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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
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Photoshopping Women Out of the Holocaust

Digitally removing women from Holocaust photos dishonors those women and the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
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Today is Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. My parents were both Holocaust survivors. If my father were alive today he would be 109 years old. My mother would be 99. My two brothers who were in the early teens when they were freed from their bunkers are today in their mid 80s.

The fact is that the survivor population is aging. Many survivors are now gone having lived to ripe old ages. Some have retained their faith and some have not. Most have renewed their lives; had families and seen much nachas from the children, grandchildren and great grand-children. They have seen the birth of a Jewish State, a rebirth of Judaism, and an unprecedented growth of Torah observance.

But the memory of what happened to them and their loved ones who did not survive stays with them. How can it not? We need to recognize that. This was once again pointed out by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel who this morning was interviewed on CBS’s Sunday morning news show in a Holocaust memorial segment.

When he was asked to describe his experiences, he said it is not possible. He said that there were no words in any language that could describe the pure evil of what Nazi Germany did. The Nazis managed to perpetrate acts that were so evil that they were beyond human description. How, he asked, does one describe what it’s like to stand naked in a line on your way to be murdered (along with everyone else in that line) in a gas chamber disguised as a shower?

I think he is right. Yes, there are genocides taking place in the word even to this day in some uncivilized societies. But never like the systematic and scientific murder machine that was Nazi Germany. They saw murdering Jews as an ideal to be worshipped. Hitler considered it his “sacred” duty to annihilate the Jewish people.

I know that the religious right objects to observing a memorial to the Holocaust during the month of Nissan in the Jewish calendar. We are not allowed to eulogize the dead during this month. But this has never stopped even the most right wing rabbis from doing so at a funeral that takes place during Nissan. They simply say something like – since we may not make Hespedim (eulogies) during Nissan they will just say a few words of praise about him – and then dive right into an elaborate eulogy.

But I understand their objection to making an official day of remembrance during this month. I wish it were not on that day but at a date where eulogies are permitted. But it isn’t. Unfortunately their anti-Zionist rhetoric has spilled into Holocaust Remembrance day even if they have not said anything specific publicly about it. A lot of disrespect of that day persists – some of it public. And that is a Hilul HaShem.

It is also disrespectful to edit out women from photos from that era as was recently done. While I don’t approve of the practice of editing out pictures of tzanua (modestly dressed) women under any circumstances, I understand that there are some members of the right wing – mostly Hasidim – who feel that any picture of a woman is not appropriate for men to look at.

Much as I disagree with them, they are entitled to their opinion. But there are times when it should be inappropriate even for them. Such as the time the Secretary of State was photo-shopped out of a widely distributed “iconic” picture of the President and members of his administration watching the “Navy Seal Team’ assassination of Bin Laden as it was happening.

However, when it comes to tampering with Holocaust images it should cross every line of human decency. There is no way to justify that. The picture in question has blurred out the images of women in a famous photo. How in heaven’s name can anyone claim that viewing the women in that picture is in any way inappropriate?!

It is an insult to them memories of all 6 million Jews to decide that because a victim in such a photo is a woman it should be somehow blurred out of it. The reason for eliminating photos of women is so that there won’t even be the remotest chance of their eliciting an improper though on the part of a man. In this photo? Are they kidding?!

This is what happens when you stop thinking and see everything in linear fashion. They say that a photo of a woman is always a possible source of indecent thoughts in men. No difference here. If they don’t hadn’t shown this picture at all, that would have been one thing. But they obviously felt it was important enough to publish it as part of their message. But the message they sent was not one of the horrors of the Holocaust. It was how ridiculously far their views about showing a woman in a photo goes.

I truly do not understand how anyone can be an adherent of a movement that thinks like this, no matter how warm and fuzzy it otherwise is.

I am not one to make a religion of the Holocaust. Unfortunately there are some people who do. The Jewish people are not defined by the Holocaust. We are defined by God’s mandate for us as expressed through written and oral Torah law. Even so, God forbid that we minimize what happened by using it to promote various agendas (as have animal rights activists)… or dishonor survivors by ignoring Holocaust Remembrance Day entirely – in some cases even thumbing our noses at it… or by injecting the most extreme interpretation of modesty for women into it.

Here is my message to these people: get a clue. The Holocaust was not about your agenda. It was not about tznius. Do not dishonor the memory of the victims or mock the sensitivity of the survivors by using the Holocaust for your own purpose or injecting your unreasonable tznius standards by photo-shopping women out of Holocaust pictures.

And to those who in other ways dishonor Holocaust Remembrance Day… Stop it! All you end up doing is dishonoring yourselves and bring mockery upon the Torah!

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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15 Responses to “Photoshopping Women Out of the Holocaust”

  1. Nanette CohenRayman says:

    I am very angry that the Haredim are so insecure, so unmanly, so egregiously stupid, that because of their "delicate" eyes, their lack of self control, they want WOMEN edited out of the Holocaust memory. I object! I object with every fiber in my being. These men are not men, but silly, obtuse, ignorant, stupid babies. There were also women who helped in the resistance. May dirt be upon these false men.

  2. Jonathan Engel says:

    The Haredim are a scarcely jewish sect, and should not be allowed to recruit people of less that 18 years into their sect. Their schools should be closed.

  3. Marty Mensch says:

    Their exposure to information is very limited & controled by their Rabbi's. Children only know what we teach them & their children are not taught. These Rabbis keep their members in the dark, because they do not want their flock to know of any other leadership than the Rabbi's in their sect, Sad!

  4. Nanette CohenRayman says:

    so what is wrong with the Rabbis? are they saying that WOMEN were not tortured and murdered in the Holocaust? I don't care what excuse they come up with…they are heinous pansy men. HEINOUS. These Rabbis should remember this: without women, there would be no rabbis…and no Jews. I think they are despicable human beings. There is NO excuse for their thoughts and behavior.

  5. Isaac Reich says:

    These comments are laughable. Your generalizing about a group of tens on thousands of people, and making immature, gratuitous ad hominem arguments. Instead of calling them silky names, consider addressing the reason they edited the pictures, namely, a tradition of not publicly displaying photographs of women. If you don't like it, don't buy their magazine. And please don't wish for "dirt upon them"… there are too many of our people who had dirt heaped upon them, including several million of our brothers and sisters, some of whom are displayed in the above photograph. Tone down the rhetoric… and try engaging in conversation.

  6. Michael G Shatz says:

    How incredibly stupid. Are they so weak that they cannot look at a women, enjoy the beauty that is a woman and say Baruch HaShem, thank you for the beauty of a woman in this world. These people are not the Holy of G-d, they are the weak of G-d.

  7. Nanette CohenRayman says:

    listen, Isaac, are you saying that these "men" are not insane and nasty? They are…I am using that phrase on purpose, because by "eliminating" women out of the history, they are again putting dirt on the women. USE your BRAIN, dude.

  8. Nanette CohenRayman says:

    Michael…some "Jewish" guy told me to "tone down the rhetoric" on that article…i told him to shut up.

  9. I so totally agree with this article. When I saw that demonstration on Ben Yehuda or wherever when.
    some "Charidim" (how do you define that by the way) were demonstrating dressed up in concentration camp outfits I really felt nauseous. It was plain creepy and a humongous Chilul Hashem. I wonder about such people.

  10. David Kirzner says:

    Yitzchak, i do agree in general with that view- however in this situation i cant. the nazis did their utmost to silence and cover up their horrific crimes against humanity and now the best we can do, in fact the ONLY thing we can do at this point is to let the entire world know about all those innocent people that were brutally murdered. blurring those faces reduces the impact on those who see the picture…

  11. Couldn't agree more! couldn't have said it better than here. Yashar Koah to the writer for this article.

  12. Robbie Goldstein says:

    As someone who has also lost family in HaShoah, I do not want their pictures, if any, tampered with. And these selfish men have no right to tamper with the truth. I do not care what religious law. The truth is the truth and we all have to deal with it- exactly as it is.

    The TRUTH must be shown-That there were Women, Children and Men that died horrible, brutal deaths…The truth must be shown…..for all it's rawness…. for all its ugliness, violence, perversity, and yes, its nakedness.

    Are you aware that an entire new generation does not know what even happened? The schools no longer teach about it, as they once did. Now, we have revisionists, and Holocaust Denial, This is what our children see.

    And, here we have a selfish, women hating, neurotic sect of Jews assisting the very people who would have this happen to us again. To alter the photographs opens up future questions of manipulation all together. Revisionists are already stating this.

    As the survivors die out, and in short time, their children's generation, as well, all we will have left are the photographs to bear witness and testament that the Holocaust even occurred.

  13. Robbie Goldstein says:

    They disgrace the memories of their mothers

  14. Elaine Fox says:

    It's horrific…. First the women were murdered, now they're erased! How could they?

  15. I have heard that Rav Avigdor Miller was AGAINST "letting the entire world know" because they would learn the wrong lessons. — I recently saw this in response to the warsaw getto uprising–

    R. AVIGDOR MILLER zt"l—"The Jews didn't have any tanks, they didn't have any soldiers; what do you expect of them? What could they do? If the Jews would have fought back not one would have remained. Who remained of the Warsaw ghetto? Nobody! Who said it was such a smart thing? It's only foolish people, sensationalists, who talk about the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto. It's as silly as could be. If they hadn't made the uprising a lot of Jews would have remained.

    Jews remained all over the world. Wherever Hitler went, Jews remained. Of course not enough. But the fact that they fought back meant it was a death sentence. The Chachmei haTorah didn't say fight back. Because after all, the Germans were not that thorough, a lot of Jews escaped. But when they started fighting back then the Germans brought all their tanks and all their flame throwers and they wiped out all the Jews. So going like sheep is not a foolish tactic. When you have no alternative the best thing is not to fight. It's a silly thing that's used by American people. Now I don't wish it on American Jews, but if they were in the same situation they wouldn't have been a bit better.

    Our forefathers understood this; they didn't fight against the nations. They sought to placate the nations. And by the way, it was one of the biggest mistakes, before World War Two when they made a boycott against Germany and they enraged the Germans. Had they followed the Council of our Sages at that time, they would have bribed Hitler’s lieutenant. You know, Hitler’s lieutenants were mercenary people, you could buy them. You could send things to them – secretly. They would have pocketed a lot of money, but they would let a lot of Jews out. The story would have been different.

    And so, this bravado, this false heroism of fighting back and being killed like a hero, is not the way chosen by Jews. We believe it's better to live not like a hero, than to die like a hero."
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Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
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