Posts tagged ‘history’

The Unknown Jewish Prophet

I am planning a museum installation called Yellow Star. It will show the history of German Jewry during the period 1930-1941. During my research I read the book The Pity of it All: A Portrait of the Jews in Germany 1743-1933 by Amos Elon. I was struck by this passage in the book:

“Another obscure publication of this kind was Before the Storm: A Serious Word of Warning to the Jews of Germany, which came out in Berlin in 1896. The author was a physician named Bernhard Cohn who minced no words advising German Jews to “expect the worst”: another St Bartholomew’s Day was in the making, he said, referring to the sixteenth-century massacre of Huguenots in France. German anti-Semitism had “method” and was therefore “more dangerous” even than Russian anti-Semitism: “Between Jews and non-Jews in Germany there exists, in effect, a state of war. It is no longer a legal question. The demand is not for our defeat or submission – this they have already achieved – but for destruction.”

I was amazed that Dr. Cohn, writing in 1896, could be so prescient about the future fate of German Jews. 37 years before Hitler came to power, Cohn was warning German Jews that the Shoah was on its way. I located Cohn’s pamphlet in the Wiener Library and asked my friend Mirco Keilflug to translate pages 8,12, and 46 which were the pages Elon cited as his source. The following is our translation of what Cohn wrote on those pages:
“It is very sad that the hatred of Jews has soared to such large-scale dimensions. The respectable classes of society listen with pleasure to the lying and vicious rants of anti-Semites. They see it as the patriotic duty of every German to view Judaism as a public enemy and to free the motherland from them.

My pamphlet doesn’t intend to investigate the causes of those strange manifestations, or to prove its inability to create any effect on the non-Jewish population or to prompt them to give up their repellant attitude towards the Jews. We would be blind if we don’t come to the conclusion that the latter is impossible. Citizens, parties or government don’t want to be taught that. We Jews take it as it is and are only interested to answer the questions: What do we have to be afraid of? What do we have to do to protect ourselves from events that might happen?

In answering the first question about the systematic inciting of all classes against the existence of Judaism and their attack on Jews, it is a mistake to remain optimistic. Lessons from the past and current observations warn us to expect the worst. To get straight to the point, we acknowledge that between Jews and non-Jews in Germany there has developed a state of war. It is no longer a question for the law. There is no place for illusions. We will not be able to persuade our enemy with any peaceful actions such as scientific deductions, essays, religious, philosophical, political, historical, socialistic, or ethnological discussions. It is not our inferiority that is the problem, but the assumed superiority that is an eyesore for them. Evidently, the superiority of Judaism is based on our economic success in Germany. This is a blessing for the country. But for us this is a problem because of the unfortunate separation of the Jewish and Christian populations. Or should we say the Aryan and Semitic parts of the population, which is a conceptual distinction invented by the anti-Semitic press.

Hence there is war between Jews and Christians, the black heads and the blonds! What should we do? Our advantage is that it is not us who caused the war. Generally we are like patient lambs lead to the slaughter. Sadly, it doesn’t matter what is legally right in the case of war. That is what had set an end to Carthage in the Third Punic War. We are in a similar situation. They do not expect our surrender or submission, because that has been given already. They expect our destruction and extermination.
Our situation is indeed extraordinarily endangered. As long there are quiet times and peace, our enemies will not risk an attack. The authorities are obliged to react to any unlawful actions towards us. Peace and order are the foundations for the existence and durability of any state. If those foundations are missing, it would expose the weakness of the regime. That is why the government has to protect its declared and most hated enemy.

But times may come when it will be very difficult for the authorities to protect our lives and property. For example, war could all of a sudden be declared because the political constellation has changed (may G-d protect us from it!) or a deciding battle is lost. Or any other unpredictable events that might happen where the states’ authority cannot defend us. Who knows if our adversaries are already waiting for such an event. Maybe they have already issued an edict to act against us in an organized way like a second St. Batholomew’s Night? Without doubt, the magnitude of rage against us is the same as it was three centuries ago against the Huguenots in France. Considering all the reports of anti-Semitism from Vienna, it needs only a little drop of water to make the barrel overflow. We are then facing the same danger as the Huguenots in France. Why should this not be possible and our concern justifiable?”

I have not been able to find any information about Dr. Cohn. Elon says that few people would have read his pamphlet yet he was in a long line of Jewish prophets, warning of a terrible future. He got it right that World War 1 would help to de-stabilise the country and that financial crises like hyperinflation and the great depression would cause the Weimar Republic to lose its authority. That power vacuum gave the Nazis a chance to seize power, Their hatred destroyed not only the Jews but Germany as well. This is the poison of Anti-Semitism.

May 9, 2019 at 6:35 pm Leave a comment

The Spiritual Teachings of Yoga

Yoga Kindle Cover

I finally managed to produce my first e-book, The Spiritual Teachings of Yoga , which I wrote with my former wife Jo Manuel in 2002. The book has sold consistently in print, and in the past few years has become a resource for yoga teachers in training.

Many yoga courses include some philosophy into the mix, so that the root of yoga is not forgotten. Yoga philosophy is difficult to penetrate, and if it’s not taught well can be very confusing and off-putting. Jo and I wanted to write a book that presented the philosophy in as clear and accessible a way as we could, without simplifying it or dumbing it down.  This collaboration seemed to work. I wrote the exposition of the book (with input from Jo) and she tackled the writing of the 3 classic Yoga texts (with some editing from me).

I had a 4 book deal with Hodder and it was at Jo’s suggestion that I proposed the yoga book. Unfortunately I had always had a difficult time getting into Indian philosophy texts, although I felt very at home with Chinese ones. What held me back was both the strangeness of some of the ideas and the Sanskrit in which these ideas were expressed. Some Sanskrit words- like yoga and karma – are quite well know, but nama and niyama for example have less profile. Jo thought that having to study these yoga texts would force me to persevere and get a handle on them.  Once I understood them I could communicate that understanding to others in a language they could appreciate.

So when wannabe teachers have to read the Bhagavad Gita, or the Yoga Sutras, or the Upanishads, they can turn first to the chapters in our book that give them background and explanation.   After this, it’s easier for them to gain entry to the texts themselves, and hopefully to understand what they are saying.

The book also has some really fascinating material on the history of yoga. I know an author shouldn’t be saying his work is fascinating, but when I was making the e-version I had to revisit the book, and it just struck me that there are some very rare sections of interesting material. This was the result of my months of preparation and reading. There is a mountain to read in yoga, but my guiding principle in writing was that I needed to research until I became expert enough to convey the ideas in an interesting way. I wanted to be able to see the field and the trees at the same time. Many experts who know far more than me have perhaps lost site of the field and are only seeing the trees, while those who have not penetrated far enough are only seeing the field and missing the trees.

I wish the book the best of digital success.  If you read it or have read it, a review on Amazon or Goodreads always helps



June 30, 2013 at 1:15 am 3 comments

Standing On Others’ Shoulders – Part 1- (don’t hold your breath for Part 2)

I think it’s time that I started standing on my own creative feet and stop standing on the shoulders of others. In my case that means old philosophers – both east and west.  My first 5 books were all about philosophies or philosophers: Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Taoism, Yoga and Socrates. I explained the ideas behind the philosophy, followed by key texts I had referred to.

My latest book – I Survived A Secret Nazi Extermination Camp – is entirely different. The first part of the new book is a short introduction to  the little known but infamous Nazi death camp called Belzec. In this isolated, forested camp in SE Poland,  the Nazis killed an estimated 650,00 Jews and Gypsies.  The time between arrival by freight train to death in a gas chamber was only two hours. Rudolf Reder, a Polish Jew, managed to stay alive for four months as a worker in the camp, before making a miraculous escape. By the end of the war, Reder was the only survivor of the camp, and he gave a Witness Statement recounting his experiences.

It is this Witness Statement of Reder’s that forms part two of the book. He recounts the horrific, pathetic and harrowing events that took place in Belzec, and the cruel and criminal acts of the Nazi and Ukrainian guards.  It is a difficult account to read – one man recounting the hell that the Nazis’ madness had created, and which he saw first-hand.

Part three is an account by me ( a kind of memoir ) about how and why I came across this Statement of Reder’s. It’s partly about my family and partly about my relationship to the holocaust, and its victims.  A few years ago, I decided to search for my Grandparents’ roots online via JewishGen which led me to discover hundreds of ancestors. This search ultimately led me to Lublin, and it was on a visit to the Majdanek Concentration Camp that I found Reder’s Statement. At the same time I learned the fate of my grandfather’s family – those who he left behind had been sent from their homes in Lublin to be killed in Belzec .

How is this book different to the other 5? Of course it’s much more personal. I am not writing about dead philosophers but about the terrible fate of my own (newly discovered) family. It’s about history, but told in a personal way. I’ve set out my reflections on what I was learning, and my own memories were part of this discovery.   Obviously I am not a survivor of the camps and no known relative of mine had been one either. We were Americans, not Europeans. All my grandparents emigrated to the USA in the early 1900s, and my parents and all of our family had been born in America. Growing up, I never realised that my grandparents had left family behind – parents, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. It is the fate of those family members that my search revealed, and my memoir reflects how I came to terms with this dark knowledge.

June 28, 2013 at 9:26 pm 1 comment

The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.