Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hungary's shoes of death!

A good friend of mine recently returned from a trip to Budapest, Hungary where he and his wife went to visit with a Jewish scholar spending a year on sabbatical there!

First they came for the communists,
 and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, 
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, 
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
 and I didn't speak out because I was Protestant.
Then they came for me, 
and there was no one left to speak out...

This particular friend is much more religious than I am and in fact, when questions concerning the Jewish faith arise, we often seek his guidance as we jokingly refer to him as rabbi.

He and his wife told us about their trip to Budapest at a Sabbath dinner we enjoyed recently at their house. I bring up this trip in the context of the resurgence of antisemitism across Europe.

And Hungary is certainly one of the worst examples of this rising tide of hate.

In fact Hungary typifies the analogy of a fish rotting from the head down as there is a tone of anti-Jewish rhetoric and sentiment emanates from political parties and from the highest reaches of government and trickles down from there.

My friends told of the wife of the scholar being stopped by police in the subway suspected of not paying her fare. After a lengthy discussion they dismissed her with some reference to Auschwitz.

In December, Balazs Lenhardt, an independent Member of Parliament, burned an Israeli flag in front of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry during an anti-Zionist protest--one in which participants shouted, "To Auschwitz with you all." In the past several months, Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized, Holocaust monuments have been damaged, and swastikas have been painted on synagogue walls. On March 14, professors at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest found stickers affixed to their office door that read, "Jews! The university belongs to us, not you! Regards, the Hungarian students." (Source)

I relate this story because of the fact that Jews in the United States in general are blind to the sharp rise of anti-Jewish hate and believe that the lessons that the world learned from WWII, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust have been lasting ones.

The Anne Frank Foundation reported severe anti-Semitic acts have increased by more than 50 percent, with 2,700 incidents reported overall in 2011. MDI, a group that tracks Internet hate lists anti-Semitism/Holocaust denial as accounting for 28 percent of online hate in 2012, with sites targeting Muslims (who outnumber Dutch Jews by 20 to 1) at 18 percent. (Source)

They believe that the phrase 'Never Again' describes a world of tolerance where the straight-out murder of innocents based purely on religion and heritage could never happen again.

If the Boston Marathon massacre taught Americans anything it's that hate and evil exists for reasons many in our society cannot understand or begin to comprehend. But the topic of Islamic extremism is for another time.

*Last year the Dutch Prime Minister reiterated the government’s refusal to apologize for the apathy that the Dutch government-in-exile demonstrated toward the roundup and murder of most of the country’s Jews during the Holocaust. Why? The Jewish community had not asked for one he argued. Almost all other European governments have since apologized or admitted guilt for the conduct of authorities under Germany’s occupation. (Source)

The most stark story told at dinner related to the picture at the top of the article.

Apparently the Hungarian's had resisted the call for the extermination of Jews for much of the WWII.

That ended in 1944 when the Germans saw the writing for their defeat on the wall and the Hungarians began to send Jews to their death in the concentration camp crematoriums.

As time went on, however, they were not satisfied with the pace of murder and began to line Jews up on the bank of the Danube, mow the innocent men, women and children down where they stood and then push them into the river.

This simple memorial of shoes pays tribute to those who died in such an horrific way. Looking at them I could not even begin to imagine the feeling of knowing that death, for no reason other than being Jewish, was imminent.

"The Algemeiner reports on a terrible assault against a Jewish college student in East Lansing, Michigan. At a weekend party, a group of men allegedly asked Zachary Tennen whether he was Jewish before giving the Nazi salute and viciously assaulting him, according to his family:

Tennen, a sophomore at Michigan State University, was approached by the men at a party early on Sunday and asked if he was Jewish, his mother said.  The men proceeded to raise their right arms in a Nazi salute and said “Heil Hitler”, before beating Tennen unconscious.  According to Tennen’s mother, 20 people watched while her son had his mouth stapled by the two suspects..." (Source)

For Jews today the saying 'Never Again' has become a catch phrase with little real meaning behind it.

Many Americans believe that the terrorist murder committed on 9/11/2001 and the wish of Islamic extremists to wipe all non-Muslims off of the face of the earth is in the past and we are out of danger.

I say:

'A nod is as good as a wink to a blind man!' 

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