In March 1933, Adolf Hitler took power in Germany after a rigged election where his thugs had burned down the German parliament building and had blamed the main opposition, the Communists, in order to gain more votes. He instituted a dictatorship in Germany and tried to bring his country out of the economic depression that the collapsed stock market in New York in 1929 had led to.
Dictatorships occur from time to time in the history of all peoples — had Hitler been primarily interested in using a dictatorship to bring Germany out of an economic depression, I suppose he would be a national hero today. He succeeded in bringing his adopted homeland to a certain level of prosperity, as well as restoring Germans’ pride in being Germans.
But, this was not Hitler’s only goal. He had a vision for the world, one where Germans, styled Aryans, would rule the planet and all other peoples would be subject to their rule. And in his vision, certain people were to die. Gypsies, now called Roma, were regarded as a criminal class to be executed. Homosexuals were regarded as deviants to be executed. People who in one way or another did not come up to snuff were to be executed. But the most important group of people who had to die were Jews. In the eyes of the racist Nazi philosophy and religion, Jews were a race who stood against all that was good, and had to be exterminated, the way one exterminates cockroaches. Hitler was very clear about all this. His book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) detailed what he felt had to be done.
He proceeded to have laws passed that progressively impoverished the relatively prosperous German Jewish population. At first Jews thought they could ride it out in Germany, that this was just another of the many many Jew-hating Germans to rule Germany — that this too would pass. But by 1935, they realized the problem was not going away, and this man and his party were intent on destroying their community. They began to flee Germany, seeking desperately first to preserve their money, and then when they realized the mortal threat, their lives. Neighboring European nations began to see more and more German Jewish refugees and decided, at a conference at Evian, France, that the doors to these refugees would largely be closed.
At last, German Jews, desperate for a place to run to, began to run to Mandate Palestine; a few short years previous they never would have considered deserting the civilized Berlin for Mandate Palestine. But now they were happy to get out. Thousands of Jews settled in Tel Aviv and Haifa, giving a distinct flavor to the buildings they had erected.
However, while the Jewish Agency in Mandate Palestine was welcoming the new arrivals, happy to see the Jewish population of the country grow, Arabs under the leadership of the so-called “mufti of Jerusalem”, Amin el-Husseini, first protested against the new arrivals, and then began a violent rebellion. From 1936 to 1939, the Arabs ran an intifada against the British and the Jews both, killing Jewish civilians and British soldiers and functionaries. The Jewish Agency, which had formed a territorial defense force to protect the kibbutzím, the collective farms, from Arab attack, found the British seeking to “legalize” this territorial defense force, known as the haganá, so that they could have police and soldiers to defend against Arab terrorism. Today, in Beit Agrón in Jerusalem, you can see photos of Jewish kids from the haganá training to serve as police for the British.
This was not the only British response. They called together a commission from the House of Lords, popularly known as the “Peel Commission” to investigate the situation and in 1937 it met and came up with a solution – partitioning the Mandate into Jewish, Arab and British cantons. This solution was rejected by the cabinet in London, and a decision was made instead to restrict and to finally end Jewish immigration to the Mandate. According to the terms of the “White Paper” of 1939, each year 15,000 Jews would be allowed into Mandate Palestine for a period of five years. Afterwards, Jewish immigration to the Jewish homeland was to stop entirely. One can go into long histrionics about how this was a betrayal of the British Mandate – a Mandate of the League of Nations to erect a Jewish National Home – indeed, the British did betray their Mandate. But that is not for this article.
Between 1936 and 1939, at the same time the Arabs were rioting and committing terrorist acts in Mandate Palestine, the German state had re-occupied the Saarland, had annexed Austria, and had occupied and annexed Czechoslovakia, along with all the Jews that lived there. By 1939, thousands of Jews were extremely anxious to get into Mandate Palestine, and when the British effectively shut the door to Jewish immigration to the Jewish homeland, the vast majority of these Jews had nowhere to go. This inconvenienced the Nazis, whose original plan was to expel Jews to one central place (after robbing them of all their property), the Land of Israel, and exterminate them there. This is why when the Nazis took over Austria, they gave quite a number of Jews one way tickets to Mandate Palestine. I know a tailor in Jerusalem who received such a ticket from the SS.
Amin el-Husseini, originally a sort of protogé of the British, decided in 1939 that he had enough of them and fled, eventually turning up in Berlin, trying to curry favor with his spiritual hero, Hitler. He tried to make himself useful to Hitler, organizing a pro-Nazi coup d’état in Iraq in 1940, and after the British suppressed that, el-Husseini trained Albanian Moslems in a division of the German army. In addition, he lobbied Hitler hard to exterminate the Jews in Europe, not in the Land of Israel. This was a major factor in the construction of death camps in Poland, rather than mere slave-labor camps to hold Ukrainians, Russians, Poles and other Slavs. We can reasonably state that the death camps arose from, among other things, an Arab desire not to see dead Jews littering up what they felt was to be their homeland. It is worthwhile to note that whatever excuses Egyptians and other Arabs gave later, they too, were fans and admirers of Hitler. This is especially true of Gamal Abd-el Nasser and Anwar el-Sadat. Amin el-Husseini, for his part, gave Hitler an honorary nom de guerre, Abu Amar. Yasser Arafat, the protogé of el-Husseini, took that exact nom de guerre, Abu Amar for himself, indicating to his own followers that he would follow in Hitler’s footsteps — and exterminate the Jews.
In spite of this Arab betrayal, the British were true to the Arabs, and kept the doors of Mandate Palestine closed — or as closed as they could manage. It is not that Tommy Atkins actually shut the gas chamber door and tossed in the Zyklon B himself — but by shutting the door to the best refuge that millions of Jews could get to, the British condemned many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Jews, to a terrible death. If it were merely the British, one could say, well, the British don’t count for much in the world, dependent as they are on the Americans. So, let’s look at the Americans.
The Americans went to war because the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in the Territory of Hawaii, and because the Germans declared a state of war between the United States and Germany. The Americans had already effectively allied themselves with the British and when they finally got war production up to a sufficient degree, they supplied the British with armaments and flew huge air-raids over Germany and eventually Poland. They fire-bombed German cities, leaving them in ruins, and eventually invaded France via Normandy. It was after the invasion of Normandy that the Germans could have deduced that the Americans had broken their Enigma Code (protecting this secret — that they had broken the German Enigma Code — was the excuse the USAAF used for not bombing the concentration camps). But the bottom line is that neither the British nor the Americans ever bombed a concentration camp, or even the train tracks to concentration camps. So between the British locking Jews out of Mandate Palestine, and Americans and British refusing to bomb either the concentration camps or the track leading to them, the Nazis had a relatively free hand in their determined attempt to exterminate my people.
So, in other words, for me now, it is not a matter of merely visiting Yad Vashem or another such memorial and seeing thousands of childrens’ shoes and condemning the Nazis who snuffed out the lives of these children. There are also the Americans and the British, who by their omissions in refusing to bomb concentration camps, and by the commission of preventing Jews from reaching the best possible refuge, who contributed mightily to those deaths. The term “un-indicted co-conspirator” almost fits.
So in addition to remembering those who were heroes in attempting to save Jews’ lives, the Schindlers and the Wallensteins, we must also remember those who by their actions contributed to their deaths.
Forgetting or forgiving is not a luxury the Jewish nation can afford when one third of its members have been exterminated. So, we cannot forget or forgive the Nazis; we cannot forget or forgive the millions of European collaborators in Nazi-occupied Europe; we cannot forget or forgive those who shut the doors of Mandate Palestine and who thereby condemned untold numbers of Jews to the most horrible of deaths; we cannot forget or forgive those who refused to bomb the Nazi death camps, or even the tracks leading to those death camps. Finally, we cannot forget or forgive the Arabs who lobbied so hard for the building of death camps in Europe – they are the true inheritors of the satanic Nazi cult today, and they carry it on today in cooperation with the new Jew-haters of Europe, Canada and America.
We cannot forget — we cannot forgive; and we Jews must do all we can to see to it that our enemies who rise against us today are killed so that we may live.