Archives for category: Holocaust Denial
PolishWeddingChairs1939

Red wedding chairs in a forest in Poland, circa 1939.

UPDATED AT THE END…

If a tree grows through a red chair in the forest, is it real?

This photo made the rounds on Facebook recently and I’m inexorably haunted by it.

The accompanying text read:

These chairs were laid out for a wedding in 1939 in Poland. The wedding was abandoned, and so were the chairs due to the German invasion. They were found again after the war with the trees growing through them. Every year they are repainted.

My initial response was OMG (fitting for Facebook, I know). I can’t stop looking at this picture. The lush green grass sprouting at the base of the spindly tree trunks. The vivid red paint on the chairs that reveals some of the wood grain beneath. This image is bold. It feels stylized. Could it be that it was Photoshopped?

I’m trying to figure out how all the trees rose so perfectly through the space in the chair-backs without breaking any of the chairs in the process. Maybe that’s the part that’s stylized; the folks who come and paint them every year (meanwhile, who are they?) fixed the broken ones and manipulated them to create this perfect alignment.

In a reverse-image search on Google the only results I got were from Pinterest. Strange. And I came up empty at Snopes, the hoax-busting website. Does anyone reading this know the origin of this photo and/or the accompanying story behind it? I’m mostly looking for verification and if it is indeed real, I’d like to know more details. It’s lovely and eerie and I can’t take my eyes off it.

Baffled, intrigued, and impatiently waiting for answers. Got any?

UPDATED at 4pm on July 15, 2015

So that was fast. Not sure where the Holocaust tale came from, but this is actually a picture of an art exhibition. From 2001! It’s called “The Four Seasons of Vivaldi” and it was created by a French artist named Patrick Demazeau. The photo was taken in a forest in the province of Namur, Belgium. Here’s the link.

 

 

 

 

 

Rich Cohen, perhaps best known for his book Tough Jews, just wrote the most crystal-clear explanation of the current state of American Jews on Tablet. He answered things I didn’t even know I was wondering about. Here are some of Cohen’s main points, via quotes taken directly from his essay:

Our seven-decade bubble
“The unimaginable evil of the Holocaust seemed to kill anti-Semitism, even the polite country-club variety that shows up in the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. After the war, Hemingway disavowed Jewish jokes, which, he seemed to realize, were connected, in some way, to what happened. It created a bubble, a zone of safety not only for Jews but for other minorities. It’s no coincidence that the civil right movements came in the wake of WWII. Anti-Semitism still existed of course, but, in America, it became socially unacceptable. It retreated to the bedrooms and parlors, where it was expressed in the way of certain mystery religions, in secret, behind closed doors, so quietly you might think it had vanished.

“This is my childhood, the world where I grew up. The horror of the Holocaust purchased us a 70-year vacation from history, though we didn’t know it. We believed the world had changed, as had human nature. Jews remained distinct in the new dispensation, but in a good way—a near-at-hand exotic, a symbol of exile, which we were told was the natural state of modern man. For perhaps the only time in history, you might actually want to be a Jew. Because of the close families and good husbands and yada yada. Saul Bellow, Phillip Roth, Mel Brooks. To those of us who came of age in these years, the future seemed like it would be more of the same, the present carried on forever.

Jews can no longer pass
“It’s as if Jews are bell-bottoms or fringed coats. Once upon a time, we’d been in fashion, but not anymore. What you have now is a return to the green-screen hatred, which, like malaria, spikes and remits but never goes away.”

What changed?
“Well, for starters, there are just fewer of us in proportion to the whole. Whereas Jews once constituted five percent of America, and as much as forty percent of New York, those numbers have shrunk. We’re perhaps thirteen percent of New York and around two percent of the nation. In this sense, American Jews are living with the results of their success. This is indeed the promised land. It’s where Jews fulfilled the dream which, for many, has been to stop being Jews and become part of the imagined whole.  Like the caboose of a train, we’re getting smaller as we go away.”

What else?
“Which brings up the second point—the Holocaust, which is one reason there are so few Jews. We lost almost half our population not long ago. “Never Forget” is one of the admonitions we heard in Sunday School. But people do forget. Everything, all the time. As the events exit living memory, as the people who survived it as well as those who liberated the camps, die, tragedy shifts from memory to history. As memory fades, the old thing returns, filling the subterranean cisterns.”

The all too common conflation of Israel with Judaism
“Some attribute the hatred to the policies of Israel. (“Bibi is to blame.”) But this confuses cause and effect. Israel is not the source of anti-Semitism, but a result. Before the Holocaust, it was said that the Jews in their statelessness were the cause of wars and disturbance, the burr under the saddle of mankind, the ghost in the machinery of statecraft. After the Holocaust, it’s said that Israel, the Jewish State, is the burr under that saddle. Though the condition has changed—no state v. state—the conclusion remains the same: It’s the Jews. To me, this is the world settling back into the Jew-loving and Jew-hating equilibrium that was unsettled, for a time, by the Shoah. After, all, the dream of the early Zionists was neither to be hated, nor loved—it was to be normal, treated as individuals, like everyone else.”

(This is Julie speaking now, up until here it was all quotes from Rich Cohen’s piece)
Although this is not wonderful news, it brings me some relief. I realize that I’ve been trying to make sense of what’s going on, why there’s been such a surge of anti-Semitic acts of late, and this helps me understand it better in a historical context. It’s not that the last seven decades have been idyllic, but they have certainly been a reprieve from what came before. If it indeed represents just a lull in the hatred and vitriol, we have our work cut out for us. We will not be silenced.

*This is Cohen’s phrase; I just used it for my headline because it was a perfect encapsulation.

Chamber Door courtesy of USHMM

A door to a “de-lousing” chamber in Auschwitz. Sign says: Harmful gas! Entering endangers your life. Photo: Courtesy of USHMM

 

Imagine this: Your 14-year-old son says his history teacher told him that the gas chambers in the Nazi concentration camps weren’t intended to kill Jews.

Really? What were they for then?

Per The News-Gazette in Champaign, Illinois, the town where this incident occurred, the teacher (who has not been publicly identified) said, “These concentration camps were horrific places due to cruelty from the guards, little to no food, as well as extreme overcrowding that led to the rapid transmission of deadly diseases in those conditions, such as typhus.”

He explained that this is based on his own research of the subject. What are your sources Mr. Teacher? Are they fact-based and reputable? Well, here’s a fact: The gas that came out of the showers killed lice, for sure, but it also killed the host, the HUMAN BEINGS that carried the lice. What you read is propaganda, that the ‘showers’ were to clean the prisoners, when in reality, they were to extinguish them, to choke the life out of them, to MURDER them. These are facts, witnessed by people who are still alive (!) and archived in legal documents around the world.

I don’t know what is going to happen to this teacher, and I don’t need to know his name or anything about him. Going forward, I just want him to share historical facts, not propaganda.

cynthia voelkl John Dixon The News-Gazette

Cynthia Voelkl. Photo: John Dixon/The News-Gazette

 

Thank you for saying something, Cynthia Voelkl. It’s easy to spout outrage, but to actually do something and attempt to effect change, well, that’s to be commended.

I think she sums it up best with this line: “I know it’s a complicated issue, especially with laws about free speech, but I don’t think historical facts are a matter of opinion.”

 

Screen shot 2013-06-05 at 10.36.55 AM

As a Brooklyn-dwelling former spelling bee champ (4th and 5th grades, thank you very much), I was delighted to learn that the winning word at this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee was knaidel and it was spelled by a New York City kid who’d never eaten a matzoh ball in his life. He is the child of immigrants from southern India.

But as many who have cared to follow have since seen, the Yiddish-intelligentsia are up in arms over what they deem an incorrect spelling.

Oy vey!

At first I thought they were overreacting. But then I read this cogent essay in today’s New York Times and now see this is a much deeper issue that has its roots in anti-Semitism. According to Jewish scholar and professor Dara Horn (bold text mine),

 The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which created the standard Yiddish transliteration now used in libraries around the world, holds that the correct spelling is ‘kneydl.’

Yiddish is a thousand years old, but YIVO, founded in 1925 in what is now Vilnius in Lithuania, finished standardizing the spelling of Yiddish words in the Hebrew alphabet only in 1937. YIVO (an acronym for the Yiddish Scientific Institute) was created by scholars who saw Judaism as a nationality based on language, not religion — and who insisted, amid rising anti-Semitism, that the Yiddish language was as rich as any other. For Yiddish to matter, spelling had to count — which is why this orthographic debate is far more fraught than it appears.

…In 19th-century Europe, religious writers spelled Yiddish words by imitating Hebrew, using vowel markings where none were necessary so their new writing would resemble ancient Hebrew texts. Meanwhile, Jews who wanted to assimilate into European life wrote in a Yiddish spelling that openly imitated German.

…[In the early Soviet Union] government control over Yiddish schools and presses led to the invention and enforcement of a literally anti-Semitic Yiddish orthography by spelling the language’s many Semitic-origin words phonetically instead of in Hebrew. (Imagine spelling “naïve” as “nigh-eve” in order to look less French.) It was an attempt to erase Jewish culture’s biblical roots, letter by letter.

These psychologically destructive spellings — implying, as they all did in various ways, that Jewish culture didn’t belong in Europe — were what YIVO was fighting against.

…By 1945 the Nazis had killed the majority of the world’s Yiddish speakers. YIVO itself survived only through the efforts of Jewish prisoners, including celebrated poets who were forced by the Germans to loot YIVO’s archives for a Nazi-created “Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question.” Members of this “paper brigade” risked their lives to smuggle out cultural treasures, including documents that scholars had painstakingly collected to record and standardize Yiddish spelling.”

As Ms. Horn tweeted, “My piece on #yiddish spelling [w]as a matter of life and death,” and although perhaps a bit overstated, I somewhat agree. What do you think?

This 13-second commercial for a Turkish shampoo brand shows black and white footage of Hitler giving  an impassioned speech with words dubbed over that translate to something like, “If you don’t wear a woman’s dress, don’t use women’s shampoo. Now there’s a 100% men’s shampoo, Biomen. If you’re a man, you use Biomen.”

Hitler as the ultimate macho icon? I don’t think so.

I appreciated New York Magazine’s riff:

The ad is probably the work of a bonehead in Turkey who wanted to test whether all publicity is good publicity. That, or the company is angling for the niche market of young men who heed hygiene instructions from maniacs who led mass genocides.”

Alternate headline for this post: I’m Gonna Wash That Herr Right Outta My Hair

David Draiman, lead singer of Disturbed

Rich Cohen is going to have to add this guy to his list of Tough Jews.

No, he’s not a 1930s Jewish gangster, he’s 21st century rock star David Draiman, the gravel-voiced lead singer of popular heavy-metal band Disturbed. And he comes by his musical talent honestly:

The person that they say I get my voice from was my great-grandfather who was the head cantor of the Gerrer Hasidische bes medresh in Jerusalem. I basically spent 17 years studying the Talmud and the Tanach, and Judaism in general, and was probably about, I would say, two or three years away from smicha, from being ordained.”

A piece in The Jerusalem Post last year describes him as, “one of the few high-profile hard rock singers who are defiantly Jewish – imagine a young Ozzy Osbourne as the spokesman for the Jewish Defense League.”

When asked how he deals with the inevitable skinhead fans of Disturbed, he replies,

I’m incredibly defiant against neo-Nazis and skinheads…I’ve always been very proud of my heritage and where I come from, and I’ve defended it to the extent of being bloodied on many occasions. In fact, most of the fights I’ve [had] in my life – and there have been many – have been because I was defending my family or my faith. And I don’t apologize for it.”

All I can say is this guy is one bad-ass Jew. Glad he’s on my side.

Let me leave you with this little gem from his podcast with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum:

I think I do enough good as an individual in terms of setting tens of thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people free and making them feel stronger than they did when they came in the building, on a relatively nightly basis. So, there you go. That’s God’s work.”