Posts tagged ‘Hitler’

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.

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

When Did You First Learn about the Holocaust?

A friend of mine read the manuscript of my new book, I Survived A Nazi Extermination Camp, and said that three things struck him most forcefully. One was the sheer grimness of Rudolf Reder’s first hand account of the death factory that was Belzec. He couldn’t understand why the Nazis felt it necessary to so degrade and dehumanise the people that they were about to kill. They planned to kill them, they knew the victims would be dead in a couple of hours, and yet they had the need to make these last hours as unpleasant and gruesome as possible. The level of cruelty really shocked him. Secondly, he hadn’t realised that the Nazis knew that their action in killing the Jews was a totally criminal activity, and that they had made so many efforts to hide and obliterate the evidence of these atrocities. He thought that they would cover this with ideology, but in fact it was clear they knew themselves to be practising criminality on a grand scale, a crime against humanity. Finally, the book reminded him about when he had first heard about the Holocaust, and the first book he read about it. He recognised one of the photos in my book, one of women prisoners running naked through a concentration camp, watched by uniformed SS guards. I’m sure many people must have a strong memory of when and where they first learned about this atrocity. I was quite young, maybe 5 or 6, when I became aware that ‘Hitler killed 6 million Jews’. How he killed them I did not know at the time, and the word Holocaust was not then in common use, although I was aware that there had been concentrations camp where Jews were gassed to death.

March 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm 2 comments


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Reflections on an age of anxiety.

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