During a discussion on “The View” about a Tennessee school board’s banning of the graphic novel, Maus, written by the son of Holocaust survivors, Whoopi Goldberg said that “the Holocaust isn’t about race.”
She couldn’t be more wrong. Unfortunately, her remark is another example of why education about the Holocaust is more relevant today than at any other time, especially with social media spewing misinformation about it.
The killing of 6 million Jews, with the intent of murdering another 5 million, in accordance with Hitler’s “Final Solution,” was totally and completely about race. The goal was to exterminate the Jewish people. The Jewish “race” was singled out and marked for slaughter.
It was more than coincidental that, several days before Goldberg’s comment, the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was established in 2005.
The six million who were shot, tortured, gassed and burned alive by the Nazis want to be remembered as Jews. This is their cry. This is their plea from the ashes. To lose focus one iota from this fact is to diminish their death, their sacrifice and the deaths of their brethren.
Whoopi Goldberg is not alone. As actress Cheryl Hines, the wife of attorney and anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made clear after he invoked Anne Frank to suggest that she had more freedom during the Holocaust than unvaccinated Americans have today, said: “The atrocities that millions endured during the Holocaust should never be compared to anyone or anything.”
It is truly impossible to fathom the horror and dread that 6 million Jews faced. It is to their memory and to their lives lost that I put power to pen. I hope by recounting some stories from the Holocaust (I intend to publish more in the future) that celebrities and politicians will stop using it as a metaphor. Instead, they could and should do justice by addressing the facts of the Holocaust and helping educate in a positive and constructive way. This could help prevent another holocaust.
The latest memoir about the Holocaust, Mala’s Cat, by Mala Kacenberg (originally titled Alone in the Forest) captures some of the horror that Jews experienced at the hands of the Nazis.
Kacenberg (nee Szorer) witnesses the cold-blooded killing of her older brother, and the roundup and deportation of her family and every Jewish person from the town of Tarnogrod, Poland. She escapes to the forest.
It is October 1942, at the height of the Nazi killing machine, when 15,000 Jews were being murdered daily. Kacenberg recounts how, at age 14, she overhears a pair of S.S. men in the forest, drinking wine, singing victory hymns and being impressed with the jewelry that they collected from their Jewish victims that day.
This scene was emblazoned on her mind. She wrote the book to capture her experience for posterity and to “make sure the whole world remembered what the Germans had done. I desperately wanted to survive even if it was only for that purpose.”
Twenty-five thousand Polish Jews survived the Nazis’ onslaught by hiding in the forest. My grandfather’s twin brother’s daughter, Frimma, was one. Every day she worried that she would be captured and tortured to death. Every day she was terrified that one of the residents of the surrounding villages whom she depended upon for food scraps would turn her in and hand her over, as did happen not infrequently to others.
Two of her brothers decided to go back to their town of Buczacz, Poland (this is the same town that Nobel Prize-winner Shmuel Agnon came from) in order to gather warm clothes for the cold winter approaching. They were never heard from again.
On July 10, 1941, many members of my grandmother’s family, descendants of the Gaon and Sage Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac Chaver, were burned alive by Poles who were collaborating with the Nazis in the infamous Barn-Burning in Jedwabne, Poland. Three hundred and forty men, women and children were murdered by 40 ethnic Poles overseen by the German military police.
I hope that these stories resonate in a way that helps stem the tide of misinformation, misuse of the Holocaust and Whoopi Goldberg followers who need to be taught a lesson or two. We have a lot of work to do.
Dr. Joseph Frager is a lifelong activist and physician. He is chairman of Israel advocacy for the Rabbinical Alliance of America, chairman of the executive committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, and executive vice president of the Israel Heritage Foundation.