ANNIVERSARIES OF WWI ARMISTICE AND KRISTALLNACHT ARE PROFOUND MOMENTS OF HISTORICAL REFLECTION

The Connection Between WWI Armistice and WWII Kristallnacht: Ben Cohen, JNS, Oct. 19, 2018— Two grimly sobering anniversaries fall in November.

This November 11th, Remember Canada’s Heroic 100 Days: J.L. Granatstein, National Post, Nov. 8, 2018 — Most Canadians know something of the battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917.

A Kristallnacht Lesson: Mordecai Paldiel, Times of Israel, Nov. 8, 2018— As we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the carnage known historically as Kristallnacht, orchestrated by the Nazi regime, we are faced with another horrendous attack on innocent Jews, this time by a lone psychotic anti-Semite targeting Jews at prayer in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

What Americans Must Do After Pittsburgh to Thwart Antisemitism: Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein, Algemeiner, Nov. 6, 2018 — “Some people don’t like other people just because they’re Jews,” declared a main character in the 1947 Oscar-winning American classic, “A Gentleman’s Agreement.”

On Topic Links

The Courage and Folly of a War That Left Indelible Scars: Alan Cowell, New York Times, Nov. 9, 2018

80 Years After Nazi ‘Kristallnacht’ Pogrom, One Jewish Girl’s Holocaust Diary Sounds Warning Against Revival of Antisemitism: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, Nov. 6, 2018

Why I Don’t Want an Apology for the St. Louis: Sally Zerker, CJN, Oct. 10, 2017

Trudeau Warns Against Modern Anti-Semitism in Apology for Turning Away Jewish Refugees Fleeing Nazis: Steven Chase, Globe & Mail, Nov. 7, 2018

 

                             THE CONNECTION BETWEEN WWI ARMISTICE

                                                 AND WWII KRISTALLNACHT                                                                                            Ben Cohen

                                                            JNS, Oct. 19, 2018

Two grimly sobering anniversaries fall in November. On the 9th and 10th, we will mark the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht—the orgy of murder and violence that devastated Jewish communities across Nazi Germany in 1938. The following day, Nov. 11, we will mark the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I—the most devastating military conflict the world had so far experienced.

These two events, occurring exactly 20 years apart, were intimately connected. Some historians argue that the 20th century really began with World War I, which buried the geriatric Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, and set the stage for the modern totalitarian systems of communism and fascism—directly paving the way for the rise in Germany of National Socialism and its unprecedented war on the Jews.

In all senses one can think of, there was a dramatic transformation in the position of Europe’s Jews between the end of the “Great War,” as it was dubbed, and the Nazi Holocaust that consumed nearly two-thirds of their number. For one thing, the record of Jewish military service in the war rather gruesomely demonstrated that Jews were also loyal, grateful citizens of the countries in which they lived. Given that French-Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus had been convicted of treason in an anti-Semitic show trial only two decades earlier, that record was even more striking.

More than 50,000 Jews fought on the British and Commonwealth side, 100,000 with the Germans and 300,000 with Austria-Hungary—many thousands of whom lost their lives in the process. From outside Europe, more than 200,000 Jews were among the approximately 5 million American service personnel in 1917, when the United States joined the Allied side.

When it came to Jewish civilians, the toll in the eastern half of Europe was particularly brutal, with hundreds of thousands of Jews deported to the Russian interior or murdered in bloody pogroms. Those ravages led several thousand Jews to join the ranks of the Bolshevik Revolution and even serve in its senior posts, but by the mid-1920s, the ruling Communist Party was no longer a polyglot underground organization. It was, in dramatic contrast, a ruling bureaucracy undergoing a profound process of “Russification.”

The experience of World War I left some Jewish communities feeling more integrated and secure, while others were exposed as highly vulnerable, or even decimated out of existence. It also made realistic the proposal of a national home for the Jewish people, an end-goal the British government regarded “with favor” in its Balfour Declaration of 1917. On Nov. 11, 1918, then, the world’s Jews could spy the promise of redemption on all the political paths—liberal-assimilationist, revolutionary, Zionist—that were available to them. Hardly any of them believed that mass extermination was awaiting them within a generation. To have even suggested such a thing to one of the 7,000 Jews decorated by Germany for their war service would probably have been insulting.

But as the polarizing settlement that ended World War I finally crumbled with Hitler’s launching of World War II, the old libels against the Jews—that they were tribally disloyal, that they profited from war both economically and in terms of political influence—returned with a vengeance. The British writer George Orwell noted the reluctance of his own government to combat such slanders. “To publicize the exploits of Jewish soldiers, or even to admit the existence of a considerable Jewish army in the Middle East, rouses hostility in South Africa, the Arab countries and elsewhere,” he wrote during World War II. “It is easier to ignore the whole subject and allow the man in the street to go on thinking that Jews are exceptionally clever at dodging military service.”

But the British were far from alone in falling for the myth that Jews are at their most disloyal in times, like wartime, when everyone else is at their most loyal. That trope was among the many anti-Semitic fabrications of the Nazis, whose dehumanizing propaganda campaigns and notorious racial laws discriminating against Jews exploded in the violence of Kristallnacht. More than 100 Jews were murdered on the streets of Germany during those hours of fire and broken glass, while 30,000 more were deported to camps whose names—Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, Dachau—are now indelibly associated with the Holocaust.

These are the basic facts that the forthcoming commemorations of these two events will reflect. For Jews, these are occasions for profound historical reflection, in a year that has already witnessed the seventieth anniversary of the State of Israel’s creation. Both anniversaries are occasions to ponder how the crooked road of Jewish emancipation, whose benefits these days still far outweigh the persistence of anti-Semitism, felt for those who came before us.                              Contents    

THIS NOVEMBER 11TH, REMEMBER CANADA’S HEROIC 100 DAYS                                                J.L. Granatstein

National Post, Nov. 8, 2018

Most Canadians know something of the battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. The victory there saw the Canadian Corps take a key enemy position, and the great Canadian memorial atop the ridge has been the scene of national commemorations and countless individual pilgrimages. Fewer Canadians know about Ypres in April 1915 when the raw soldiers of the Canadian Division fought through the first dreadful German gas attack. And even fewer know about the battle of Passchendaele in the autumn of 1917 when the Canadian Corps struggled through a morass of mud and suffered some 16,000 casualties to take a worthless rise of land in the flat Flanders fields.

But almost no Canadians know anything about the Hundred Days of 1918 when the Canadian Corps, led by Lt.-Gen. Sir Arthur Currie, fought the most significant battles in Canadian military history. From Aug. 8 to the signing of the Armistice on Nov. 11, the 100,000 men of the four Canadian infantry divisions defeated one-quarter of the German army on the Western Front in a great succession of terrible struggles.

Beginning at Amiens, France, the Canadians, Australians, British and French smashed through the German lines, gaining up to 14 kilometres on the first day. The Canadians, the “shock troops of the British Army,” as historian Shane Schreiber dubbed them, had been moved some 60 kilometres in secrecy to the Amiens front, each soldier ordered to “Keep Your Mouth Shut!” Then with tanks, artillery, aircraft and infantry working together in a near-perfect combined arms attack that featured both disinformation and surprise, the Canadians attacked. “Within 10 minutes of the start,” Gunner Bertie Cox remembered in an extraordinary account of the attack on Aug. 8, “the tanks, by the hundreds, and the cavalry, by the thousands, were passing our guns. It made an awful pretty picture to see the tanks and cavalry looming up in the mist, over the crest, just about dawn. The field guns began to pass at a gallop too, not to mention the infantry by the hundreds of thousands. By 5 a.m., the prisoners began to go by and this procession continued all day. … We spent a considerable part of the day checking them over, getting souvenirs. … They nearly cleaned us out of cigarettes and emptied our water bottles.” It was, declared another soldier, “the best executed and best picked out plan that was ever pulled off.” True enough. It was also what German strategist Gen. Erich Ludendorff called “the black day of the German Army in the war.”

Three weeks later at the end of August and the beginning of September, the Canadians, having moved north, fought their way through the Drocourt-Quéant Line near Arras, driving ahead through machine-gun bunkers and heavily defended strongpoints. The fighting was brutal and terribly costly to both sides, but the men of the Corps broke the enemy line.

Then at the end of September, Gen. Currie’s men fought their tactical masterpiece and crossed the Canal du Nord. Currie had sent two divisions across a dry portion of the canal, then fanning them out to roll up the enemy positions. The Corps’ engineers threw up bridges across the canal under fire, and tanks, guns and more infantry went across. The fighting over the next week was especially difficult for the weary Canadians. “Never have I felt so depressed as I felt after that battle,” young brigade commander J.A. Clark recalled. “It seemed impossible to break the morale and fighting spirit of the German troops. We felt that this Boche could not be beaten,” he continued, “certainly not in 1918. He fought magnificently and in a most determined fashion. He discouraged a great many soldiers in the Corps.” The enemy was broken but far from beaten, and the infantry battalions in Clark’s brigade had been shattered in the fighting in front of Cambrai.

Still, in what Gen. Currie called the Corps’ hardest fighting of the war, the Canadians pressed the Germans back to Cambrai, their major transportation and supply hub in northern France. On Oct. 9 and 10, they seized the city, dousing the fires the retreating enemy had set. There was one last set piece battle at Valenciennes, close to the French-Belgian border, where a single Canadian brigade attacked Mont Houy under the heaviest Canadian artillery barrage of the war and routed the German defenders. The pursuit then began, the enemy fleeing eastward, leaving behind only machine-gun teams to slow the chase. On Nov. 10, the Canadians were at Mons, Belgium, the symbolic town where the British Expeditionary Force had first faced the invading Germans in August 1914 and had been forced to retreat. The Canadians liberated Mons just as the Armistice brought the Great War to a close.

In truth, the Armistice was really a German surrender. There was no “stab in the back” as Adolf Hitler and others in Germany would proclaim. The German army had been defeated on the field of battle by the Allies, and the Canadian Corps had played a distinguished, costly role in the victory. The Hundred Days cost Canada some 15,000 dead and 30,000 wounded, almost one fifth of the 240,000 Canadian casualties suffered in four years of war. And yet, somehow no one in Canada today seems to know of the Hundred Days, its great and important victories all but forgotten…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                                                    Contents

   

A KRISTALLNACHT LESSON

Mordecai Paldiel

Times of Israel, Nov. 8, 2018

As we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the carnage known historically as Kristallnacht, orchestrated by the Nazi regime, we are faced with another horrendous attack on innocent Jews, this time by a lone psychotic anti-Semite targeting Jews at prayer in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Let us reflect on the significance of this large, government-staged pogrom on November 9-10, 1938 targeting the Jewish population across Germany, including the annexed regions of Austria and the Czech Sudetenland. Jewish homes and businesses were vandalized, 270 synagogues destroyed, close to 100 persons killed, and 30,000 Jewish men carted off to concentration camps. In the context of the atrocities committed during the height of the Holocaust, these figures may be appalling, but, perhaps not shocking. Taking a step back, it is important to acknowledge that this did not take place with the backdrop of the Holocaust, but rather in the midst of civilized and still at peace Europe. If anyone, up to then, had doubts as to how far the Nazi regime would go to force all Jews out of the country by the use of acts of terror, the violent physical attacks of Kristallnacht left no one further in doubt about the intentions of Hitler and his henchmen. It also left no doubts about the anemic pushback from the international community.

Kristallnacht can be seen not just as a horrid day in history that foreshadowed the attitudes and events of the Holocaust, but also as a testing of limits to observe both if and how the international community would take action. Sadly, the response of the Western democratic nations to this flagrant challenge to the very foundations of humanity was not forthcoming. The Evian Conference, held July 1938 convening 32 nations, was unable to form a unified response to accommodate Jewish refugees fleeing persecution, and signaled to the Nazis that the world’s countries were sympathetic, but not prepared to open their own doors to Jews.

Months after Kristallnacht, several events only heightened this conviction in the mind of Hitler. In May 1939, the St. Louis boat with a cargo of more than 900 Jews confirmed for emigration to the United States was denied landing off the coast of Florida. The boat was forced to return its human cargo to the shores of Europe; many of these passengers were later engulfed in the Holocaust. That same year, following the Kindertransport example of England, Senator Robert F. Wagner of New York and Representative Edith Rogers of Massachusetts failed to have Congress approve a bill to allow 20,000 Jewish children from Germany access to the United States. Even with the assurance that the Jewish community would be solely responsible for bearing the cost of hosting and caring for the children, the US government refused to intervene. That same year, US Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, proposed allowing Jewish refugees into Alaska to help develop the natural resources of that territory, adding that it would not impinge US immigration laws, since these laws would not apply to the non-State Alaska. It would be both a humanitarian gesture as well as a boost to the economy of Alaska. It was rejected by the President.

All these aforementioned steps of refusal to save even a limited number of Jews were signals interpreted by the Nazi regime that, in spite of words of protest, the nations of the world were not invested in the welfare of Jews. For the Nazis it meant only one thing: that they could escalate their anti-Jewish measures beyond the large-scale pogrom of Kristallnacht to mass murder as publicly proclaimed by Hitler in January 1939 that indeed began in June 1941 when Germany invaded Russia.

In the words of the 18th century British political philosopher Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It is not intention nor discussion that brings strong enough repudiation for evil, but action. Kristallnacht was not just the start of organized violence against Jews in Germany—in fact, with a different international reaction, it could have been the end of it. Instead, it was the hall pass for such violence and hatred. While it is easy to dismiss Kristallnacht as a different time, place, and political climate, we know all too well that anti-Semitism remains a dangerous force in our world and in our free nation. Let the anniversary of Kristallnacht be a reminder to the civilized world and younger generations to act against evil regimes who flout the elementary rules of civilized conduct before they cause untold damage, and hurt millions of innocent people.

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WHAT AMERICANS MUST DO AFTER PITTSBURGH

TO THWART ANTISEMITISM                                          

Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein

                                                Algemeiner, Nov. 6, 2018

“Some people don’t like other people just because they’re Jews,” declared a main character in the 1947 Oscar-winning American classic, “A Gentleman’s Agreement.” The crematoria at Auschwitz had not yet cooled down, but there were Americans who couldn’t abide the thought of Jews sharing their country clubs, neighborhoods, or college classrooms. Those were the challenges for American Jews back then, but today we no longer worry about “gentlemen.” After Pittsburgh, we’re on guard against the next lone wolf psychopath, armed with hate and bullets, empowered and validated by his invisible social media bigoted “friends.”

For us Jews it’s (still) the best of times — and, as we bury our dead in Pittsburgh, the worst of times. According to Pew, we are the single most admired religious group in America. On the other hand, the FBI confirms that we are the #1 target of religion-based hate in the United States. Simon Wiesenthal said that “hope lives when people remember.” Let us remember who is responsible for keeping antisemitism alive in our time, lest we be powerless to resist it.

The Pittsburgh gunman is responsible for his heinous deeds. Yet such extremism does not operate in a vacuum. Here are some points to ponder after the Pittsburgh massacre recedes from the headlines. We offer them as professionals who have struggled with antisemitism worldwide for decades. Social media outlets like Gab market hate. Hiding behind a freedom of speech mantra, they deny any moral responsibility for the platform they offer to the worst misusers of the privilege of that freedom, eerily similar to ISIS, whose online marketing campaigns spawn lone wolf terrorist attacks on both sides of the Atlantic.

Good people used to drive the haters underground. No longer. In major capitals — London, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, Stockholm — it is dangerous for Jews to wear the Star of David or a kippah in public. Police and politicians look the other way as (mainly) Islamist extremists bully and pummel Jews on the streets of Europe. Important institutions are rife with winking at antisemitism, or even worse. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad calls Jews “hooked-nosed,” and boasts that he is “glad to be labelled antisemitic.” On a recent visit to the UK, Mohamad was welcomed to Imperial College and Oxford by the heads of these institutions. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is awash with Jew-hatred, but he could be the UK’s next leader.

An unholy alliance of terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, funded by Iran, uses antisemitism as a tool to turn the world against Israel. Their propaganda has found enthusiastic support in academia and even churches, so that today over 150 million Europeans believe Israelis treat Palestinians the way Nazis treated Jews. Young Americans hear much of the same on campuses dominated by progressives who detest power and “privilege,” especially of Israel and the United States. Anti-Zionism has flourished as a tool for gutless Jew haters: “We don’t hate Jews. Only Zionists.” Now, there is lots of room to criticize Israel without being antisemitic in the slightest. But when that criticism demonizes or subjects Israel to a double standard, the road to antisemitism has been crossed.

Syria, Iran, Nigeria, Myanmar, China — millions are dying, or living in exile, or incarcerated in internment camps for their religious beliefs, but the lion’s share of UN resolutions contemptuously pile on the Jewish state. The Jewish people’s historic links to their key religious sites have been denied. For close to two thousand years, the Church (followed by various churches) taught and encouraged antisemitism. That has changed for the better in some denominations, and in some areas. But old attitudes die hard. Rather than show special sensitivity to Jew-hatred, some churches still feed into it. The over-the-top hostility of some church groups to Israel is a case in point.

The Quakers, who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, are today no friends of Jews. Mennonites in South America actively aided Hitler in his campaign to demonstrate pure Aryan superiority. (Their contempt for Israel translates in the popular mind into a rejection of Jews and Judaism.) Many other church groups aid and abet the virulent Jew-hatred of Palestinian groups by standing by them as allies, without calling them out for the antisemitism constantly spewed in their mosques and textbooks.

And, of course, there is the right-wing antisemitism of the Pittsburgh murderer, encouraged and similar to what we saw in Charlottesville. Tragically, the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre is not — cannot — be a one-off, any more than 9/11 was, even if never repeated. It will change the way Jews live for the foreseeable future. Houses of worship, citadels of peace, will look more like TSA portals to airports. So things are bad and could get even worse. What can we do to try to stem the tide? Don’t underestimate the sheer volume of age-old Jew-hatred. It did not disappear after the Holocaust. It never disappeared from polite society…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

On Topic Links

The Courage and Folly of a War That Left Indelible Scars: Alan Cowell, New York Times, Nov. 9, 2018—During World War I, millions died, empires crumbled, nations were formed and maps were redrawn in ways that reverberate mightily a century later.

80 Years After Nazi ‘Kristallnacht’ Pogrom, One Jewish Girl’s Holocaust Diary Sounds Warning Against Revival of Antisemitism: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, Nov. 6, 2018—For the global community of Holocaust scholars and educators, the 80th anniversary of the Nazi pogrom against Germany’s Jews commonly known as “Kristallnacht” — which falls this Friday and Saturday — could scarcely come at a more pertinent moment.

Why I Don’t Want an Apology for the St. Louis: Sally Zerker, CJN, Oct. 10, 2017—On Sept. 27, at the inauguration of the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted that his government is considering apologizing for the 1939 MS St. Louis incident, when Canada turned away a boatload of Jews who were seeking asylum from Nazi persecution. To which I say: no, I don’t want an apology. And here’s why.

Trudeau Warns Against Modern Anti-Semitism in Apology for Turning Away Jewish Refugees Fleeing Nazis: Steven Chase, Globe & Mail, Nov. 7, 2018—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized Wednesday for a shameful episode in Canada’s history, when this country turned away more than 900 German Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi terror and persecution.