In April 1945, David Mark Olds, a U.S. Army Captain during World War II — and my father — was at Dachau concentration camp in Germany on the day its prisoners were freed. He witnessed stacked corpses that he said looked like “piles of cordwood, ready for a fireplace.” He described them as “pitifully thin, like skeletons, with mouths wide open in a ghastly rictus.” “A team of American MPs were trying to restore some order, setting up a mess line and a delousing tent,” Dad said. “It was heartbreaking to look at the ex-prisoners. All were emaciated, unshaven. Up close, they smelled nauseatingly of sickness and dirt and decay. But the worst was their eyes — hollow, staring dark circles in their pasty faces.” Dad always said he’d enlisted because it was a just war.
My Jewish ancestors came from Poland and Russia and were all wiped out, exterminated and burned in the ovens — all except for my maternal and paternal grandparents who came to America as children.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, held Tuesday, Jan. 27, marked the 70-year anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. Almost 300 survivors of this death camp gathered for a ceremony in front of the infamous entrance gate with the sign “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work makes you free”). The event is to honor Holocaust victims at a time when we desperately need to call attention to the ever-growing renewed anti-Semitism spreading throughout Europe.
Most of the survivors are in their 80s and 90s, so this may be the last time they will be able to gather together. The ceremony attendees included French President Francois Hollande, German President Joachim Gauck, England’s Prime Minister David Cameron, kings, queens, dignitaries, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew and filmmaker Steven Spielberg, an organizer of the event.
“We are once again facing the perennial demons of intolerance — anti-Semites, radical extremists and religious fanatics that provoke hate crime,” Spielberg told Holocaust survivors in Krakow, Poland, Monday. “[There are] Facebook pages identifying Jews and their geographic locations with the intention to attack and the growing efforts to banish Jews from Europe.”
In 1933, Poland had the largest Jewish population in Europe with more than 3 million; by 1950, there were only 45,000. Overall, Europe’s Jewish population dropped from 9.5 million in 1933 to 3.5 million in 1950. By 1945, most European Jews — two out of every three — had been killed.
But still some people say that the Holocaust never happened.
Germans built the Auschwitz camp in 1940 as a place to hold Polish prisoners, and it became the largest site of extermination for European Jews. In Auschwitz alone, Nazi Germany killed at least 1.1 million people and, of those, 90 percent were Jews.
Just 70 years after the Holocaust, we are confronted with a stark reality:
Anti-Semitism remains a danger.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism just released a report based on two new polls measuring both anti-Semitic sentiment amongst the British public and its effect on British Jewry:
25 percent of Brits believe that “Jews chase money more than other British people.”
20 percent believe “Jews’ loyalty to Israel makes them less loyal to Britain than other British people.”
17 percent believe that “Jews think they are better than other people” and that “Jews have too much power in the media.”
13 percent believe that “Jews talk about the Holocaust too much in order to get sympathy.”
25 percent of British Jews have considered leaving the country in the past two years because of rising antisemitism.
45 percent feel their family is threatened by Islamist extremism.
77 percent have witnessed anti-Semitism disguised as a political comment about Israel.
84 percent consider boycotts of businesses selling Israeli products to be intimidation.
Recent Acts of Blatant Anti-Semitism
Four people were murdered in a terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris.
After Palestinian terrorists murdered four rabbis in the Kehilat Bnai Torah synagogue in west Jerusalem, Jordanian MPs organized a moment of silence for the terrorists and read Koran verses aloud, stating their purpose was to “glorify their pure souls and the souls of all the martyrs in the Arab and Muslim nations.”
Four people were shot dead at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels.
A doctor in Belgium refused to provide medical care to a 90-year-old Jewish woman with a fractured rib. He told her son, “Send her to Gaza for a few hours, then she will get rid of the pain. I’m not coming,” and hung up.
The radical right wing Mayor Mihaly Zoltan Orosz of Erpatek in Northeastern Hungary stomped on the Israeli flag and made a public mock-hanging of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres. The sign above the “body” of Peres reads: “I am a war criminal, bastard genocider, that’s why I get my rightful punishment, death by hanging! I am going to my master, to Satan, because hellfire awaits me! Simón Peresz.”
Three assailants invaded the home of a Jewish couple in Paris, raped the 19-year-old woman and robbed the home, saying it was “because you are Jewish.”
Sports Direct, a sporting goods store in Hertfordshire, England, was cited when a security guard barred Jewish students from entering, saying “No Jews, no Jews.” Dave Whelan, owner of the Wigan Athletic football team, told reporters, “Jewish people chase money more than everybody else.”
Jewish men have become so afraid to wear their yarmulkes in public for fear of being attacked that Israeli hairdresser Shalom Koresh invented a camouflage yarmulke made of human hair called the “Magic Kippah.”
A photo of beauty queen Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, caused an angry uproar. Matalon posted a selfie on Instagram posing next to Miss Lebanon Saly Greige. But because any contact with Israel is illegal in Lebanon, there have been calls for Greige to be stripped of her Miss Lebanon title.
An anti-Semitic Facebook page called Jewish Ritual Murder is still up and growing one year after Facebook drew intense criticism for claiming the page did not violate its community standards. Yesterday, I sent a message asking Facebook to take it down, and again the site said it did not violate standards. WTF?
It is unfathomable what human beings do to one another, and a fear that the Holocaust could happen again is not paranoia. Most things that have happened once, can happen again. With the growing anti-Semitism worldwide, it is vital not to let the world ever forget. Roman Kent, one survivor at the Auschwitz ceremony, said it best, “We do not want our past to be our children’s future.”
Watch this clip from the Jan. 27 ceremony:
Watch the drone video of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp:
Watch a BBC report about Auschwitz 70 years later:
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.