LIfe in the Lodz Ghetto


1940-1944

Inside the Lodz Ghetto

A record of atrocity and resistance, buried in a wooden box

by Alex Q. Arbuckle

1940

A man walking in winter in the ruins of the synagogue on Wolborska street (destroyed by Germans in 1939).

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, they created walled-off ghettos in the larger cities to concentrate and imprison the Jewish residents.

Henryk Ross worked as a news and sports photographer in the city of Lodz. Once in the city’s ghetto, he was employed by the Department of Statistics to shoot identification photos and propaganda images of the factories which used Jewish slave labor to produce supplies for the German Army.

When not on the job, he documented the horrific realities of the ghetto, at tremendous personal risk. Peeking his lens through holes in walls, cracked doorways, and the folds of his overcoat, he captured scenes of starvation, disease, and executions.

As tens of thousands of Jews were deported from the ghetto to the death camps at Chelmno nad Nerem and Auschwitz, he kept shooting.

He also captured tiny sparks of joy — plays, concerts, celebrations, weddings — each one an act of resistance against a dehumanizing regime.

c. 1940-1944

Sign for Jewish residential area (“Jews. Entry Forbidden”).

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A boy walking in front of the bridge crossing Zigerska (the “Aryan”) street.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

Having an official camera, I was able to capture all the tragic period in the Lodz Ghetto. I did it knowing that if I were caught my family and I would be tortured and killed.
HENRYK ROSS

1940

Henryk Ross photographing for identification cards, Jewish Administration, Department of Statistics.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A group of women with sacks and pails, walking past synagogue ruins heading for deportation.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

In late 1944, as the Soviets continued to push the Germans back and the Polish resistance rose up in Warsaw, it became clear that the Lodz Ghetto would soon be liquidated.

Believing that he could be deported to an extermination camp at any moment, Ross gathered 6,000 of his negatives, placed them in a tar-lined box, and buried them near his house in the hopes that someday they might be found.

The Soviet Army finally liberated what remained of the ghetto on Jan. 19, 1945. Of the more than 200,000 Jews who had passed through, just 877 remained.

Henryk Ross was one of them.

In March 1945, he returned to his house on Jagielonska Street and dug up his time capsule. Moisture had destroyed or damaged half of the negatives, but enough had survived to ensure that the stories of those who lived and died in the ghetto would not be forgotten.

His photos, now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, are currently on exhibit in “Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross,” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston through July 30.

1940

A man who saved the Torah from the rubble of the synagogue on Wolborska Street.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

I buried my negatives in the ground in order that there should be some record of our tragedy…. I was anticipating the total destruction of Polish Jewry. I wanted to leave a historical record of our martyrdom.
HENRYK ROSS

c. 1940-1944

Portrait of a couple.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A nurse feeding children in an orphanage.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A festive occassion.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A performance of ‘Shoemaker of Marysin’ in the factory.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1942

Woman with her child (Ghetto policemen’s family).

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A wedding in the ghetto.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

1942

Children being transported to Chelmno nad Nerem (renamed Kulmhof) death camp.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A boy searching for food.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

Young girl.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

1942

Men hauling cart for bread distribution.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

“Soup for lunch” (Group of men alongside building eating from pails).

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS/COLLECTION OF ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A sick man on the ground.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A scarecrow with a yellow Star of David.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

1944

A boy walks among a crowd of people being deported in winter.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944.

Deportation in winter.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

1944

A mass deportation of ghetto residents.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

Residents sorting belongings left behind after deportation.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

1944

Food pails and dishes left behind by ghetto residents who had been deported to death camps.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A smiling child.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

Early SIgns of Fascism


US Holocaust Museum’s “early warning signs of fascism” sign is going viral

We Can Never Forget, and We Must Not Repeat


NEVER FORGET

Remembering the Holocaust in the Time of Trump, When Jews Fleeing Horror Were Denied Asylum in America

A long-buried documentary, co-directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by Sidney Bernstein, provides unequivocal proof of the Holocaust’s horrors. Bernstein’s daughter, Jane Wells, opens up about the film—and why Donald Trump and Jared Kushner should see it.

MARLOW STERN

This Friday marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 72nd anniversary of the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps that claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people, most of them Jews. President Donald Trump chose to commemorate the occasion by releasing a public statement omitting any mention of Jews or the scourge of anti-Semitism (breaking with past GOP and Democratic tradition), and signing an executive order barring refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan.

“It’s repulsive,” Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, told CNN. “I mean, the timing is incredibly offensive. It was during the Holocaust that the world shamefully refused to give asylum to Jews and to others who were being murdered or about to be murdered in Nazi Germany.”

Indeed, during the Holocaust, as millions of Jews were being slaughtered by the Nazis, the United States enforced strict immigration quotas against Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe.

In June 1939, the ocean liner St. Louis sailed into the Port of Miami with 937 refugees onboard—nearly all Jewish and seeking asylum in the United States. They’d already been turned away from Cuba and Canada, and when they were denied entry into America, the ship was forced to return to Europe where many of its passengers were killed in the Holocaust. Even Anne Frank’s family made several desperate attempts to emigrate from Europe to America, only to be denied visas.

This closed-door policy was an extension of the Immigration Act of 1924, which sought to, in the words of dissenting Jewish-American politician Emmanuel Celler, create “a distinct American identity by favoring native-born Americans over Southern and Eastern Europeans in order to ‘maintain the racial preponderance of the basic strain on our people and thereby to stabilize the ethnic composition of the population.’” Both Congress and the public believed that these Southern and Eastern European immigrants, many of whom were Jewish, would take away jobs from Americans plagued by the Depression, and were racially inferior. Asians and Arabs were banned entirely.

A scene from the documentary 'German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.'

COURTESY OF 3GENERATIONS

A scene from ‘German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.’

There was also widespread paranoia concerning a “fifth column,” or the theory that, should Germany or Japan invade the U.S., embedded spies from those countries would help destroy America from the inside. This led to the cruel internment of Japanese-Americans, and the curbing of U.S. visas to those from Axis countries.

At a June 5, 1940, press conference, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated: “Now, of course, the refugee has got to be checked because, unfortunately, among the refugees there are some spies, as has been found in other countries. And not all of them are voluntary spies—it is rather a horrible story but in some of the other countries that refugees out of Germany have gone to, especially Jewish refugees, they found a number of definitely proven spies.”

This fear of immigrant spies was mostly just that. With the exception of a few highly publicized cases, including that of 28-year-old German Herbert Karl Friedrich Bahr, there’s been no evidence of a mass influx of immigrant spies during this time. In fact, there exist striking parallels to the GOP and President Trump’s Muslim immigrant panic of today, given that, of the 784,000 refugees settled in America between September 11, 2001, and October 2015, only three have been arrested for plotting terrorist acts. “And it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible,” wrote Kathleen Newland of the Migration Policy Institute. The terrorists behind the San Bernardino shooting, Pulse nightclub massacre, and Boston Marathon bombing were all U.S. citizens.

Earlier this month, the film German Concentration Camps Factual Survey was quietly released into select North American theaters. Produced by Sidney Bernstein, advisor to the British Ministry of Information, and co-directed by his pal Alfred Hitchcock, the documentary is comprised of footage shot by Allied American, British, Soviet, and Canadian combat cameramen as they liberated ten concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Majdanek. The images are unforgettable, from Nazi physician Fritz Klein being interviewed on top of a pile of bodies at Bergen-Belsen to long, uninterrupted pans capturing stacks of eyeglasses, wedding rings, toothbrushes, human teeth, and bags of hair collected by the Nazis. There are even collections of lampshades made of human skin.

“The panning shots were Hitchcock’s idea,” says Jane Wells, the daughter of Bernstein whose non-profit, 3generations, put out Factual Survey. Hitchcock advised Bernstein and his crew of soldier-documentarians by phone, and suggested the continuous takes because “he felt that people wouldn’t believe what they were seeing otherwise.”

Unfortunately, the film was never completed for a variety of reasons. It wasn’t until 2008 that the Imperial War Museum, using the original filmmakers’ rough cut, script, and shot list, finalized the editing process. The 75-minute finished film premiered 69 years after it was shot, at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival.

“I tried to enumerate the different explanations,” Wells tells me, before taking out a notepad and reading from it. “One was the fear it would alienate Germans when they were trying to rebuild Germany after the war. The second one is the British government didn’t want to build support for a Zionist state. The third is they didn’t want to create undue sympathy for Jews in particular, or to single Jews out for poor treatment. And the fourth one, which is the Imperial War Museum’s theory, is that its time had come and it had missed its moment.”

Its shelving was devastating to Bernstein, who refused to speak publicly about what Wells calls his “great secret” until he was interviewed for the 1985 documentary A Painful Reminder, which contained footage from his film. Parts of Factual Survey were also used in Billy Wilder’s 22-minute concentration camp documentary Death Mills (Die Todesmühlen), released in January 1946.

“Unless the world learns the lesson these pictures teach, night will fall,” Factual Survey’s narrator says. And according to Wells, “it’s hard not to see the parallel to today,” given the rise of white nationalism in the U.S. and abroad corresponding with the rise of Trump, candidate Trump dog-whistling to white nationalists during his campaign by sharing anti-Semitic memes that originated on neo-Nazi online message boards, and the ascendance of Steve Bannon, former overlord of the “alt-right” publication Breitbart turned Trump right-hand man, who’s been accused of serial anti-Semitism.

A scene from the documentary 'German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.'

COURTESY OF 3GENERATIONS

A scene from ‘German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.’

“To me, it’s horrific. I’d love to invite the President and Jared Kushner to come see this film, and love to encourage any Jews who supported Trump to come see this film. I know Jews who voted for Trump, and if you ask them about the rise of white nationalism or the ‘alt-right’ in the wake of Trump, they’ll say, ‘Oh, well his son-in-law is a Jew! His daughter keeps a kosher kitchen, how bad can it be?’” say Wells. “The rise of the ‘alt-right’ is completely awful. The way Jews have been called out on Twitter is horrible and disgraceful. I’d like some of these ‘alt-right’ people to also come see this film and try and explain to me why they think this didn’t happen or didn’t matter.”

“If you see this footage, “ she adds, “there is no way on God’s earth that you can argue this didn’t happen.”

Wells had initially planned to release German Concentration Camps Factual Survey theatrically on Jan. 27, 2015, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The film didn’t make it to cinemas until January 6thof this year, but she believes that, given the Syrian refugee crisis, it “will have more of an impact today than it would have even then.”

“It is a cry for reconnecting to our humanity, and I think that is a message that is very resonant today,” offers Wells. “When I look at the atrocities that are happening in Syria today, when I look at the situation with Native Americans in North Dakota, when I look at the rise of the fascistic far-right globally, it seems like we have forgotten some of our common humanity.”

 

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WORLD HISTORY ARCHIVE / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

‘BEWARE THE BEGINNINGS’

How the Nazis Took Control of Germany

Hitler was not that popular when he first took office, but the Nazis quickly changed that, for the simple reason that power magnifies the ideas of those who hold it.

PETER HAYES

Today, Jan. 27, marks the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. That event did not mark the end of the Holocaust—gassings continued until the eve of Hitler’s suicide on April 30, 1945, and thousands more died of the effects of starvation and mistreatment at places like Belsen even weeks after their liberation.

But Jan. 27 should put us in mind of the beginnings. How did this happen? In particular, how could Germany, by all outward indications a civilized and modern country, become a persecuting society, brutally indifferent to the fates of anyone outside its supposed “people’s community”?

These questions should worry people for all time.

Adolf Hitler was a minority choice to lead his country; when he took office, roughly 55 percent of Germans had never voted for him. Anti-semitism was prevalent in German culture but by no means dominant or respectable. The nation’s elites (the establishment) generally regarded the Nazi führer with disdain and mistrust and doubted his capacity to run a government, given his complete lack of experience at doing so. The consensus about the Nazis’ wild-eyed promises was captured by the oft-repeated German proverb, “Nothing is eaten as hot as it’s cooked.”

Six years later, most Germans were acquiescing, and many of them were trying to benefit from, the complete humiliation and dispossession of German Jews, their demotion to “subjects” of the Reich, and their forced expulsion from the country. Three more years on, most Germans, including those elite corporate leaders and civil servants who scorned Hitler in 1933, were not just turning a blind eye to, but facilitating enslavement and mass murder… and finding a great many helpers in the Axis-occupied and Axis-allied regions of Europe.

The key to understanding the transformation of Germans’ behavior is straightforward: power magnifies the ideas of those who hold it. Power enabled the Nazi regime to unleash the haters, to intimidate the squeamish, and to change the moral valence of prejudice from something frowned upon to something glorified as patriotic. Once that happened, individual self-interest took care of the rest.

Above all, power enabled the propagandists for Nazism to divide the world relentlessly into Us vs. Them and to shut down more nuanced perspectives. To Germans, the world became a perpetual struggle between poor, virtuous, and victimized Us, and malevolent, conspiratorial, and implacable Them. In such an unforgiving environment, all means of self-defense were justified, including preemptively striking Them—taking their rights away, concentrating them in camps and ghettos, wiping them out—before they supposedly had a chance to do their worst.

Demonization of “Them” is always the first step toward persecution and genocide. And an essential prerequisite for demonization is its proponents’ sense of victimization, of having been or being about to be robbed of a birthright. The adherents of modern anti-semitism, not only in Germany but elsewhere in Europe, were people displaced and diminished by the Industrial Revolution and threatened by the specter of communism. In our own day, the devotees of nativist populism, not only in the U.S. but also in Europe, are people declassed and disoriented by the digital revolution and alarmed by the rise of Islamism. Will they go the way of the Nazis toward ever escalating paranoia and persecution?

Only if governments help them. Populist movements, on their own, can’t make persecuting societies or generate genocides. These phenomena need office-holders to countenance, stimulate, and implement hatred. Only when powerful leaders choose to let discrimination and violence take hold, and then to accelerate these lusts, does systematic degradation, let alone mass murder, result.

That is the challenge the Holocaust poses all these years later: Which way will political leaders go? Toward feeding angry and vengeful segments of public opinion or toward promoting pluralism and progress? Because the prospects look chancy right now, we should all recall the words of another German proverb—“Beware the Beginnings”—and be ready to act on it.

Peter Hayes is professor of history and German and Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation professor of Holocaust studies emeritus at Northwestern University. W. W. Norton & Co. published his new book,Why? Explaining the Holocaust, on Jan. 17.

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I am sharing this with you because we just celebrated Holocaust Remembrance Day. Trump made a statement in which he mentioned all of the victimized people except the Jews. The Jews do know they weren’t the only people to be targeted; so were the Gypsies and  the Poles, the disabled, Catholics and homosexuals. Six million Jews were gassed, burned, died due to medical experiments, died from starvation, disease and exposure to the elements.

 

It is very dangerous when a leader goes after one particular group of people; when people in power say the “others” were less than human, responsible for all of the things that Germans found wrong with their lives; these “others” were sneaky and not to be trusted. We now have a man in the White House who is targeting Muslims, refugees, homosexuals and non-Christians, in exactly the same way, with most of the same rhetoric. How much is he capable of doing? Is he able to begin to round up people from these groups? Only time will tell.

 

In the meantime, I want to remind everyone that we all live here on this fairly small planet. I do believe in science, and science tells us the planet is suffering from our lack of proper stewardship. We are all brothers and sisters despite the minor differences between us. Whether you are black, red, brown, yellow, or white, we are all equal. Yes, I know that some people  say there is a difference but they are wrong. Those who savor their entitlement want to be at the top of the heap, but we all make a beautiful colorful mix together at the bottom.

 

No one race is better than another, no one religion is better than another. There is no reason to defile Islam by shedding innocent lives. There is no reason to condemn Shiites or Sunnis. Each is a journey to Allah.  Or Adonai. Or Buddha. Or any of the other Beautiful Names which people use when they speak of God. We are all children of the Universe, made from stardust. It matters not by what name we call God. Our prayers are heard, our petitions are accepted, and our gratitude pleases.

 

I believe Trump wants to divide people even more than they already are. I believe it is important to unite together to give support to each other, so no one ever has to stand alone. I am ready to register as a Muslim. I hope many of you will be also. Let us do what is right not what is expected.

 

Namaste

Barbara

A True Heroine and an Inspiration in a Time of Hate


I found this on the “A Mighty Girl” Facebook site, a story of a truly remarkable, brave woman who, during World War II, was so ruled by love that she saved thousands of Jewish children.

 

I think, in today’s world where hate is dominating our lives, news and elections, we could all learn from her goodness and love.

 

 

IreneSadler

A Mighty Girl
February 15 at 10:15am ·
Today in Mighty Girl history, Irena Sendler — one of the great, unsung heroes of the WWII who led a secret operation that successfully smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, saving them from almost certain death — was born in 1910.
Sendler was a Polish Catholic nurse and social worker who began aiding Jews as early as 1939 after the Germans invaded Poland. At first, she helped to create false documents for over 3,000 Jewish families and later joined the Zegota, the underground Polish resistance organization created to aid the country’s Jewish population.
In 1943, Sendler became head of Zegota’s children’s division and used her special access to the Warsaw Ghetto, granted to Social Welfare Department employees to conduct inspections for typhus, to set up a smuggling operation. She and her colleagues began secretly transporting babies and children out of the Ghetto by hiding them in an ambulance with a false bottom or in baskets, coffins, and even potato sacks. The children were then given false identities and placed with Polish families or in orphanages. To allow the children to be reunited with any surviving relatives following the war, Sendler buried lists containing the identities and locations of the children in jars.
After rescuing over 2,500 children, Sendler was arrested by the Gestapo, tortured and sentenced to death. Fortunately, Zegota was able to bribe the German guards as she was on her way to execution and she was forced to live in hiding for the remainder of the war. In 1965, Sendler was honored by Yad Vashem as one of the Polish Righteous among the Nations for her wartime efforts. She passed away in 2008 at the age of 98.
A fascinating part of Sendler’s incredible story is that it may have been entirely lost to history except for the impressive research efforts of several high school students in Kansas. In 1999, high school teacher Norm Conard encouraged three of his students, Megan Stewart, Elizabeth Cambers, and Sabrina Coons, to work on a year-long National History Day project. Starting with a short news clipping that mentioned Sendler, the girls conducted a year-long investigation into her life and, ultimately, wrote a play about Sendler entitled “Life in a Jar.”
The play ignited interest in Sendler’s story and it has been performed hundreds of times across the US, Canada, and in Poland. The young researchers also had an opportunity to meet Sendler in Poland in 2001; the forgotten hero whose amazing story they helped bring to light.
If you’d like to inspire your kids with Irena Sendler’s amazing story, we recommend the following titles for young readers:
– “Jars of Hope:How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During the Holocaust” for ages 7 to 11 at http://www.amightygirl.com/jars-of-hope
– “Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto” for ages 8 to 11 at http://www.amightygirl.com/irena-sendler
– “Irena’s Jar of Secrets” for ages 6 to 10 at http://www.amightygirl.com/irena-s-jars-of-secrets
– “Irena Sendler: Bringing Life to Children of the Holocaust” for ages 10 to 14 at http://www.amightygirl.com/irena-sendler-biography
For an excellent book about Sendler’s life and the Kansas students’ project to bring her story to light, we highly recommend “Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project” for ages 13 and up at http://www.amightygirl.com/life-in-a-jar-the-irena-sendler-…
There have also been two films produced about Sendler: “The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler,” starring Anna Paquin, for ages 13 and up http://www.amightygirl.com/the-courageous-heart-of-irena-sendler) and a documentary, “Irena Sendler: In the Name of Their Mothers,” for ages 12 and up (http://www.amightygirl.com/irena-sendler-in-the-name-of-their-mothers).
And, for more books for children and teens about girls and women who lived during the Holocaust period — including stories of other heroic resisters and rescuers — check out the recommendations in our blog post for Holocaust Remembrance Week at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog/?p=2726

 

May we all be able to get past the hate and bigotry and walk in a world filled with people who practice  compassion and love. May we all have the courage of our convictions and not settle for just walking through this life asleep. May we all begin to take baby steps toward peace and acceptance. Ready to care about others and to stand up for those who can’t help themselves.

 

Namaste,

Barbara

Never, Ever Forget


HOlocaust Rememberance day

When I was a little girl of 9 years old, my Grandpa gave me a picture book called The Camps, showing scenes from the Holocaust and the concentration camps.  When I asked him why he gave me this book of black and white photographs, he told me the story of the Holocaust, and about the millions of people — mostly Jews, but also Poles, political prisoners, Gypsies and other “undesirables” from as far away as Brazil and America — who had been taken from their homes, stripped of all their possessions, and thrown into camps where, over the course of World War II, the Nazis killed over 6 Million people.

 

It didn’t matter whether they were rich or poor, or if they were a doctor or a shoeshine boy; if they were a mother or a grandmother, the Nazis herded them into train cars and took them to one of the 300 camps that the allies found when they liberated Germany from Nazi rule in 1945.

 

Grandpa told me that it was imperative that we always remember what Hitler and his followers had done, and what the German people let themselves be talked into, because if we ever forgot, it could happen again.

I’ve always remembered it, and I have visited more than one Holocaust museum here in the United States.

It’s not a fun day trip, like going to an art museum or a museum of natural history, but it’s important.  I can always hear Grandpa telling me “we must remember, so it cannot happen again”

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is important that we not allow ourselves to be pushed into the herd; that we think for ourselves; that we analyze what politicians are saying and that we vote wisely — and that we do actually vote.

The allies took German people to the camps which the Allies had liberated, because it was the only way to prove to these German people that these camps actually existed, and that thousands were gassed to death in communal “showers” and thrown into mass graves, or that people were put into ovens like loaves of bread dough.  There are still those who do not believe it happened, but we have proof.

In 1985, 40 years after Allied Forces marched into Germany and liberated the Camps, Frontline ran a show about what the soldiers saw and found when they arrived.

The full Frontline show can be found here:  http://www.pbs.org/video/2365463766/

But there’s a longer piece, edited and filmed in part by Alfred Hitchcock, which you can watch, below, which shows the horrors that were found.  Horrors which we can never forget, or else we will allow them again.  Don’t turn away from the horror. It is real and it was genocide. Just like the other countries which have been devastated by genocide. We must not allow politicians to tell us what to think or to do. We must be strong enough to stand up and fight those who lack human compassion and the ability to love others. Intolerance must not be abided in any country. To the six million people who were imprisoned, beaten, starved, experimented on, I can only whisper,” Rest in Peace.”

 

 

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ItDidnt'StartwithGasChambers

Why is Racism still an issue?


 

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I have written about war and peace, I have written about gender equality. I have written about people living in violence. Today, I am writing to the world about yet another human tragedy. I don’t know how bad racism is everywhere in the world, but I feel it is getting worse in America. I am an old lady, but I have a black hoodie that says peace on the front. When I wear it, I wear it with the hood up. I wear it that way for Trayvon Martin.  I wear it because I realize that more people will look at it on the body of  a 5’2″ blonde white woman.  I wear it because my grandfather told me about the Holocaust when I was nine years old. He gave me a book of photographs in black and white of the piles of dead Jews, Poles and Gypsies. He sat me on his knee and told me that we can never forget or it will happen again. I have never forgotten this experience. It has influenced a lot of the work in my life. He died in 1972, and I have told this story in schools, at battered women’s shelters, Holocaust museums and to mean hearted people. I have mentioned it before, here on my blog.

 

Injustice begins with seeds of hatred, intolerance, and ego. I have worked so many places, with so many different people that I can quite honestly tell you that we are all the same. Our hearts beat in the same rhythm, our eyes show us the same world (for good or bad), we all get hungry and tired. We all need to prevent dehydration by drinking fluids. Except for multiple births, we all look different and sound different. We could all die from a barrage of bullets. Why is it that small differences frighten people so much? My nose is different than yours, should that make me feel better than you? No. My skin color is different from many other Caucasians. It depends on the nationality of your ancestors. The people in my family do not all look alike. The DNA is different for each of us. This is true except for identical twins, like my grandsons.

 

During a lifetime, events happen that are not fair. They are not just. If you have a bad interaction with someone of different skin color does that mean that all people of that skin color are a threat? No, of course, not. The human species is more than capable of turning a person or a people’s life into hell. Genocide of any race or religion is a hideous crime without any justification.

 

Morgan Freeman was on a talk show today and Queen Latifah  put a question to him.  She asked him if he believed in intelligent beings in other universes or places in space. He thought a moment and said, “Yes, I do.” She then asked him if those beings would have a god. He again answered yes. I got to thinking about alien life. We are so hateful as a species that I tried to imagine what would happen if people with green skin, or antennae for ears, or even has three arms came to Earth and I think we would kill all of them without a qualm.We would justify it as the only way to keep human beings safe. I think we would never accept them and would destroy them without hesitation. Add in the concept that they might have a god or a goddess. Or better yet, what if our “God” was also their god. I think it would be ever so sad and might even destroy our souls. We can’t even allow other human beings to believe in a god/goddess who they are comfortable with if it is not our god. We want to kill them. It is time to stop sowing the seeds of discrimination, intolerance and hatred. It is time that we got back to the garden. The garden, yes the Garden of Eden. The place where it all began, if you believe that. (Don’t start about Eve. She offered Adam a piece of fruit, he chose of his own free will to eat of it. That is on him. And it always was on him.)

 

 

 

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I am dedicating this blog to every human being who died due to hatred and intolerance.

 

guarda5

No Box For Me


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You go where you are free.

Our society likes us all to be conformist in how we live, what we do, ;and what we think. Even as a child I wasn’t able to do this, I couldn’t even fake it. My soul would just rebel at things like hypocrisy and injustice.

Society in every country makes demands upon its citizens that they be uniform in actions and thinking. I am not talking about good behavior versus criminal  behavior. It is as Ghandi said when he was encouraging Indian citizens to use passive resistance to obtain their freedom from the English.

My hackles go up when someone is telling a person what to think or say. I will not be put into a box all neat and orderly. This has been true since I was a child and often I paid dearly for having my own thoughts. Human beings don’t all think alike or act alike, for which I am grateful. How boring it would be if we were all the same in our actions and thinking. It is true that sometimes people just know how to push our buttons, but you are in control of how you are going to react.

Women, for instance, are treated as inferior or as second class citizens. As I have mentioned before, we still are the only American citizens who are not legally equal. Minorities continue to suffer discrimination. It is a sad fact that often a person has a bad experience, and forms a distrust of all people of that race, culture or religion.

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Living in a world of terror is frightening. However, I remember the Cold War and the drills at school where we would be told to get under our desks when the siren went off. I asked, one day, how the desks would protect us. The teacher was not pleased at all with me because the other kids heard and wanted an answer too. She didn’t have an answer.

I have Muslim friends. They are not jihadists yet every day people look at them with distrust. I was with one of my friends and we went to dinner. When the server came to our table, she was visibly uncomfortable. I started to talk to the server and to relieve the tension. It ended up fine but my friend was uncomfortable. It was shortly after 9-11 and we both understood but my heart hurt that this situation happened.

Sometimes, you can see both sides, but you must choose the ethical and morally right behaviorAs a society, we need to remember that the Divine is within all of us and to try to correct what is hypocritical and unjust.

Yes, there are evil people in the world. But they often come from severely dysfunctional families. Sometimes they are so damaged they cannot heal or are not given the opportunity. My rule for measuring this life is hypocrisy and injustice. I cannot tolerate either in my life. So there are times I have walked away from people because they were an offense to my soul.

WWII and the holocaust are examples of people who ignored their inner guidance and some even assisted the Nazis. One person whose name you are probably familiar with is Coco Chanel. She began the designer line of the House of Chanel. She collaborated with the Germans when they took Paris. People died because of her actions. But she took care of herself and her Chanel line thrives to this day.

I encourage everyone to be true to who you are and what is true in your life. If you do not betray your own soul and heart, then you will be able to trust your inner guidance to lead you to your higher good.

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If you are being your true self, you will then be the person that the Divine, The One, Adonai intended you to be in this lifetime.

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