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July 28, 2014 / 1 Av, 5774
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Don’t Bury Our Memories in Museums


MK Moshe-Feiglin

MK Moshe Feiglin

A Knesset speech in a foreign language requires a preliminary authorization from the Knesset Committee. When the Knesset Committee’s chairman requested of me, as a committee member, to give my approval for a speech in a foreign language by the president of the European Parliament, I planned to agree – as is routine.

But Likud MK David Rotem was more alert than me, asking, “In what language does the European Parliament president plan to speak?”

“In German,” the chairman answered.

I thanked Rotem for calling the issue to my attention. I was the only vote against approving the speech in German. Before European Parliament President Martin Schulz began his speech, I quietly left the plenum.

Of course, I had no idea what the content of Schulz’s speech would be. I assumed the speech would be positive. My decision not to be present was not tactical; it was based on principle. It was the same principle that guided my decision not to travel with the Knesset delegation to a death camp in Poland.

Israel has been too quick to insert the quintessentially horrifying memory of the Holocaust into museums – and to leave it there. A memory that is relegated to a museum, no matter how tangible it is – even if it is Auschwitz itself – becomes a museum memory.

It is easy to figure out what would have happened if our Sages had instructed us to commemorate the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by annually visiting a museum. Not only would the memory of the Temple have been forgotten after a few generations, but the entire culture drawn from the Temple would have disappeared as well. If we would go to the museum instead of fasting, instead of breaking a glass under the marriage canopy, and instead of leaving a bare place on the wall at the entrance to our homes, I wouldn’t be here to write and you wouldn’t be here to read. We would have simply disappeared.

Seventy years ago, the world decided to rid itself of the Jews; some nations accomplished this actively, while others by default. Some built death camps, while others did not bomb them.

In his book, Eim Habanim Semeichah, Rabbi Yissachar Teichtal, may God avenge his blood, noted how U.S. Jews, most of whom feared for their own future and did not stand up to save their brethren in Europe, actually faced the same decree. While they were not in physical danger, the legitimacy for their existence was lost. The real name for World War II should be “The World War Against the Jews.”

When the parliament established by the nation that arose from the ashes relates to the Holocaust as a historical accident, the problem of a certain generation, and when we separate its memory from our current reality instead of attempting to actualize it in the here and now, we awaken sleeping monsters.

Today, we no longer hold up an accusing finger against the culture that led the world war against the Jews. We allow the language in which the destruction of our nation was planned to be spoken from the podium of our parliament. We allow the Poles to lie and claim that it was just by coincidence that the Germans “stuck” Auschwitz on their land; that they (the Jews) were perfectly fine; that there was no satanic anti-Semitism in Poland; and that there was no Polish massacre of the Holocaust survivors who attempted to return to their homes after the war.

When we separate the memory of the Holocaust from our present lives, there is no real memory and the children of the murderers dare to point an accusing finger at us – in the Knesset of Israel, in German no less. We become the new Nazis, and the Palestinians become the inheritors of the Jews who are being led off to the slaughter.

If we had demanded that the European Parliament president not speak in German, I believe the entire incident whereby the Jewish Home Party loudly protested his words and then exited the plenum would have been avoided. Why? Because our demand would have meant that Israel has an ethical claim against the world in general and the Germans in particular. If we had demanded that Schulz not speak in German, he would have been on the moral defensive – not on the moral offensive.

But as usual, we chose to flee from our responsibility to our parents and children. We chose to cut corners, to be pragmatic. After all, we can’t fight with the entire world forever!

What was the result of our pragmatism? The exact opposite of what we wanted to achieve. It is because we chose to not really deal with the memory of the Holocaust that our relationship with Germany is now worse than it was – both on our part and on theirs.

For when that ethical accusing finger is not there, the sleeping monsters in their culture wake up in the middle of the speech – yes, in the most cultured and well-mannered fashion – and just ask this innocent question: is it true that the Palestinians get less water? Yes, those are the same monsters. How could the son of the nation of murderers dare to reprimand the ethics of the children of the victims? The answer: this occurred from the moment the children of the victims buried the memory of the Holocaust in museums.

I was spared the uproar in the Knesset because I was not “pragmatic.” When we restore the memory of the Holocaust to our daily reality, we will merit much more harmony with the nations of the world. The correct approach toward our past will allow us to be pragmatic – and just – in the future.
This article originally appeared in Hebrew in Makor Rishon.

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5 Responses to “Don’t Bury Our Memories in Museums”

  1. Poland was an ally not axis power: Poles didn’t mastermind the Holocaust. It was senior Nazi (Germans and Austrians) at the Wannsee Conference.

    Poles were not tried at Nuremberg. Those found guilty of crimes against humanity were German or Austrian.

    Poland didn’t surrender nor collaborated with Germany. Other such as Slovakia, France, Norway and Denmark became puppet states controlled by Nazi Germany.

    There were never any Polish Waffen-SS units. Others from Spain to Estonia, Finland to India, Denmark to Russia did have Waffen-SS units

    Poles didn’t round up Jews in the ghettos. This was the Germans with Ukrainians and Jewish collaborators. In fact Poles fought alongside the Jews during the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

    Poles were not the guards in the death camps. Once again it was the likes of the Germans, Austrians, Ukrainians and Latvians. Poles were the largest group of victims in slave-labour camps and the generally the second largest group in death camps.

    It was the Americans and British vetoed that the bombing of the dead camps. Poland fully supported plans to bomb Auschwitz and it was Poles that liberated some camps, such as Warsaw's Pawiak Prison in August 1944.

    The American and British governments suppressed press stories about Auschwitz, etc. Meanwhile, the Polish government in London issued detailed reports of the Holocaust, exposing the Nazi genocide in occupied Poland.

    Heroic Polish "righteous Gentiles" saved more Jews from the Holocaust than any other nationalities making up over a quarter of all recipients. More than Spain, England, Germany and 32 other countries combined.

    Poland was the only country in occupied Europe where aiding a Jew meant risking instant execution; and yet Poles created and operated the largest resistance army during the entire war. This ran the only organisation dedicated to aiding Jews.

    I wonder why the author picked on Poland when others have a far worse record.

  2. Anna-Jane Niznikowska says:

    I don't know why you're trying to incite hatred between Poles and Jews (I also don't understand why you deleted all the comments criticising your article). I am reposting my comment.

    You write "We allow the Poles to lie and claim that it was just by coincidence that the Germans “stuck” Auschwitz on their land." Of course it was no coincidence. German built concentration camps on OCCUPIED POLISH SOIL because it was logistically more convenient as there were already a lot of Jews in Poland.

    And why did Jews choose to live in pre-WW2 Poland??

    Because they knew they could freely practice their faith there, cultivate their tradition and live in peace with the local communities.

    I'm shocked that such lies are spread around. What you're effectively doing is exactly what Hitler's Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels said which is: "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it".

    Please, clarify in the article that the camps were in GERMAN OCCUPIED POLAND.

  3. Krzyk Jasno says:

    This writer is suffering from historical revisionism and ignorance. He should visit Yad Vashem and learn some irrefutable FACTS. One of which that it was indeed NO coincidence that some of these NAZI GERMAN camps were located on occupied Polish soil during WW2. The simple fact is that there were more Jews in Poland than anywhere else in the world! Why? Because for centuries Poland was the ONLY country to offer Jews sanctuary and legal rights. No-one has ever denied there was some anti-Semitism in Poland (there was much worse in other countries) but that did not prevent Poles becoming top in numbers of the Righteous People Amongst Nations. Of all the countries occupied by Nazi Germany ONLY in Poland was there a death penalty for anyone (and their families) discovered (or suspected of) sheltering Jews. For this reason, the Yad Vashem Righteous numbers are a considerable understatement. Thousands and thousands of Polish people still took the risk of sheltering Jews. Also, try Googling: Żegota.

    Neither was there a “Polish massacre of Jewish Holocaust survivors returning to their homes”. There is (I believe) only 1 documented incident at Kielce (1946) where 42 Jews were killed in a pogrom which is generally thought to have been instigated by the Soviet occupying forces to distract international attention away from the Soviet rigged elections. There was also a show trial resulting in the execution of 9 people allegedly responsible for the pogrom. There is a lack of proportion/sense in mentioning the 42 Jews killed in this ONE documented (& investigated) incident compared with the 20,000 that were killed in the Kielce ghetto by the German Nazis. There is a sunken Menorah Monument in Kielce dedicated to the Jewish victims by the residents of Kielce. Has the writer also forgotten the SIX MILLION Jews that were murdered in GERMAN death factories? His statement is vindictive and deliberately provocative. Especially when you consider that in resisting Nazi Germany, Poland lost more percentage of population (including 3m Polish Jews) than any other country.

    The writers suggestion that WW2 should be renamed a World War on Jews does not stand up to any scrutiny and deserves much contempt. Jews were – undoubtedly – the main victims of the genocidal Nazi policies but history is perfectly clear. Hitler and Stalin wanted to wipe Poland off the map – literally. These 2 totalitarian powers (again) divided Poland to spread their morally corrupt ideologies and obviously gain land plus property. The writer forgot to ask (or may not know) why Hitler invaded other countries. Or, why Stalin deported over 1.5 million Polish families to Siberia in cattle trucks and murdered thousands of Polish officers at Katyn.

    The only genocide committed against the Jews and Poles was committed by the Germans. Jews were also the only people in Poland who after the war (supposedly) ended were allowed to emigrate by the occupying Soviet Red Army. It is also a sad and unfortunate fact that over 37% of the directors of the hated Polish Communist Secret Police were… Jewish. This did not help future Polish-Jewish relations

    The Knesset would not be able to travel to a "death camp in Poland" because no such place ever existed. The writer is attempting an outrageous and false association (or complicity) of Poland with these NAZI GERMAN places.

    The (Jewish) Anti-Defamation League stated: “The Anti-Defamation League has expressed full support for the efforts of the government of Poland to ensure that the official names of the death camps in Poland emphasize that the camps were built and operated by Nazi Germany." Some, such as Israel Gutman – professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Chief Historian at Yad Vashem (World Center for Holocaust information), went further and have been quoted as saying that to deny German responsibility is a form of Holocaust denial.

  4. Eyton Shalom says:

    First of all, i want to address one comment in the article that is both self-righteous and illogical. Can the innocent son of a murderer reprimand the faulty ethics of the son of the murderer's victim? I think the Talmud would have to give a resounding yes on that. For cannot the son of an innocent become a murderer, and the son of a murderer become a Tzaddik? . And, do the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria receive less water than the Jewish settlements? Absolutely. It has been well documented. But that is not the point. The larger point is, are we Jews above criticism? Does our history as victims place us on a pedestal?

    This is the misuse of the Shoah, no, the abuse of the Shoah, for politics that serves a culture of victimization that allows for good Israeli's to practice the kind of denial that the "good germans" once did, and i dont mean to compare the Shoah to the Occupation, or to be frivolous, but there is denial of injustice, full stop.

    Second, i will address another gross error of Feiglin's "We allow the Poles to lie and claim that it was just by coincidence that the Germans “stuck” Auschwitz on their land" No, of course it was not a coincidence, there are lots of rational explanations; that was where the Jews were, 3 millions of them. That was where the Poles were, the first 175,000 victims in Auschwitz were Gentile Poles for G-d's sake, have you no respect for anyone's suffering but the Jews? There was also great rail service to Poland from all over Europe.
    Satanic judeophobia in Poland??? Tell me, in what language is the word Pogrom? In what country was the famous Kishniev pogrom? Poland was perhaps the LEAST antisemtic country in the 30's , plenty of it in the USA Where was Anatevka, the shtetl the Jews flee from in Fiddler on the Roof?
    I am an American Jew who stands with the Poles against this sort of slander. Feiglin is at best uninformed, and at worst guilty of racist attiudes towards Poles and Poland, and sadly all too representative of ignorant Jewish attitudes to Poland…

  5. Dan Zamoyski says:

    Thank you, Eyton, for your well-researched, authoritative and elegantly stated comments.

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