbol ever portrayed and presented in the dark history of mankind. A symbol - which if for one moment we allow ourselves to forget all that it represents - will without doubt rear its ugly head again in order to continue to spread the evil of Satan upon our world.

In light of this symbol how does one remember the Holocaust? How does one remember 6 million who were gassed, hung, shot, killed and murdered? It is a number so far beyond human understanding, so impossible to comprehend that it causes us to stand mute at the horror of it.

Therefore I am going to just bring the 6 Torch-Bearers here. Just 6 representatives who due to luck, fate or God - whatever you choose to believe - did not become a statistic.

(The picture and article below is courtesy of The Jerusalem Post.)



From The Jerusalem Post - April 15,2007:

Illuminating the memory of the six million who perished

Holocaust survivors Zanne Farbstein, Manya Brodeski-Titelman, Mordechai (Motke) Wiesel, Yaacov (Jacki) Handeli, David Gur and Ya'akov Janek Holladner have been chosen to light torches in memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust - here are their stories.

Zanne Farbstein

Zanne Farbstein was born in 1926 in Bardejov, Slovakia. Her first memory of the war was the sudden entry of German soldiers into her family's home on Shabbat eve, after which there remained a solid German presence in the town. Her father's business was confiscated, and her two older brothers were sent to a military labor camp.

In March 1942, all females under 25 were ordered to gather in a school. Farbstein and her two sisters, Edith and Sarah, were escorted by their father, who tearfully gave each of them a corona coin as a good-luck amulet.

They joined a thousand other girls on the first transport to Auschwitz, where they were ordered to leave their possessions on the train, including the treasured coins.

After a few months, they were sent to the newly built Birkenau camp, where they endured hard labor, acute hunger and disease. Farbstein survived the selektions because of her Aryan looks, and managed to obtain the "desirable" jobs of sorting confiscated clothes and other personal possessions. One day, she found her father's prayer shawl, and understood that he had been murdered.

The three sisters stayed together, looking after one other and sharing their food. One day, Edith, sick and exhausted, suggested exchanging her good shoes for Farbstein's threadbare ones. The meaning was clear: Farbstein and Sarah never saw Edith again.

On January 18, 1945, the women were sent on a death march to Germany. Through the snow and rain, Farbstein had to support her ailing sister. After the German guards abandoned the prisoners in a small town, the sisters continued on to the American Zone, where they met soldiers from the Jewish Brigade. They then traveled to Prague and Bratislava, where they learned that two of their brothers had survived. They returned to their birthplace, where the four were reunited. The fates of Farbstein's grandfather, grandmother and younger brother remain unknown.

In 1949, the extended family immigrated to Israel with the help of the Joint Distribution Committee. Zanne Farbstein and her husband, Moshe, have two children and five grandchildren.

Manya Brodeski-Titelman

Manya Brodeski-Titelman was an only child, born in 1932 in Zhabokrich, Ukraine.

In July 1941, the German army entered the town, followed by the Romanian army.

The Jews were ordered to gather in five cellars, where the Romanian soldiers proceeded to shoot them. Manya Brodeski-Titelman lost consciousness. When she awoke, she saw that her mother had been killed. Her father had survived.

Manya and her father hid in the cellar until nightfall. They then escaped to a forest but after a week, starving and cold, they returned. A few days later, they were herded into the town ghetto, where they lived under grueling conditions in an apartment with several other families.

One day, the police ordered both adults and children back to the cellars to remove the corpses from the massacre. The bodies were in a terrible state of decomposition, and the horrified prisoners were forced to bury them in a mass grave.

Manya identified her mother's body by the red boots she had been wearing. She and her father managed to bury her near their home.

During this period, thousands of Jews from Bessarabia were being herded to the nearby River Bug, where they were murdered. Manya's father would throw boiled potatoes to them across the ghetto fence, and bring survivors to their home.

Toward the end of the war, the Romanians gathered all the Jews in the main square of the town, planning to kill them. Suddenly, a group of German soldiers arrived and warned the Romanians that the Russian army had arrived. The Romanians fled. To the Jews' astonishment, the German soldiers turned out to be partisans in disguise.

In 1980, Manya and her family immigrated to Israel. In 2003, she was among a group that erected a memorial tombstone on the site of her hometown's mass grave.

In March 2007, Manya's husband, Boris, a Holocaust survivor and a veteran of the Red Army, passed away. She has two daughters, five grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Mordechai (Motke) Wiesel

Mordechai (Motke) Wiesel was born in 1929 in Satmar, Transylvania, to a family of eight.

When the Germans invaded Hungary in 1944, Motke's father sent his three sons to work on a farm. Meanwhile, the Jews were herded into the city's ghetto; after a few weeks, the boys were taken to the ghetto as well.

Motke and his family were put on a transport. He and his twin brother, Meir, managed to find air to breathe from a small crack in the train car.

They were herded off the train at Auschwitz on their 15th birthday, and beaten. At the first selektion, Motke and Meir were separated from their parents and siblings, whom they never saw again.

As they drew towards the infamous camp gate, Meir naively asked: "How long do you think we will have to work here before we are freed?"

After a week, the twins were sent to the Plaszow camp, near Krakow, where they worked in Oskar Schindler's pig farm and as apprentice builders. They were then taken to Gross-Rosen and from there to the Langenbielau Sportschule, near Reichenbach.

The brothers always looked after each other, sharing stolen food or the remains reserved for the dogs. In one camp, Motke persuaded his brother to cut his hands in a "work accident" to avoid certain death on a machine he was being forced to operate.

After liberation in May 1945, they went to live in empty houses in Reichenbach, where they regained their strength. Back in Satmar, they discovered that only their elder brother had survived. Nothing is known about the rest of the family.

With the help of the bricha (escape) operation, the brothers were smuggled into Austria and from there to Italy.

Motke succeeded in reaching Eretz Israel in 1947, and made his way to Kibbutz Sde Nahum, where Meir awaited him.

Meir was killed fighting in the War of Independence. Motke later fulfilled his dream of becoming an officer in the Jewish army.

In 1952, Motke married Esther. They have two children and eight grandchildren.

Yaacov (Jacki) Handeli

Yaacov (Jacki) Handeli was born in 1928 in Salonika, Greece, to an affluent family of six whose roots in the city dated back to the 16th century.

In 1941, the Germans entered Salonika. They implemented anti-Jewish laws, and turned the Baron Hirsch quarter into a ghetto. Handeli and his family were marched into the ghetto, in a humiliating parade.

Two weeks later, the family was deported to Poland, with some 85 people crammed into each train car. After a week, the food and water ran out. Every time the train stopped, the Germans would remove the bodies of the dead and rob the others of their possessions.

It was then that Handeli learnt his first sentence in German: "You won't need this any more."

The train arrived at Auschwitz, and the prisoners were sent to the first selection. Handeli and his brothers Yehuda and Shmuel saw their parents and sisters for the last time, and were then taken to work in the camp.

Like the other refugees from Salonika, they were unable to speak to the Germans or with other Jews in the camp because they did not know Polish, German or Yiddish.

After his two brothers died, Salonika boxer Jaco Razon helped him survive the camp.

In January 1945, the prisoners were sent on a death march. Handeli remembers the snow-covered road dotted with the blood of those who had been murdered, the march to the Gleiwitz camp, and then on to Dora-Mittelbau in open coal trucks, exposed to the cold and the rain, without food or water, until they reached Bergen-Belsen, where they remained until liberation by the British.

In 1947, Handeli immigrated to Israel. He volunteered in Mahal and fought in the War of Independence.

Handeli is the sole survivor of his family.
He and his wife, Rachel, have two children.

David Gur

David Gur was born in 1926 in Okany, southeastern Hungary, to a family of four. In 1938, the Hungarian government began to implement anti-Jewish laws. Gur's father lost his business license and the family's economic situation worsened.

A dedicated Zionist, Gur went to Budapest to learn a useful trade for life in Eretz Israel. While working as a construction apprentice for a Jewish contractor, he began to take part in the underground activities of Hashomer Hatza'ir, which included helping refugees arriving from neighboring countries.

In March 1944, the Germans invaded Hungary, and the underground created a united defense committee that saved thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish lives.

Gur joined a cell that forged documents. One day, he and his friends were caught by Hungarian detectives. Although they quickly swallowed the forged documents, the equipment in their suitcases gave them away. After a brutal investigation, during which one of them died, the rest of the group was taken to the military prison in Budapest

Gur was among those scheduled for execution, but to their surprise, the prisoners were taken to the Swiss Consulate, where they were freed. A senior prison warden had been bribed by the underground.

After the war, Gur learned his father had died in Auschwitz, but that his mother and sister had survived. He became a member of the Hashomer Hatza'ir leadership. He also took part in the underground activities of the Hagana.

In 1949, when the Zionist movement was outlawed by the Communist regime, Gur commanded the last bricha (escape) operation, helping smuggle members of Zionist youth movements through Czechoslovakia and Austria to Eretz Israel.

In 1949, he immigrated to Israel. He graduated from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and became a construction engineer.

In 1985, Gur helped found the Association for Research into the Zionist Youth Movements of Hungary, where he remains active. He and his wife, Naomi, have three daughters and 10 grandchildren.

Ya'akov Janek Holladner

Janek Hollaender was born in 1929 in Krakow, Poland, to a family of five.

In 1940, the Jews were exiled from the city, and Janek's family was forced to sell its property to survive. In 1942, they were taken to the Krakow ghetto, where Janek Hollaender and his parents were separated from his two brothers. With rumors of an imminent aktion, they hid themselves in a basement, where Janek's father had installed a special lock on the door so it could not be opened from the outside.

Janek recalls their subsequent imprisonment in Plaszow because of the terror created by the camp's commander, Amon Goeth, who regularly shot randomly in all directions. Janek and his brother Benek were later sent to Starachowice, and then to Auschwitz, where they looked after each other as best they could.

In the winter of 1944, the prisoners were marched to Mauthausen. Benek had difficulty walking because of a leg injury sustained while selling coal in Rideltau. Urged on by Janek, he managed to reach the camp, but then collapsed, and Janek never saw him again.

In April 1945, the prisoners were taken on a death march to Gunskirchen. As news spread that the Germans had fled, Janek, weighing just 33 kilograms (70 pounds), managed to crawl out of the camp. He was taken to a Red Cross hospital, where he met soldiers from the Jewish Brigade. He decided to travel with them to Italy, joining a group of Jewish war orphans that was sent to a Youth Aliya camp in Selvino. There some 800 youngsters were trained for life in Israel.

Meanwhile, Janek learned that his father had been murdered in Auschwitz, his mother had died in Plaszow, and his brother Dolek had been shot in Bergen-Belsen, three days before the war's end.

In 1947, Janek arrived at Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon. After serving in the Palmach's Harel Brigade, he helped found Kibbutz Tze'elim in the Negev, along with other former children from Selvino.

Today, Ya'akov Janek is a wellknown composer, musical arranger and choir conductor.

In 1955, he married Devorah. They have two children and a granddaughter.

So... You want to be funny? Wear a swastika? Attach it to your name? Poke a bit of humor, call Hitler an "underachiever", a "funky dude", or just tell us that "the trains ran on time"? You want to forget all about the evil of the swastika and reclaim it in the eyes of the Western world to something of purity and love? Perhaps you think it is enough to just put the modern "swastika bearers" on ignore? You want to quote lines and then blame it on someone else? You want to show off your erudition? Your knowledge? Your ability to call us ignorant? Want to call other people cowards and you remain courageous?

Anyone who thinks or believes such a thing, being so full of comedy, humor and courage, being so knowledgeable in just how a Swastika should look and what should offend those who have felt the brunt of its weight, to truly show your courage and sophistication you should contact a "survivor". To show off just how well you write and how come you are such a famous author known for great sales of your incredible works, let us find out just how funny one of these survivors think your lines are. How witty. Let us see how courageous you are when you attach a swastika to your email. Paint it sky-blue pink if you like. Invert it. Show it upside down and left side right. Let us see just how knowledgeable in the face of evil your theories about just how a Swastika should look to those who lost entire families to this symbol. Let us see just how much they laugh with glee and agree with you.

And if for some inexplicable reason they do not find you funny, nor humorous, nor courageous nor smart nor intellectual nor a great writer - take heart. There is always the ability to call them ignorant, or johnnyfuckwit's or stupid or even tell them you are sick of this "scummy holocaust crap". You can even call upon the memory of your ancestors as a witness to your erudition and tell us just how many of them were Jewish. And then of course you can give us all a discourse on linguistics and symbols.

I for one will stand mute during the the wail of the siren in memory of those who were murdered by the Swastika bearers. And in consequence, I for one will never be silent in the face of such depravity and warped thinking. I for one will not desist nor stop, ever, to speak out and protest when a Swastika in all its glory is waved in my face.

I owe it to my people, my children, their children and their children. I owe it to myself. And most importantly I owe it to all of humanity. WE owe it to humanity. For if we are silent in the face of such things as the Swastika being shown in all its hated glory and to lines that call Hitler an "underachiever" and to the call to "purify" the Swastika of its hated past - the words of John Donne will ring with awesome truth and in mourning for humankind.
No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were:
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind,
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.
There is a prayer, known as "El Maleh Rachamim" - "God, filled with Compassion", one that is recited in memory of those who died. It is specifically recited on Holocaust Remembrance Day for all those killed by the hands of the Nazis and those who helped the Nazis.
The words and message are simple and it is often recited by a cantor in a haunting tune that has accompanied these words for hundreds of years. The words in English are as follows:
God, filled with Compassion,
grant a full and perfect rest
under the wings of Your sheltering Shechinah/ Presence
-- among the lofty, holy, and pure,
radiant as the shining firmament --
to the souls of all those of all Your people
who have been murdered, killed and destroyed in all sorts of murderous ways
by the hands of German Nazis and all those who helped them
Make them welcome to their eternal home.
May they rest in the Garden of Eden.

Please, Master of Mercy,
envelop them
in Your comforting, protecting wings forever;
Bind up their souls in the Bond of Life.
For You are their Portion, their Inheritance.
May they rest securely in Peace,
and we say:
Amen.
We will bear witness to the last generation. We will never be silent. For that is our legacy. That is who we are and what we owe to those who were murdered by the Swastika bearers. We will never cease to hear the tolling of the bell and we will never again falter in the face of those who bear upon their shoulders such an evil symbol. We, our children, their children and the generations yet to come, will remember, remind and cry out. We dare not ever rest or tire. For the Swastika of the Nazis and all that it represents lies but in dormant silence. Always waiting. Always seeking. Always trying to find a way back into the hearts of man. It placed the mark of Cain upon the forehead of humanity - forever. And it is but our willingness to take a stand in the face of evil that keeps it at bay.

And this is why I waste my time in such posts. For it is not the mind of an attention starved child and his small group of depraved friends that concerns me. It is the fact that all those who see that hated symbol will know and understand just what it means to any human being who has a semblance of ethics and morality.

It is the symbol itself that demands a reaction. And those that bear it upon their own personalities, those that preach its redemption and purification, those that think the time has come to "forgive and forget" - will not be allowed to preach their beliefs without protest. They will not be allowed to forget the evil. They will not be allowed to slip peacefully into the night.

I owe this to millions upon millions who can no longer speak for themselves. I would owe this to but one as well. I owe this to those now elderly people who still walk upon this earth with blue numbers tattooed by the Swastika bearers into their flesh. I owe it to my children, so that they may inherit a better world than the one left to me. And in their wisdom they will give their children a better world than the one left to them.

There is no compromise. There is no silence. There will never be silence to be interpreted as complicity. Silence never was an option.

May the souls of all those who perished by the hands of the Nazis and the Swastika bearers be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.

Posted On: Cobwebs Of The Mind


7 comments:

kayla said...

Dear Teddy,

Good for you! The "Swastika-Reclaimers" consistently forget that there 6 million individuals killed by that symbol and many millions more affected by it. Thank you for highlighting the personal story of just 6 survivors who bear witness to dozens of others who were killed. Remember folks-they were people with unique lives and unique stories. Each individual went through a different Shoah. We must remember their unique stories so that we remember that they were human beings and not just statistics.

Kayla

Paula's Poetry said...

Teddy,

I praise you for all you have done here and for all the emotion it has to have taken to do so.

May all who stand against hate and evil find peace.

zentao said...

Ted, I have no words, only utter praise and humble respect. Your words ring forth.

*bows*

Ted W. Gross said...

The following email was sent to me in reaction to this post, and with permission of the writer, Elizabeth Silverstein, I am reposting it here.

Mr. Gross,

Thank you for the post, The Language Of A Symbol & The Wail Of Mourning.

I am half Jewish by blood; my great-grandmother left Poland early in the
20th century, and came to the US through Ellis Island. I have always felt
very connected to the stories and people of the Holocaust.

When I was in high school, a kid made a joke about the swastika, and
although he did apologize to me later on (I wonder if there would have even
been an apology if I had not been there; I was the sole Jew in my high
school), I wish I had been able to articulate WHY as clearly and effectively
as you have done.

We do need to remember.

Elizabeth Silverstein

Té la mà Maria said...

We have visited his blog-web and find it interesting, congratulations

There visits ours, the irreverent and iconoclast of the world,
is in Catalunya - Spain

Http: // telamamaria.blogspot.com

Thank you very much for the visit

Maria

Anonymous said...

Are you still talking about me? Good lord, man, you need a more interesting hobby.

susann said...

MacAllister Stone is an egomaniac who wouldn't care if you wrapped yourself in a Nazi flag, as long as you stroked her gigantic ego. But say one word she disagrees with on her AW site, and you're out of there.
She is truly reprehensible.