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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘WWII’

The Shadow of the Gun

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Every day another one of the stories comes in. A teacher panicked by a plastic gun, an army man on a cupcake, a t-shirt, a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun or a finger gun hits the panic button. Suspensions and lectures quickly follow as the latest threat to the gun-free zone, usually in the form of a little boy, is tackled to the ground and lectured to within an inch of his life.

Tellingly these incidents rarely take place in the inner city schools where teenage gang members walk through metal detectors at the start of the day. The safety officers in those schools, big weary men with eyes that look everywhere at once, don’t waste their time on toys. Not unless those toys are full-size, painted black and filed down to look like real guns.

It’s usually the schools where a shooting is wholly unlikely; where gun violence is not a daily reality, but an unlikely convergence of horror, that institutional vigilance hits an irrational peak as every school imagines that it could be the next Columbine or the next Sandy Hook.

The NRA’s initial proposal of armed school guards was met with an irrational chorus of protests. More guns aren’t the answer, was the cry. And the leading crier was the White House’s expert skeet shooter. In a country where law enforcement is heavily armed and gunmen are stopped by gunmen in uniforms, a strange Swedenization had set in. The problem was not the man, it was the gun. Get rid of the guns and you stop the killing. Schools across the country are banning not the gun, but the idea of the gun. It is a conceptual prohibition that is meant to push away the threat of gun violence by eliminating any mention of the G word. Gun-free zones mean places where guns cannot be mentioned, depicted or even symbolized as if the refusal to concede the existence of a firearm will eliminate the threat of it being used on the premises.

This isn’t a precautionary attitude, but a pacifist one. Gun horror is not a productive emotion, but learned helplessness disguised as moral superiority. Rather than teaching children to hate killers, schools are instead teaching them to hate guns. And reducing murders to instruments rather than morals, children are left with no sense of right and wrong, only an instinctive horror of violence.

Pacifists have always demonized armies rather than invaders. During WWI they obsessed over gas. During WWII, it was the bomber and the tank. During the Cold War they demonized nuclear weapons. In the War on Terror, they target the drone. By dealing with the object rather than the subject, they are able to avoid the question of moral responsibility. Rather than hold the Nazis, Communists or Islamists accountable for their actions, they extended a blanket condemnation over the weapons-wielders.

The American G.I. was just as bad as the S.S. man or the Kamikaze pilot or the Political Commissar. The only difference was in who had the bigger guns. And the one with the bigger guns, was also the most to blame.

That same attitude can be seen today when Israel is blamed for every battle with Islamic terrorists because it has the bigger guns. Rather than evaluating the nature of a conflict and the values of both sides, the pacifists score every war based on firepower.

While the left likes to indulge in stereotypes of gun-toting rednecks and bomb-brandishing generals, the only people who judge the worth of a man by his weapon are the pacifists, the gun-fearers and gun-hiders who mythologize weapons as black agents of evil.

To believe that there is no such thing as constructive violence is to reject free will. Without accepting the necessity of constructive violence, there is no good and evil, only armed men and unarmed men. Without constructive violence, two boys playing cops and robbers in the schoolyard are not acting out a childish morality play, they are becoming desensitized to murder, and without it a child with a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun is on the way to being a school shooter.

If there is no such thing as constructive violence, then the police officer is not the solution to crime, he is part of the cycle of violence. And if that cycle of violence does not begin with a man choosing to use a gun for good or evil, then it must begin with the gun. The man becomes the object and the gun becomes the subject. American ICBMs become just as bad as Russian ballistic missiles. An Israeli soldier killing a suicide bomber is just as bad as the terrorist. There are no good guys with guns. To have a gun is to be the bad guy.

For decades the gun-control lobby has brandished assault rifles at press conferences and spent more time describing their killing power than their manufacturers have. The rifle has been upgraded to the assault rifle and now, in the latest Orwellian vernacular used by the White House and the entire media pyramid beneath it, weapons of war.

The dreaded assault rifle or weapon of war or killing machine of mass death actually kills rather few Americans. The average shooter doesn’t bring an AR-15 to a Chicago gangland dispute. Despite the number of these weapons in private hands, most of the killing takes place with handguns in the same parts of the country where large amounts of illegal drugs are sold, women trafficked and stores robbed.

Shootings in America are not caused by guns, they are caused by crime. Guns really do not walk off store shelves and go on killing sprees. That’s what criminals are for. But the trouble with that discussion is that it takes us into moral territory. Talking about guns is easy, talking about souls is not. If guns don’t kill people, then we have to ask the difficult question of what does kill people.

It’s a bigger question than just Adam Lanza pulling the trigger in a classroom full of children. It is a big question that encompasses the Nazi gas chambers and the Soviet gulags, the Rape of Nanking and September 11. It is a question as big as all of human history.

Pacifists once used to be able to address such questions, but they have become obsessed with the technology of violence, rather than the spiritual origin of violence. And the technology of violence is largely beside the point. Guns do not motivate people to kill. Nor do they represent that much of a quantum increase in death.

Some of history’s worst massacres happened long before firearms became useful for more than scaring off peasants. The heavily armed Americans of the 50s had lower per capita murder rates than medieval London. It isn’t the gun that makes the killer. It’s not the hand that kills, but the mind.

The gun-free society has little interest in individuals. Its technocratic philosopher-kings want big and comprehensive solutions. Their answer to gun violence is to feed a horror of guns. Their answer to obesity is to ban sodas. Their solutions invariably miss the point by treating people like objects and objects like people.

In the Middle Ages, rats were put on trial for eating crops. Today we put guns on trial for killing people. The left has tried to reduce people to economics, to class and then race, gender and sexual orientation. It has done its best to reduce people to the sum of their parts and then to tinker with those parts and it has failed badly. The best testimony of its profound spiritual failure is that the worst pockets of gun violence are in urban areas that have been under the influence of their sociologists, urban planners, psychologists, social justice activists, community organizers and political rope-pullers for generations. And what have those areas brought forth except malaise, despair, blight and murder?

Banning guns will do as much for those areas as banning drugs did. It is not the shadow of the gun that has fallen over Chicago, but an occlusion of the spirit. Social services have had generations to save the city and they have failed because the technocracy can reach the body, but it cannot reach the soul.

The gun-control activists drew the wrong lesson from Newtown as they drew the wrong lessons from WWII and September 11. The lesson is not that weapons are bad, the lesson is that people in the grip of evil ideas are capable of unimaginable horrors regardless of the tools at their disposal. A single man can kill a classroom full of children with a gun and a few men can kill thousands with a few box cutters. It isn’t the tool that matters. It’s the man.

Unwishing the gun brings us back to the sword. Unwishing the sword brings us back to the spear. Unwishing the spear brings us back to the stone club. And what then? When every weapon that ever existed or will exist is undone, all that remains is the deadliest weapon of all. The mind of man.

The gun, the sword, the spear and the club took countless lives and saved countless lives. Civilization has always balanced on a future made possible by little boys playing cops and robbers and playing with little green army men. They can either grow up to be the protectors of the future or the frightened men who will stand aside and do nothing when they hear the screams begin to come because they have been told that all violence is evil.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

A Jewish American Veteran

Friday, August 17th, 2012

They are known as the Greatest Generation, and for good reason. As children of the Depression, they learned to make do with little, and lacked, most significantly, a sense of entitlement. As they came of age, they were called upon to serve and defend their country, and they did so magnificently, many with their very lives. They then went on to raise families and build the country into the superpower it has become – all with little noise and fanfare; continuing, through it all, to quietly do their duty.

For an example, par excellence, of this Greatest Generation, meet Harry Rosenthal.

Mr. Rosenthal served for three years in the U.S. military during World War Two as a member of the 100 Signal Company, where he repaired radios for the military. After the war, he married and settled in Brooklyn, where he raised his son, while playing an integral role in building up The Jewish Press, both as its director of advertising, as well as by bringing in many new printing jobs, essential to the paper’s financial viability. But what strikes one most upon speaking with him and his wife Rivi (long-time political cartoonist for The Jewish Press) is their humility. Refreshing in today’s age of self-promotion, there is a lot to learn from Mr. Rosenthal’s self-deprecating smile and shrug, and the strong conviction he gives over, that, far from doing anything great, he was merely doing his duty.

But, then again, having that sense of duty is the beginning of greatness.

Ita Yankovitch: How did your serving in the military during WWII come about?

Harry: Unlike many others at the time, who were drafted, I actually enlisted in the army. There was a radio repair course I was interested in taking, and in order to register for it, one had to enlist. In the end, it was actually a blessing in disguise because due to this course, I learned a specialized skill which spared me from being on enemy lines or from being drafted to G-d knows what location. I served from 1942-1945.

Can you tell us about a little about your background?

I was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to Russian parents. I attended Torah Voddath high school and then Brooklyn College. Let me tell you, it was a different world then. We were poor, of course, but it was the Depression, and everyone was poor. My father bought a house on Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg, but after a while he couldn’t afford the mortgage so he sold it and we moved into an apartment. Not only did I not have my own room; I didn’t even have my own bed! I shared one with my brother. Still, poverty didn’t stop my mother from helping out needy immigrant families. She did this so modestly that I didn’t even find out about it until her funeral, when I saw some unfamiliar faces crying, and I learned how she’d been helping them.

I sang in a boys’ choir, performing in shuls and at weddings. We got paid for the wedding performances – ten whole dollars! Actually, that was a nice amount of money in those days. Seymour Silbermintz, one of my fellow choir members, later became a name in his own right, going on to direct his own choir. Many years later, he even had my granddaughter in one of his elementary-school choirs.

What was your parents’ reaction to your enlistment?

My mother passed away before the war. My father was not too happy about it.

How did the neighborhood react to you joining the army?

People didn’t have strong opinions on the matter. Citizens today don’t respect veterans like they used to. I recall feeling, while serving, that society appreciated my duty. They didn’t let soldiers pay for anything in those days. I went to a baseball game and a Broadway show for free and I remember being charged $1 for eating at a fancy restaurant. Today there is a shift in attitude.

What was the overall Jewish reaction to you joining the war?

Many had ways to avoid being drafted. I remember one guy from yeshiva who was puzzled as to why I enlisted and asked why I don’t sit and learn to avoid serving. But I could never do that. I don’t harbor any ill feelings towards those that did and I don’t judge them, but I could never do that.

Vladimir Putin Coming to Netanya Monday

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Jewish leaders from around the world will unveil the brand-new ‘Victory Monument’ in Netanya, Israel this Monday, June 25.

The Monument design was the first-ever joint initiative between Israel and Russia to commemorate the Red Army. The newly elected President Putin will be visiting Israel specifically for the inauguration ceremony.

The Monument was funded by major Jewish philanthropists, led by Keren Hayesod – UIA, and the World Forum of Russian Jewry.

A world-class design commemorating the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany in WWII, the Monument honors the millions of Red Army soldiers who perished in the war, among them 120,000 Jews.

Alexander Levin, President of the World Forum of Russian Jewry and an American citizen, will be representing Russian-speaking Jews from North America.

“This incredible monument symbolizes the historical and ever-important role the Red Army played during WWII and its part in defeating the Nazis and their horrors. Millions of Russian Jews around the world are united at this moment in solidarity for the brave Red Army soldiers,” said Levin.

More than half a million Jewish soldiers fought with the Red Army in WWII against the Nazis – 120,000 were killed.

About two years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed the idea of the monument to President Putin on his visit to Moscow. Putin promised to come to Israel for the inauguration ceremony.

Noted Nazi Prosecutor To Speak At St. Thomas University

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Eli Rosenbaum, the longest-serving prosecutor and investigator of Nazi war criminals, will be speak on Thursday, February 16, at 10:30 a.m. at St Thomas University, George & Evelyn Goldbloom Convocation Hall, 16401 NW 37th Avenue, Miami Gardens.

Rosenbaum is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School. He served as director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which investigates and prosecutes WWII-era Nazi criminals and their Axis allies.

Rosenbaum’s published works include Betrayal: The Untold Story of the Kurt Waldheim Investigation and Cover-Up (St. Martin’s Press), which was selected for “Notable Books of 1993” by the New York Times Book Review and “Best Books of 1993” by The San Francisco Chronicle.

A World After This: A Memoir Of Loss And Redemption

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

 

 

Title: A World After This: A Memoir

Of Loss And Redemption

Author: Lola Lieber (with Alida Brill)

Publisher: Devora Publishing

 

 

   It is not often we find a Holocaust memoir where the author contributed to the saving of the saintly Bobover Rebbe, Shlomo Halberstam, met the infamous and controversial Kasztner and faced the devil Eichmann. Furthermore, she encountered gentiles that helped or contributed to her and her husband’s survival; from the Polish mayor of Niepolomice, the Nazi commander of the Bochnia ghetto, Polish expatriates in Budapest, a Hungarian janitor in Debrecen to a Hungarian doctor in Budapest.

 

   The book reads like a suspense novel, the passages are almost visual, and at times it will take your breath away. It captures Lola Lieber’s artistic eye and emotions in conveying experiences of horror, fright, hunger, suspense, relief and extreme happiness. It is not just a memoir standing there by itself; it is a picture in the woven tapestry of Jewish history.

 

   The book takes you on a spellbinding journey into the culture of Eastern European Jewry immediately before and during WWII and shows you what life was like for a couple of newlyweds, on the run just beyond the grasp of the Nazi death factories to which so many of their contemporaries were relegated.

 

   A World After This is educational. It explains the Nazis did not invent ghettos, the yellow stars were not the first invention to display one’s religion, and the killing machine was just a modern version of older and less advanced killing machines used against the Jews.

 

   To enforce the documentary and educational part, the book has maps, a glossary, and pictures of family members who died during as well as those who survived the Holocaust.

 

   But in the end this book is an ode to victory and survival of the Jewish people. Lola survived and is rebuilding the Jewish tapestry. Ultimately, it is a story about the survival of a woman who defied death to become a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and an accomplished artist and did her part in re-weaving and repairing the tapestry of Jewish history tore by the Nazis. A must read.

Seventy Years Since The German Invasion Of Poland

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

      September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

 

     Danzig, today’s Gdansk, fell on the first day trapping 5,000 Jews. In Warsaw 3,000 Jews were killed in the indiscriminate bombing. On Sept. 2, in Stutthof, near Danzig, a sub-camp was created for civilian prisoners of war (Jews).  On Sept. 3, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany upholding their treaty with Poland signed only a week earlier.

 

     The future Prime Minister of the State of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, vowed that Jews would fight to defeat the Germans and Hitler y”s. A total of 1.5 million Jewish servicemen and women would eventually fight on the side of the Allies opposing Germany. Five hundred and fifty-five thousand Jews fought in the U.S. Armed Forces, 116,000 fought for Great Britain and 243,000 from other countries. 

 

      During the first week of the invasion the Germans rolled into Krakow, Lodz, Tarnow, Radom, and Przemysl as well as many small shtetlach along the way.

 

     The reason or the invasion given by Germany was to gain Lebensraum, (living space) but the effort to eliminate the Jews was an open secret. On a train carrying German troops to Poland there were painted signs reading, “We are going to Poland to thrash the Jews.”

 

    Persecutions of the Jewish communities began immediately. During the first few weeks of the war, Chief S.S. Security Service, Reinhard Heydrich y”s, issued orders to the Einsatzgruppen to establish ghettos for the Jewish population in cooperation with the civil and military authorities. He decreed that all Jewish communities with a population of less than 500 people should be dissolved.

 

German soldiers headed to Poland

 

 

     All Jews living in rural areas had to move to the cities, where ghettos were to be established, in order to facilitate their transfer to concentration camps. Heydrich also ordered the establishment of the Judenrat (Jewish councils) that would run the everyday life in the ghettos and work with the German authorities.  The first ghetto to be established was in Piotrkow/Treblinka on Sept. 30 1939.

 

     On September 17, the Russians invaded Poland from the East and according to the August 23, 1939 Non-Aggression Act between Germany and Russia, divided Poland in half. According to the secret protocol of the Non-Aggression Act, also known as the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, the Germans retreated from some territory that they had agreed would belong to Russia, which they had already conquered.

 

     It is interesting to note that in some cases Jews tried to escape to the German controlled areas when the Russians attacked, fearing a repeat of the Cossack atrocities 20 years earlier during World War I.

 

     The Germans for their part expelled many Jews to the Russian side where they were forced into exile, often to Siberia, as possible enemies of the state.

 

     In certain areas of Poland it can be said that the Russian invasion of Poland gave Jews a chance to escape. The Jews of Galicia, which was under German occupation, saw the devastation of the Jewish communities almost immediately while those in the Russian sector had a chance to organize and find refuge.

 

     The most famous case was the escape of the Jews who received visas from the Japanese Diplomat Chiune Sugihara. Many of these Jews made their way to Japan and later to Shanghai.

Seventy Years Since The German Invasion Of Poland

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

      September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

 

     Danzig, today’s Gdansk, fell on the first day trapping 5,000 Jews. In Warsaw 3,000 Jews were killed in the indiscriminate bombing. On Sept. 2, in Stutthof, near Danzig, a sub-camp was created for civilian prisoners of war (Jews).  On Sept. 3, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany upholding their treaty with Poland signed only a week earlier.

 

     The future Prime Minister of the State of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, vowed that Jews would fight to defeat the Germans and Hitler y”s. A total of 1.5 million Jewish servicemen and women would eventually fight on the side of the Allies opposing Germany. Five hundred and fifty-five thousand Jews fought in the U.S. Armed Forces, 116,000 fought for Great Britain and 243,000 from other countries. 

 

      During the first week of the invasion the Germans rolled into Krakow, Lodz, Tarnow, Radom, and Przemysl as well as many small shtetlach along the way.

 

     The reason or the invasion given by Germany was to gain Lebensraum, (living space) but the effort to eliminate the Jews was an open secret. On a train carrying German troops to Poland there were painted signs reading, “We are going to Poland to thrash the Jews.”

 

    Persecutions of the Jewish communities began immediately. During the first few weeks of the war, Chief S.S. Security Service, Reinhard Heydrich y”s, issued orders to the Einsatzgruppen to establish ghettos for the Jewish population in cooperation with the civil and military authorities. He decreed that all Jewish communities with a population of less than 500 people should be dissolved.

 



German soldiers headed to Poland


 

 

     All Jews living in rural areas had to move to the cities, where ghettos were to be established, in order to facilitate their transfer to concentration camps. Heydrich also ordered the establishment of the Judenrat (Jewish councils) that would run the everyday life in the ghettos and work with the German authorities.  The first ghetto to be established was in Piotrkow/Treblinka on Sept. 30 1939.

 

     On September 17, the Russians invaded Poland from the East and according to the August 23, 1939 Non-Aggression Act between Germany and Russia, divided Poland in half. According to the secret protocol of the Non-Aggression Act, also known as the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, the Germans retreated from some territory that they had agreed would belong to Russia, which they had already conquered.

 

     It is interesting to note that in some cases Jews tried to escape to the German controlled areas when the Russians attacked, fearing a repeat of the Cossack atrocities 20 years earlier during World War I.

 

     The Germans for their part expelled many Jews to the Russian side where they were forced into exile, often to Siberia, as possible enemies of the state.

 

     In certain areas of Poland it can be said that the Russian invasion of Poland gave Jews a chance to escape. The Jews of Galicia, which was under German occupation, saw the devastation of the Jewish communities almost immediately while those in the Russian sector had a chance to organize and find refuge.

 

     The most famous case was the escape of the Jews who received visas from the Japanese Diplomat Chiune Sugihara. Many of these Jews made their way to Japan and later to Shanghai.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/seventy-years-since-the-german-invasion-of-poland/2009/08/26/

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