Charlottesville Has Made the Past Present For Jews

collage child in 1940s dp camp and swastika anti Trump 45

How does a Holocaust survivor, a little boy who lost his family, now 70 years later and a proud American citizen endure listening his own President talk about the “good people” at the torch lit Nazi parade?

Past has become present in the most horrifying way.

When I see the Nazi flag that symbol of the Third Reich being waved proudly through the streets of Charlottesville, all I can see is a little Polish boy, homeless, hungry and cold living in a crowded Displaced Persons camp in postwar Germany, lingering for four years in search of refuge.

When I hear  those  angry neo Nazis chanting  hate filled slogans like “Jews will not replace us” on American soil,  I see the same  little boy who would never know what it was like to grow up with a grandfather, a grandmother,  uncles or aunts.

Hitler saw to that.

Nazi flags flapped and Seig Heils offered along in Charlottesville eerily reminiscent of Nazi Germany L) Image via Andy Campbell Twitter R) Nazi Germany

Because his family were among the millions of unarmed Jewish civilians men women and children brutally slaughtered by the Nazis in the towns of Eastern Europe. Those swastika wearing forebearers are the inspiration to today’s hate filled Americans offering Sieg Heils on the streets of an American town.

Now 70 years later, that same little boy who would eventually grow up to be an American citizen, has had to tragically hear his own President talk about the “good people” at the torch lit Nazi parade.

Past Is Present

In some ways the past is always present in the little boy who lives within this man. With wounds too deep to ever heal, the decades old walls built to cover pain too hard to feel and block out what is too hard to remember, remain impenetrable. Along with parts of himself, the trauma lives buried, its toxic damage leaching out over 70 years, affecting generations.

I know this because, this little boy  born without a home and without an extended family would one day grow up to be my all American husband.

Though not my own history the damage from his decades old tragedy becomes part of mine.

Now as I observe this man as he watches the horror of what has been unleashed in our country, I see the little boy confronted by that noxious symbol of hate once again, and the trauma that has long been buried, gets stirred up. The look is of pain but so deep he is unable to speak of it.

Today I will be his voice.

And it is loud, it is outraged, and it is frightened.

Never Again

vintage family back yard suburbs and Holocaust victims

The horrors of the Holocaust seemed as far removed from my own safe, postwar suburban life as I could imagine.

I always felt fortunate to have been born when I was.

Born a full decade after the end WWII which in a child’s mind is an eternity, the Nazi atrocities of Auschwitz and Treblinka and Belzec seemed ancient history. Storm Troopers in their black boots and their angry red flags emblazoned with swastikas became harmless villains easily beaten in movies, comics and television. America’s story of triumph of good over evil was the lessons of WWII. We had been victorious in our fight against Hitler resulting in the ultimate defeat of the ultimate evil.

How glad I was to be a Jew in America safe and immune from that kind of hate.

The unthinkable atrocities in Europe could never happen in our democracy we were told.

Kristallnacht, the Night of broken Glass,  that most horrific night in November where the Nazis destroyed hundreds of synagogues, vandalized Jewish businesses, schools and hospitals, demolished buildings with sledgehammers, attacked Jews in their homes and  killed hundreds in a solitary night in 1938 seemed as far removed from my own safe, postwar suburban life as I could imagine.

Of course through the years, a reviled swastika scrawled on a wall or an ugly anti-Semitic rant might rear its ugly head causing a queasy uneasy feeling to wash over me, but I could be confident that the perpetrators of this hateful act were swiftly and firmly denounced.

Unthinkable

Holocaust survivors in a Displaced persons Camp

Holocaust survivors in a Displaced Persons Camp

The European Jewish story was history, an unthinkable tragedy important to remember, but unimaginable  here.

But now the unthinkable is entering American Jews thoughts.

I no longer feel protected in my own country least of all by our president with his appalling lack of leadership and empathy. The hatred, bigotry and violence in Charlottesville came from “many sides” our President insisted, but the fact is only one side was carrying swastika flags, the flag of Nazi Germany.

It is unthinkable that the President of the United States,  the leader of a country that over 70 years ago sacrificed hundreds and thousands of the greatest generation to ensure the demise of that same evil,  not vigorously  condemn Americans who marched under the flag of the Third Reich. How can he possibly claim to represent America,  its’ values and its’ citizens?

No, Mr. Trump you do not represent me.

 

Copyright (©) 2017 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

 

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11 comments

  1. Laura C.

    I can understand how you are feeling, Sally. Before, I would look at these hateful groups and people with a mixture of disgust and pity – but not fear, because I felt secure that they would swiftly be denounced and shut down, pushed back into their little caves where they belong. Not anymore.

    Viewing Trump’s press conference two days ago made me feel physically sick. It is clear he is trying to couch his hatred and prejudice in what he thinks is ambivalence. But there is no room for ambivalence here. Why couldn’t he clearly condemn the neo-Nazis AS WELL as condemn the violence from both sides? Because he doesn’t want to, that’s why. Had he spoken these words from a street corner, he could be ignored. But from that podium with the presidential seal, he has impact. I haven’t felt so ill since I found out he was elected.

    Then your post reached my inbox, and as always, I clicked. The photo at the beginning of the young boy beside the Nazi symbol brought me to tears. I will never understand how one human being can justify such cruelty against other human beings.

    Thank you for using your voice, Sally. I think it is important for people like us to band together in times like these.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. It’s sickening to see this happening. More sickening still to the the President and his supporters playing the ‘both sides’ game in response to it, normalizing racism.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Pierre Lagacé

    Unthinkable Sally…

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thank you for sharing your voice Laura. I too had a visceral reaction listening to his press conference and it has resonated and horrified many. Unlike so many issues where there are shades of grey, this was as clear as black and white. “Fine people” and white supremacists are just not compatible. A true oxymoron, spoken by I guess a true moron. He has disgraced the office of the presidency, and is disgracing our nation.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. It is unfortunate that the great Elie Wiesel is no longer with us. His voice would be ringing out loud and clear against this insanity we have in a President. Why did it take three days for the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, to tweet his outrage. It is a sacrilege that the swastika can be raised in an American city. And yet Rush Limbaugh and Herman Cain and their like praise Trump for speaking out against those who stood up against this evil. How sad it is. How very sad.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Nor me. I am ashamed of where this country has been brought down to by that person in the White House and by the indifference (or lack of resolve) of a Congress that has all the power it needs to remove this un-American SOB from office before he destroys everything we aspire to and proclaim we believe in as Americans.

    And, yes, that includes people of all backgrounds, orientations, and hues, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Native Americans, even those, unfortunately, who would would exclude everyone but Caucasians of a certain mindset.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. If I may Sally, I want to share one of the most powerful scenes from an Emmy & Golden Globe award-winning docu-drama mini-series.

    Stephen Ambrose, the actors and Director David Frankel of Episode 9: Why We Fight in the HBO mini-series “Band of Brothers”… which is based completely on firsthand testimonies of E-Company of the 506th regiment of the 101st Airborne in Nazi Germany… tells best the REAL true story of what it means to be a blue-blooded American, whether in combat or at home peacefully protesting:

    Let me reiterate please…

    The one true reason we fight as decent, civilized human beings and nations is to protect the intrinsic rights of ALL HUMANS — young, old, tall, short, light-skinned, dark-skinned, athiest or theist, rich or poor, educated or naive, and most importantly peacefully tolerant of others that may be different — and protect against those who would threaten and destroy those basic human rights for all. Period. THAT is “why we fight” if all other civil means fail.

    Our current President has NO F**KING CLUE about historical facts nor what it means to be part of the human family.

    A painfully poignant post Sally that needs to be broadcasted frequently. Thank you. ❤

    Like

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