Friday, September 19, 2014

Holocaust Survivor - Are You Really Special?

Alvin Rosenfeld, in the Jewish Daily Forward (Sep 12) quotes Hans Frank, one of Hitlers top aides and the Nazi commander in Poland, as remembering his "boss" saying:  "I am an innocent lamb compared to revelations by Jews about Jews......these instincts and.....character traits. It is not I who say this, it is the Jews themselves......."

This was used as an introduction to Rosenfeld's comments on a recent NY Times advertisement by  something called the International Jewish Solidarity Network which proclaimed that Holocaust survivors condemn Israel.  "Jewish Survivors and Descendants of Survivors and Victims of Nazi Genocide Condemn the Massacre of Palestinians in Gaza," screamed the headline!

There is no question, and it is only right, that differences between Jews exist  regarding the recent Gaza War.  Jews, whether Holocaust Survivors or not, have the right to opinions.  Rosenfeld goes on to define the signers of the document as  "relative of a survivor" as cousins, friends, distant relatives, grand children and great grandchildren of refugees.  One identified herself as "a great niece of an uncle who shot himself," another as a "third cousin of Anne Frank."

It is generally agreed that the definition of  a Holocaust survivor is: any Jew who lived for any period of time in a country that was ruled by the Nazis or their allies is called a Holocaust survivor or a Nazi victim.  (There is no clear definition of who has status as a "distant relative.")

I am, by that definition, clearly a survivor - I was there from 1937-1939.  Though I was a mere babe, my parents clearly were "adult" survivors whose lives were permanently altered.  My mother never could forget or disregard the great life and rather good social position she had in her beloved community.  My father had been one of the men rounded up on Kristallnacht and sent to Dachau.  Fortunately he survived, was released, and we were able to emigrate.

My mother never called herself a "survivor." She, and my father, never felt that they had special rights to special opinions because of their deplorable and disruptive history.  To them the Holocaust was, and should always remain a personal experience, not exploited, not memorialized with museums, and certainly not to be used as a cudgel by persons who feel "special" because of their victimhood.

They would condemn the rising "Holocaust Industry" which purports to grant survivors, and apparently even the survivors' third cousins and great nieces, special rights to special opinions on special aspects of victimhood.

The Holocaust was unique in Jewish history - in world history.  It cannot be compared to any other form of repression and slaughter.  To even write words that tend to compare this unique event that has no defining adjectives that I believe appropriate, is to do a major disservice to the Jewish People and their history - to then go on and actually compare it to what is termed Palestinian genocide is an atrocity.

There are fewer and fewer real survivors and their distant relatives and friends hardly qualify as experts.  I am certainly no expert.  But these Holocaust bloviators, who feel special because of their suffering, must come to realize that their suffering, especially their suffering, was unique to them and should never be regarded as a special right or privilege.  Holocaust third cousin once removed - express your opinion, but don't feel your distant relationship to victimhood is some sort of privilege.