As a young man I recall my father speaking only once of the nightmare that was the camps-the death chambers buried deep below the blood and marrow stained chimneys- the final escape for the charred remains of the “different”- of the “enemies” of the day.
A war hero, later to be seriously injured in battle but scarred not by whom he fought, but rather, what he saw, he remained haunted till the final peaceful escape that his own death brought him many years later. His was a pained existence of sleepless nights and long anxious days. When you’ve been to hell and back the niceties of life with its wistful dreams and bankrupt sanctimonious values just don’t seem to matter. When you’ve been to hell and back cheap campaign slogans and discounted Sunday brunches give you no real reason to get out of bed.
A Jew himself, fluent in Yiddish and German, and a slight but sturdy martial arts expert and master sergeant, dad seemed a perfect blend to carry out the few surviving but broken bodies he found in darkened corridors they called home while they waited their turn for death’s grip. Only once did he recount the details of a rescue of a living skeleton he had found huddled in the corner of a floor where two long dark tunnels intersected. In drone, almost monotone, measure he spoke of a young 80 lb man who trembled with fright, eyes dazed and shrunken into his battered aged face, fixated all the while on the uniformed stranger whom he thought had come to take him to the ovens. Only with the ring of dad’s New York Yiddish accent did this likely Polish Jew break down-at first with a single yelp, it soon turned to wailing sobs. As he was carried to his freedom both men began to cry uncontrollably. Gently placing the man down in the sunlight outside, he gave him some food and water before returning to the bowels of hell to search for other survivors. When finished, he walked off overwhelmed, and never looked back.
My father would not again be the same. Nor would I. Though still young, that day long ago, I journeyed with him down a road of pure unmitigated evil. For me, it was an all too early, but necessary, life-forming glimpse into what boundless racial and religious “supremacy” could do when cheered on by the howl of the mob, empowered by the silence of the world.
They came from the Jewish shetls and pogroms of Europe, from the off-beat world of art and theater, from the pews of Catholic churches, from anarchist and communist meeting halls, from refugee camps of stateless gypsies and from the beds shared by women and men who found comfort and intimacy of their own choosing. In country after country, city after city the largely passive, but still hopeful, surrendered their homes and liberty; although at times many fought, it was not for freedom but, it is said, better seats in the box cars that were to become very much a one way ride. In death camps that dotted the European landscape like yester-years rest stops, millions were slaughtered as little more than convenient excuses for broken political promises, failed social policies and economic downturns. How often today have you heard the phrase “them” or “those people? ” Some things just don’t change.
Warsaw was to prove different. There in 1943 in a wonderful grand gesture of defiance that today still rings true it reminds us all of the choice which must be made in the face of deadly evil. There, thousands of lightly armed Jews said no, fought back and died not from noxious fumes that passed through their passive terrified bodies but from the rain of Nazi bullets and bombs that their resistance invited, or at their own hands. At days end, they died as women and men of principle and conscience who refused to go silently unto the night although they knew all too well, that the night to come would surely come soon and, for them, remain eternal.
What is there about life’s back roads that so easily and sadly turn a tourist into tour guide, inmates into guards, victims into victimizers. To answer this question is to know the grand truth of Israel- a Zionist state that has committed unspeakable crimes against eleven million Palestinians, almost all of them civilians, for 67 years and counting.
Today the martyrs of Warsaw recoil in sheer horror as they look down from their final resting place of honor- they did not pay the ultimate price to see their sons and daughters build death camps that their grandchildren now guard in occupied Palestine. Of course, like the Nazis, Zionists roll out deadly bankrupt propaganda which justifies genocide, ethnic cleansing and collective punishment of Palestinians as so much a “legitimate” response to Israel’s perpetual and imaginary victimization. Like the Nazis before, Israeli style box cars and camps serve the public “good” and “security” always for the “right” reason- in Israel the earth is flat because Israel says so ! For far too long the Holocaust in all its undeniable horror has served the Zionist agenda as a convenient excuse to engage in atrocities that would bring a broad smile to the face of legendary war criminals. Indeed, Netanyahu and his predecessors would be second to none in a prisoner dock filled with the likes of US General Sherman, Ataturk, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Pinochet, Nixon and Bush and too many others to name- a literal hall of shame that stretches from the South Africa, Yugoslavia and Rwanda of yesterday to Sisi, ISIS, Boka Haram and Obama today. To systematically target civilians for death, to destroy civilian infrastructure, including electricity, water and sanitation systems and schools, to use prohibited and chemical weapons of war, including phosphorous and cluster bombs, to disappear, torture, maim and detain political opponents, or those who resist, indefinitely and without trial, including hundreds of children at any given time, to deny essential foodstuffs, medicines and basic healthcare, to destroy farm lands and age old groves, to annex occupied land and deport those who resist for no reason other than your military can do so, is to cross the line of decency and humanity and to earn a well deserved place among the darkest of the dark who claim legitimacy all the while they scoff at international law and sow carnage wherever they go. If systematic attacks based upon race, religion, ethnicity and political beliefs are criminal, the State of Israel was crafted from a fundamental illegality which continues unabated and no less criminal today.
Beginning long before the atrocities of World war II through the establishment of a racist “Jewish” state in 1948, Zionist militias perfected the art of terrorism in Palestine though a relentless public campaign of atrocities in which Palestinians and British alike were targeted for death and destruction. To the Zionist Palmach, Irgun and Stern gangs, all targets were fair game- no civilians safe, no tactic beyond the pale. Was it Hamas who bombed the King David Hotel murdering 88 mostly British civilians in Jerusalem or who assassinated the Swedish ambassador not long thereafter? Was it ISIS that bombed British cars, garages, offices, radio and power stations, dynamited airplanes, sank boats and robbed banks? Was it Hezbollah which assassinated British police as they directed traffic or who murdered soldiers as they slept in their barracks? Was it the Taliban which kidnapped officers later hanging them from nearby trees ? Was it Boka Haram that leveled Deir Yassin raping young girls, butchering hundreds of unarmed Palestinian men, women (including the pregnant) and children leaving bodies to rot in wells not to poison their water or to hide their crimes, but to send a message with the whiff of their rotting corpses; a message that triggered a desperate flight of some eight hundred thousand Palestinians from their villages and farms to seek refuge in camps throughout the Middle East where they and their descendants remain today ? Was it Al Qaeda which attacked and burned dozens of other Palestinian villages and businesses, in an almost nationwide frenzied destruction and killing spree, leaving mounds of slaughtered animals, burned out crops and trees in its wake? Was it Al Shabab that surrounded the refugee camp of Sabra Shatilla in Lebanon leading to the slaughter of thousands of unarmed Palestinian men, women and children? Has it been Assad of Syria that has murdered and injured tens of thousands of civilians in Gaza during the three most recent attacks on one of the world’s most densely and impoverished civilian enclaves leaving upwards of 50% or more of its homes and infrastructure destroyed ?
In the perverse world in which we live today, there is a fine line between freedom fighter and terrorist- who wins! Fundamental Issues of morality, justice and human rights get carved up as so much the spoils of victory by the victors, while those who resist, and at times, by any means necessary, get reduced to little more than mad men and women driven by age old passions, dangerous fanatical “religious beliefs” and a thirst to regain what, it is claimed, was not theirs in the first stead.
In Israel, Begin, Shamir and Rabin all led fanatical terrorist groups which committed unspeakable crimes which targeted any and all who “got in their way” in pursuit of their divine right as the “chosen” people – each later became a respected leader of the Zionist state. Today, each is celebrated as an heroic founder of a noble just country. But, then again, in Israel the earth is still considered to be flat, so it is.
2 thoughts on “sleepless nights and long anxious days”
Wonderfully well said Stanley Cohen.
Would that every Zionist State supporter would read this … & maybe even weep with compassion for Palestine & for the pain & suffering they have caused to the numberless human beings, the lives destroyed, the families shattered … & on & on it goes: greed, hatred & racism. Zionism in three words !!
David Hicks . Eltham North, Australia.
wonderfully well said Stanley Cohen!everyone who tells himself “democratic” should read and share it…