Anne Frank’s Classmates Remember Holocaust and Days of Hiding
"What we had was a ‘killing machine’--not just part of a normal war, but a killing machine. We shouldn't forget this past, and we must remain informed about what's happening today. What went on then should never happen again." Nanette Blitz Konig, best friend of Anne Frank (p. 127)
"By the end of the war, I looked like a skeleton. My hip bones were poking through my skin. They weighed me when I'd already been in the sanatorium for a while, and I was thirty-two kilos, barely seventy pounds. So I must have weighed a lot less before." Nanette Blitz Konig, who spent three years recovering in the sanatorium after her release in 1945 from Westerbork, a Nazi prison in The Netherlands (p. 132-3)
"The dates tell you that the children who arrived in Auschwitz and Sobibor [Nazi extermination camps] were gassed immediately." Nanette Blitz Konig, viewing the plaque with the names and death dates of Jewish children (including that of Anne Frank) of the Montessori School (now named Anne Frank School) where she and Anne and many of their classmates went to school before they went into hiding or were murdered by the Nazis (p. 160)
"My freedom." Nanette Blitz Konig, when asked by a twelve-year-old boy at the Anne Frank School, in 2008, what was the most cherished thing that had been taken from her as a Jew during the Second World War. (p. 163)
"The informers were paid [by the Nazis]; and sometimes it was a matter of carelessness on the part of those in hiding, or of those who were hiding them as well. In any event, many people were betrayed. One third seems to be the official figure, but I believe that half the Jews who went underground were betrayed." Lenie Duyzend, another female classmate of Anne Frank (p. 180-1)
(All quotes from We All Wore Stars, Memories of Anne Frank from Her Classmates, by Theo Coster--also an Anne Frank classmate--English translation published by Palgrave MacMillan, 2011)
Those few excerpts from the book may help to fix in your mind the conditions under which millions of Jews in Nazi-dominated Europe managed to avoid death during the Holocaust. I say "avoid death" because even the word "survive" fails to give sufficient impact. Death by disease or starvation was common, even while the Jews were "free," in hiding from the Nazi troops. Many did not manage to avoid death. Eighty percent of the Jews in The Netherlands before the war did not survive.
Of the ones who hid and were discovered, they were sent in railway freight cars to concentration camps. The cars were so crowded that individuals had no room to sit down. Some literally died en route, of disease or starvation. Those who were not fit to help the Nazis in some way, while in the camps, were told they were to take showers to clean up the lice and filth that most had accumulated. The showers emitted not water, but lethal gas.
Why, I wondered when I was younger, did so many go peacefully rather than fighting to the death after they were captured? They were starving, they believed that if they were sent to "work camps" they at least would be fed. They didn’t mind working if they would be fed. Most didn’t work. They didn’t live long enough to need to be fed.
They believed the "showers" would not only cleanse their skin, but they were told that a mild chemical would rid them of lice and parasites. The "showers" were to be a privilege.
They believed. They died. Six million of them. The number is doubted today only by Holocaust deniers and doubters.
Seventy years later, many of us have lost the message. Today we have more Jew haters than in past decades. Why? Because those who hated the Jews before and during the Holocaust continued to hate them after the war was over. And, like the Nazis who invented modern day propaganda methods, they continued to spread their word, relentlessly.
I recently defriended a man on Facebook. While he was a marvelous resource for anti-establishment "facts" and video materials, he was also rabidly anti-Jewish. Anything done in Palestine he could justify in some way, whereas anything done by Israel he could "prove" was evil. He posted between one and five anti-Israel or anti-Jew Facebook items every day. He had 4000 Facebook "friends." Read: followers of his propaganda.
Today we have the endless conflict between Israel and Palestine that tires many of us so much that we want to ignore it. What many don’t realize is that Palestinians, who wanted independence from their former masters Jordan and Egypt for at least a century, not only lost the war (they supported Germany), they also lost what they had hoped for so long would be a free Palestine.
When the state of Israel was created after the war, from land taken from countries that supported the losing side (Germany, home of the Holocaust), Palestinians refused to give up their fight. Where previously Palestinians and Jews had lived peacefully, side by side, in Palestine, when the Jews succeeded in getting international support for the creation of Israel while the Arab Palestinians failed to get their own official homeland, the Palestinians vowed to never forget or give up their fight.
Palestinians, in general, may not be as well educated as the average Israeli. But they learned their lessons about propaganda from their German allies. They learned how to manipulate the media. They learned how to lie, repeatedly and consistently, until eventually enough people believe the lies. That’s what propaganda does, as demonstrated so well in the 1930s by Hitler’s buddy Goebbels, the master propagandist.
Israel learned too, but from the Roman empire, not from modern day militaries. Israel learned that when an enemy hurts you, you should hurt your enemy back ten times as hard as it hurt you. That’s how Israel has responded to attacks from Gaza and the West Bank.
Such principles of fighting back do not fit with modern morals and ethics. Hitting back with far more force than you were hit with makes you a bully today. Palestine tries to make Israel come off in the media like a powerful bully. It’s working. Blogs and social media give anti-Israeli propagandists free reign. White supremacists of the past have become anti-Israeli heroes of present day, in the eyes of some people.
The most important key to successful propaganda is to say your message with confidence. Truth is not important (in fact, lies are the preferred content of propaganda), so long as the message is delivered with confidence and determination. In propaganda, you never admit your own mistakes or weaknesses, you always blame your opponent for what you did wrong and you usually accuse your opponent of using the same dirty tactics as you use yourself. The whole US experience in Iraq is an excellent example.
Please, when you think about Israel today, remember that Jews have survived many extermination attempts over the past three millennia in which they have been denied a land of their own (the Holocaust was but one). How might you expect today’s Israelis to act when they finally got a country to call their own? How would you react if six million of your culture mates were gassed while millions of others were starved and abused?
Israel has acted badly, by modern standards, no doubt. Call it brutal. But is the answer to disenfranchise Israel? Bullying of other kinds has not been stopped by putting the bullies in jail. In fact, jail and punishment of other kinds of bullies have created more bullying than they have solved or prevented.
When enemies face each other as enemies, peace will never happen at the table. Only when they face each other as similar peoples with common interests is there any chance for peace.
Jews and Arabs are both Semitic peoples. Each is a collection of various tribes of the past. Wherever tribal customs, traditions and mores of the past continue today you will find conflict. Check out where conflict is happening in the world today and which maintain tribal values and you will find an almost perfect coincidence.
Not all Israelis subscribe to tribal values, but there are enough strong minded purists to influence their government. Not all Arabs, or even Palestinians, subscribe to the old tribal values, but there are enough that peace talks always mean enemy facing enemy across the negotiating table.
Whenever political representatives face each other as being "different" peace cannot be achieved. Only when they face each other as being the same people, only with different opinions that need to be resolved, will there be a viable possibility for peace.
Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book for teachers and parents about how to raise children who can cope in today’s complicated modern world. It’s a book about commonalities, not about differences, which is why it works. Learn more at http://billallin.com