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October 4, 2015 / 21 Tishri, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

The German Women Who Stood Up to the Nazis

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

This year marks the seventieth anniversary of a remarkable public protest by ordinary German women against the Nazi regime.

From February 27 to March 6, 1943, a group of unorganized German women went into the streets of downtown Berlin, within a few city blocks of the most feared centers of Nazi power, to protest for the release of their Jewish husbands, who had just been arrested by the Gestapo. Daily giving voice to their collective demand – “give us our husbands back” – first softly, then with increasing urgency, they succeeded in achieving their goal.

For these German women, the brutal Nazi state had lost all legitimacy. Like very few others, they were willing to express this publicly, on the streets, for all to see. For decades, their story was largely absent from histories of Nazi Germany. Their story challenges the comforting, generally accepted narrative that opposition was honorable but always futile. This year’s anniversary is an opportunity to focus deserved attention on these women’s brave action – and its implications for resistance more broadly.

On February 27, 1943, as part of the Nazi plan to remove the last remaining Jews from German soil, the Gestapo arrested some 2,000 Berlin Jews who had not yet been deported because they were married to non-Jews. In response, hundreds of women – wives of those arrested – pushed their way onto the street in front of Rosenstrasse 2-4, an office of the Jewish community where these arrested Jews were being held, and began to protest.

SS men as well as policemen guarded the single entrance. Over the course of the following week the Gestapo repeatedly threatened to shoot the protesters in the street, causing them to scatter briefly before resuming their collective cry of “give us our husbands back.”

Decades later, I interviewed one of these women, Elsa Holzer, who remembered arriving on the street in search of her husband. “I thought,” she said, “I would be alone there the first time I went to the Rosenstrasse…. I didn’t necessarily think it would do any good, but I had to go see what was going on…. If you had to calculate whether you would do any good by protesting, you wouldn’t have gone. But we wanted to show that we weren’t willing to let them [our husbands] go. I went to Rosenstrasse every day, before work. And there was always a flood of people there. It wasn’t organized, or instigated. Everyone was simply there. Exactly like me. That’s what is so wonderful about it.”

During the same week of this protest, some 7,000 of the last Jews in Berlin were sent to Auschwitz. On Rosenstrasse, however, the regime hesitated; almost all of those held there were released on March 6. Even intermarried Jews who had also been sent to Auschwitz and put in work camps were returned to Germany.

Surprising as it might seem, these events on closer examination fit with the treacherous strategies of the Nazi regime for domestic control. The Rosenstrasse protest occurred as many Germans were tempted to doubt Hitler’s leadership following Germany’s debacle in the Battle of Stalingrad. As he elaborated in Mein Kampf, Hitler believed that popular support comprised the primary pillar of his authority among the German “racial” people, and his dictatorship throughout strove to maintain this basis of his power. To end this protest, the regime released the intermarried Jews, furthering, for that moment, Hitler’s goal of quelling any appearance of dissention.

The murderous Nazi regime also appeased other public protests. On October 11, 1943, on Adolf Hitler Square in the city of Witten, some three hundred women protested against the official decision to withhold their food ration cards until they evacuated their homes as part of Nazi policy to protect civilians from bombing raids. The following day Germans in Lünen, Hamm and Bochum also protested on the streets for the same reason.

In response, Hitler ordered all regional authorities not to withhold ration cards as a method of forcing civilians to evacuate their homes. This was followed by further orders by Nazi officials to refrain from “coercive measures” against evacuees who had returned. In his cold calculations, Hitler chose not to draw further attention to public protest, judging it the best way to protect his authority – and the appearance, promoted by his propaganda machine, that all Germans stood united behind him.

Insensitive Kerry Brags to Germans about Nazi Freedoms in America

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry bragged about freedom of speech, religion and thought in the United States in front of an audience of German students, telling them that in America “you have a right to be stupid if you want to be.”

Forgetting, perhaps, that he was in Berlin, former home to the most terrifying regime under Heaven, Kerry bragged, according to Reuters:

“As a country, as a society, we live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view.”

Then Kerry really turned it on, telling his audience how in the land of the free neo Nazis are permitted to strut in their jackboots and swastika wherever they feel like, even in the Jewish suburbs of Chicago. This is how Mr. sensitivity phrased it:

“People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another.”

Heart warming.

Except that, in Germany, the law restricts neo-Nazi propaganda and Nazi symbols are banned, with the exception of artistic or historic reenactment purposes. In 2005, Germany’s parliament tightened the restrictions on neo-Nazi marches to keep them away from sensitive memorials such as former concentration camps. The changes make it easier for local authorities to ban such gatherings.

Oblivious to all that, Kerry boasted: “The reason is, that’s freedom, freedom of speech. In America you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be… And we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that.”

Actually, not all of us – certainly those unlucky Jews who used to live in Berlin while all that stupidity was going on, starting in 1933.

“Now, I think that’s a virtue,” Kerry declared proudly. “I think that’s something worth fighting for. The important thing is to have the tolerance to say, you know, you can have a different point of view.”

So now what, revoke all those intolerant laws against neo Nazi marches through Berlin? Because that certainly sounded like the natural conclusion from the uber-tolerant Kerry.

Kerry made the comments in favor of letting Nazis be Nazis on his first foreign trip since becoming secretary of state on Feb 1. After one-night stops in London and Berlin, he is visiting Paris, Rome, Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha before returning to Washington on March 6.

So little time, so many folks to embarrass…

BDS Attacks JNF Concert Goers in Berlin (Video)

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Ten members of BDS interrupted a JNF fundraiser in Berlin. The protesters helped up signs, yelled “Free Palestine”, shoved old women, and knocked people down.

Jews, Muslims, Christians Protest German Anti-Circumcision Law

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Approximately 300 protesters across the religious spectrum demonstrated in eastern Berlin in favor of religious freedom and the decriminalization of circumcision in Germany.

The majority of the protesters were Jewish, though Muslims and Christians also participated.

There are approximately 10,500 Jews living in Berlin.

Mainly Jewish protesters, as well as Muslims and Christians, demonstrated on Sunday for religious freedom and the decriminalization of circumcision in the Federal Republic.

Lala Süskind, former head of the Berlin Jerish community spoke at the rally, speaking up on behalf of religious rituals and citing the World Health Organization’s recommendation that boys be circumcised for medical reasons.

A new law to reintroduce circumcision to German society would require parents to prove the procedure has a religious basis, to receive medical guidance against the procedure by a doctor, and to acquiesce to having their sons circumcised by a doctor rather than a mohel.  The Jewish community has rejected the proposed law.

German state of Berlin Declares Circumcision, Not Brit Milah, Legal

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Berlin became the first of Germany’s 16 states to declare circumcision legal, following a Cologne court ruling in June that non-medical circumcisions on children amounted to a criminal offense, according to the German news agency DPA. National legislation is pending to legalize circumcision.

But, the state of Berlin has authorized only doctors, and not mohels, to perform circumcisions; the national legislation could authorize mohels. The state also required that parents be informed of the procedure’s medical risks before consenting, and that doctors do everything possible during the procedure to reduce pain and limit bleeding.

June’s court ruling has led many doctors to stop performing circumcisions in order to avoid being prosecuted. Two rabbis have had complaints brought against them based on the ruling, though one complaint was dropped last week.

German Jews Warn Against Yarmulkes

Friday, August 31st, 2012

After an attack on a rabbi in Berlin, Gideon Joffe, the head of the Berlin Jewish community, said he would “not recommend that any Jew go around in parts of Berlin with a kipah.”

On Tuesday, Rabbi Daniel Alter of Berlin was violently attacked while picking up his daughter from a piano lesson. He currently is recovering from surgery for a broken cheekbone. The attackers, reportedly Arab youths, asked Alter – who was wearing a kipah – if he was Jewish before hitting him in the face. They then allegedly verbally threatened Alter’s 6-year-old daughter.

Many Jewish religious leaders in the country advise their congregants against openly wearing Jewish garb in public; men routinely wear baseball caps or other hats over their yarmulkes when in public. Concern about openly wearing the skullcaps grew following an anti-Semitic attack on the Chabad Jewish kindergarten in Berlin in 2007.

Meanwhile, Inforadio, a Berlin station, reported Thursday that Ayman Mazyek, head of the Central Council of Muslims, said such attacks are “disgusting” to Muslims and pledged his organization’s solidarity and empathy with Jews in Germany.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany said the attack proved once again that violent anti-Semitism is a reality for Jews in Germany. Berlin’s mayor Klaus Wowereit decried the attack as being against all Berliners.

In 2006, Alter was among the first rabbis ordained in postwar Germany. He is a graduate of the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, a Reform seminary.

The Evil Inclination

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Rav Tzvi Hirsh Levin, the rav of Berlin, was an extremely clever and sharp individual and possessed a remarkable sense of humor that he used well in his attempts to get across Torah views.

Rav Tzvi Hirsh was first rav in a very small city – Halberstat. Halberstat was a poor place but the people were very pious and observant. He then moved on to become the rav of London and finally, spiritual leader in Berlin.

In describing the differences between the three places, he once said:

“I will illustrate the differences with a story. Once when I was in Halberstat, I passed an inn and I heard from within a mournful sound.

“The sounds were so tragic that I thought that the person who was making them must surely have suffered some terrible tragedy. Walking inside I saw in the corner an emaciated and hungry looking fellow sitting at a table with his head in his hands, giving vent to his woes.

“ ‘What is the matter sir?’ I asked him. ‘Why do you mourn so?’

“ ‘I am the yetzer hara [evil inclination],’ he replied. ‘Never have times been so bad for me as they are in this city of Halberstat. No matter how hard I work at trying to get these Jews to commit sins, no matter how I run about attempting to tempt them, my efforts are in vane. I will starve to death in this city, business is so bad!’

“I left the mournful soul,” continued Rav Tzvi Hirsh, “and went on my way. I soon forgot about the incident and the years passed. I left Halberstat and moved on to London where I became rav.

“One day, as I was walking along a busy street, I saw a familiar figure running toward me. It was the evil inclination.

Has No Time “ ‘Hello there,’ I called. ‘It has been many years since I last saw you. What are you doing in London?’

“ ‘I have no time to stop to talk now,’ replied the evil inclination. ‘There is so much work to do here that I am exhausted. I have to run about persuading people to sin and business is extraordinary.’

“Away he went,” said Rav Tzvi Hirsh, “and disappeared from sight on his way to do business.

“The years passed by once again, and I forgot about him until I went over to Berlin. There I met him again. As I was passing a tavern, I heard loud laughter. A man was singing and sounded like the happiest, most contented of people.

“Looking through the window, I saw that it was my old friend, the evil inclination.

“ ‘Hello there,’ he cried out drunk but happy, ‘come and join me in a drink.’

A Pleasure “ ‘What are you doing in Berlin?’ I asked. ‘And look at you. You have grown so fat and ruddy of complexion. Why aren’t you at your work?’

“ ‘Ah, my friend,’ he said with a smile. ‘There is no need to work in Berlin. In Halberstat I worked like a dog and showed nothing for it. The were impossible to tempt.’

“ ‘In London, there was plenty of business but I had to run around drumming it up. Here in Berlin however, it’s a pleasure! I don’t have to do a thing. The people are ready to do immoral and evil acts without my having to push them.’ ”

The “Good Angel” The Chofetz Chaim’s good virtues and wonderful character had their beginnings when he was yet a little boy.

In the little town where he lived was a poor man who earned his meager living by drawing water from the wells and springs and selling it in town.

He used to leave the pails with which he drew the water outside his front door because there was simply not enough room for them in the little hut that he called his home.

Some of the mischievous and thoughtless children in the town decided to play a practical joke on the poor man and they filled the pails with water. In the bitter wintry night the water quickly froze and the man had all manner of difficulty in the morning.

Admonishes Them Little Yisroel Meir (that was the name of the Chofetz Chaim) felt very bad for the poor man and he admonished his friends:

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/kidz/tales-of-the-gaonim/the-evil-inclination/2012/07/13/

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