Days turn into weeks and the ominous news continues. Our precious sons are in harm’s way and we hear the horrific news that some of them will never come home. One boy was about to get married; another’s wife just had a baby; and still another left behind a wife who was in her ninth month. I realize you are all aware of this. I am not telling you anything new but still I have a compulsion to share and speak and write.
I listen to the news day and night. People have suggested that I stop, that it’s too depressing. But even if I were to shut out the media, in my mind I would still see and hear bereaved parents, and young wives who in the blink of an eye have become widows, and little orphans who are crying for their daddies.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that I am a survivor. I saw this all before and everything is coming back to me from those days in Europe before Hitler occupied Hungary. My revered father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, was the chief Orthodox rabbi of our city Szeged, the second largest city in Hungary (not to be confused with Sziget).
Our home became a gathering place not only for Jews from our city but for community leaders from the provinces. The discussions went on late into the night. “What to do?” everyone asked. And the answer to that question, the conclusion to all such discussions, was always the same: “Surely the civilized world will never countenance such beastly evil. People will protest and Germany will find itself a pariah among the family of nations.”
I have often thought about those conversations. Why were we so blind to our horrific reality? Simply put, there was nothing much we could do. We had no weapons. We had no friends. There was no place to run. No place to hide. Hitler was determined to annihilate every Jew and he kept meticulous records of the Jewish populations in the countries he conquered.
Some years ago I was invited to speak at Fort Hood to over 40,000 U.S. military personnel. After one of my presentations some officers asked if they could invite their families to listen to me. They wanted their wives and children to know about the Holocaust. When I concluded my address, an adorable little girl stood up.
“Rebbetzin, Ma’am,” she said in her innocent sweet voice, “why didn’t you call the police?”
For a moment I was astounded by the question. What an American question! And then I explained to the little girl that there were no police we could call. The police were equally as cruel as the Nazis. Jewish blood was cheap and could be shed with impunity. The question from the little girl continues to echo in the wind.
When the sinister darkness of the Holocaust had finally lifted, I heard the cry “never again” – “never again will we allow such satanic evil to take place. Never again.” Those words have become a clarion call. Tourists visit the sites where the death camps operated and nations build Holocaust museums to ensure that people learn from the past.
Under such circumstances, who could be a Holocaust denier? It’s there for all to see. And yet, incredibly, the Holocaust denial movement is alive and well.
But the problem extends well beyond out-and-out Holocaust deniers. Let a Jew raise his hand to defend himself and suddenly otherwise placid people become seething cauldrons of Jew hatred.
It has been my privilege to speak throughout the world. Recently I’ve been receiving calls from many friends in the countries I’ve visited. Be it Paris, London, Johannesburg, or any of a couple dozen other locations, anti-Semitic demonstrations are taking place. Not that we have to cross the ocean to hear this message –it’s happening right here in our own back yard.Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
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