Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Holocaust, the Jewish Blame Game, and the Sin
of Sinat Chinam

by: Schvach Yid

Tomorrow night marks the seventieth anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night-long rampage by the Nazis against the Jews of Germany and Austria. My father and his family went through this delight of the Jew haters in Bremerhaven; my mother and her family in Vienna. All the prodromal speeches and misdeeds hadn’t sufficed to convince my immediate family members to flee their respective homes. The single act of the night of November 9, 1938, and those of the following day, November 10, 1938, had.

The members of both sides of my family were booted out of their homes on November 10th. My
paternal grandfather was taken into custody and shipped off to the concentration camp in

Baruch haShem, other family members and friends saw the ‘handwriting on the wall’ years before and had already left Germany and Austria to establish themselves in the United States.
These very same persons did what so many American Jews failed to do for their fellow Jews – they put their personal and business finances on the line by sponsoring affidavits for my family members stranded in Europe, so that they could obtain entry visas to the United States, thus sparing them from certain annihilation.

Some woke up too late but were spared nonetheless;
others never got the message at all and perished.

Seventy years later we Jews are fond of indulging in the blame game. It goes something like this: ‘the Jews of Germany are responsible for the Holocaust’.

I vehemently disagree, both as a Yeke and as a person who usually bothers to think before I speak or write.

This version of the aveira of sinat chinam is nothing new. In the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, a Jewish newspaper ran two articles, each in a separate edition, in which the respective authors stated their cases in support of this accusation, that the Jews of Germany did nothing to stop our genocide.

During this past Yom Kippur, as we congregants milled about for two hours between the end of Mussaf and the start of Mincha, I had the utter displeasure of hearing an Israeli ‘pontificate’ about almost every subject imaginable (actually, he was fishing for the right ‘button’, like a child who pushes every button in an elevator) – two hours worth, non-stop, including his assertion that ‘German Jews are more German than the Germans’. His logic was faulty, to say the least. German Jews could not be more German than the Germans; German Jews are German. The Nazis drew the same distinction as did he, and to top it off, that little Israeli sent his son to the University of Tübingen to attend college. Smart!

I’ve heard it too many times, and irrate doesn’t rate as an adequate description of my reaction, so I’ll state the matter plainly: the Jews of Germany are not responsible for the Holocaust!

Once upon a time I had an acquaintance, my senior by only a few years, who was born in a displaced persons camp in Austria, circa 1946, to Polish concentration camp survivors. He was one of several individuals who pointedly informed me of their subscription to this diatribe against the Jews of Germany. Today, he languishes (I’ve been told) in an assisted living facility, physically limited by the progression of multiple sclerosis.

Forgive me rabbis, far and wide, but in my opinion the Aybischter is certain to punish us for committing the sin of sinat chinam.

It serves no purpose whatsoever, this pastime of blame, not to mention the fact that it is factually wrong. The Jews of Germany were that Austrian madman’s first victims, not his sponsors. Blame is a call to accountability; victims are not accountable for their victimization.

Once upon a time I was invited to lunch on Shabbos following schul. The parents of the young lady of the house were in attendance. My invitation had been ‘arranged’ by one of the rabbis of the schul (Chabad). We sat down at the ‘tisch’, recited brochas, and ‘fressed’.

The time arrived to tell stories. ‘So, what’s your story?’ ‘Where’s your family from?’

I responded, ‘Oh, my father’s from Germany; my mother’s from Austria’.

A storm brewed on the face of the mother. ‘What happened to your parents during the war?’

‘Oh’, I responded, ‘they got out’.

Wham! The mother hostess now had me locked into her sights. A mudslide of accusation ensued in a panicked, machine gun-like cadence.
‘How did they get out?’
‘They must have had Capitol visas’.
‘How did they get the money for that?’
‘They must have been rich’.

As it turned out, both she (who was German) and her husband (who was Polish) had been ‘gathered’ and sent to concentration camps. She was aghast that my parents, grandparents, and other members of my family had managed to ‘get out’. Her husband, who had had a stroke, sat speechless but nonetheless seethed at me.

(One of my Biochemistry professors in graduate school, a concentration camp survivor from Poland, expressed a similar sentiment to me when he demanded to know ‘what business did your parents have getting out when I had to go though that’. He had a Ph.D in Biochemistry, not a doctorate in decency.)

I have to brag, I was cool in my response at that Shabbos meal. I simply stated that my family had had friends and family in the States who were sufficiently concerned and generous to provide the necessary papers required for immigration.

More expressions of indignation followed.

It obviously never occurred to these two to express a positive sentiment, something like ‘thank G-d your family didn’t suffer like we and so many others did’. This sort of kind thought evidently escaped their thinking, nor did they notice my refrain from rebutting with an accusation equal to their animus, something like ‘how did the two of you manage to survive when so many millions of others perished in the camps?’ Accusation is easy, after all, but the Aybischter hears, sees, and knows all, so watch it!

Some things are self-evident jadies and jents, and I do know when to keep my mouth shut (even though I’m freer with a keyboard).

By the way, the mother of my hostess worked as a nurse – you know, that profession of caring and kindness. I know all about nurses and Nursing - I used to work as a nurse.

And so, in response to the Jewish blame game artists, I can only respond with this – shut up you idiots! You’re not so smart after all, and sinat chinam is a sin – it’s in the machzor for Yom Kippur: ‘…v’al chet shechatanu lefanecha b’sinat chinam…’

The anniversary of Kristallnacht is a day of personal mourning for me and my family. My family went through it. They had been betrayed by their countrymen. That night, and all that followed for the next seven years or so, not only defines me, but in a most paradoxical way is responsible for my very existence, for without that era’s Jew hatred my family would have never fled Europe and come to America, my parents presumably would have never met, and I therefore would have never come into existence.

And no, I feel neither guilt nor remorse. No one has paid for my life with his own, and no, the Jews of Germany did not ‘abandon their brethren to the ovens of Auschwitz’ as one self-indulgent and intellectually gifted dolt once wrote (‘gift’, by the way, is the German word for poison).

Whoever coined the notion that ‘we are alone in the world’ got it right.

Knock it off already you banal shit heads!!!

Shavua tov!


Batya said...

Horrendous, no, not your post, the way people speak.
My family, (grandparents,) left eastern Europe in the early 20th Century. I never even heard of the Holocaust until the Anna Frank diary came out and then the Eichman trial. I had no idea that there's so much nastiness among the survivors.

Schvach said...

Thanks for commenting. Regrettably,
there's lots of nastiness in the things people say.

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