By MENACHEM Z. ROSENSAFT
Two weeks ago, I went back to Bergen-Belsen in Germany for the 66th anniversary of that Nazi concentration camp’s liberation. Standing amid its mass graves, I realized that I’m alive because an SS officer named Kurt Becher persuaded the commandant to surrender the camp to the British. Tonight I’m attending a UN screening of “The Relief of Belsen,” a film on what came next. Built to hold at most 8,000 inmates, Bergen-Belsen was by April 1945 overcrowded with more than 40,000 emaciated inmates — many suffering from extreme malnutrition, typhus, tuberculosis, dysentery and a host of other virulent diseases — alongside some 10,000 unburied corpses in varying stages of decay. Among the liberated was my mother, a 32-year-old dentist from Poland who had arrived from Auschwitz-Birkenau five months earlier. My father and 15,000 more inmates were imprisoned less than a mile away at a German Army base. I was born three years later at the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons camp set up on that very same army base. I doubt if my parents and most other inmates would have survived if the British hadn’t freed them when they did. As it is, liberation brought an unprecedented medical and humanitarian challenge. For weeks on end, my mother (appointed by the British to organize and head a medical team among the survivors, and who is featured in the film) and her group of 28 doctors and 620 other volunteers worked round-the-clock alongside the military doctors to try to save as many survivors as possible. Despite their desperate efforts, the Holocaust claimed another 13,944 victims at Belsen in the two months after the liberation.And those who lived had to face a grim reality. As my mother later recalled: “We had lost our families, our homes. We had no place to go, nobody to hug, nobody who was waiting for us, anywhere. We had been liberated from death and from the fear of death, but we were not free from the fear of life.”The Genocide Convention, adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 9, 1948, was meant to put an end to such tragedies. Instead, the last half-century has seen devastating new genocides in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Darfur and elsewhere. And Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who repeatedly and unabashedly threatens the citizens of Israel with genocidal destruction, has yet to be declared a criminal under either the Genocide Convention or the standards applied by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg 65 years ago.I teach a seminar on post-World War II war-crimes trials. One of my students last fall was Adisada Dudic, a survivor of the genocidal atrocities perpetrated on Bosnian Muslims by Serbian forces in the 1990s. As a child, she spent three years in refugee camps with her mother and sisters. “My home country is destroyed,” Adisada wrote, “my family members are scattered all over the world, thousands of Bosnian women and girls were raped and ravaged, thousands of Bosnian men and boys were tortured in concentration camps and buried in mass graves, and so many of my people were slaughtered by an enemy hand that was out to get every single person that self-identified as a Bosnian Muslim.” “I am infuriated,” she went on, “that we continue to have gross violations of human rights all over the world while we continue to find excuses for why we cannot interfere in other countries’ affairs.”Holocaust remembrance must not be allowed to devolve into an abstraction, intellectual or spiritual. If we are to honor the memory of the victims of Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz and all the other sites where Hitler’s “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” was implemented, all of us, individually and collectively, must take as our guiding principle the vow made by Elie Wiesel when he accepted the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize.He swore “never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation . . . Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”Menachem Z. Rosensaft teaches at Cornell Law School and Syracuse University College of Law; he is vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.
Category Archive: Iran
By MENACHEM Z. ROSENSAFT
An epic French documentary about the Holocaust, dubbed into Farsi, is to be broadcast on a satellite channel in Iran as part of a campaign to promote understanding between Jews and Muslims and to fight Holocaust denial.Filmmaker Claude Lanzmann’s renowned 9-plus-hour film “Shoah” includes testimony from concentration camp survivors and employees about the slaughter of millions of Jews in Europe during World War II.The Aladdin Project, a Paris-based group, says the film will be shown starting Monday over the next several days on the large Los Angeles-based satellite channel Pars. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has questioned historical accounts of the Holocaust, and called for Israel’s destruction.The Aladdin Project tried twice to get a green light from Iranian authorities to hold a press conference in Tehran about the killing of Jews during World War II, but received no response, Abe Radkin, the group’s executive director, told The Associated Press.”If the Iranian government agrees to broadcast (the film) on a public channel, we would welcome it,” he said. TV satellite dishes are outlawed in Iran, but enforcement of the ban is spotty. Many people no longer worry about concealing the dishes. In recent months, authorities have targeted some sections of Tehran to remove dishes, but the sweeps appear to be isolated.The Aladdin Project has also dubbed the film into Arabic and Turkish. It will be shown in Turkey at the Istanbul film festival next month, then a week later on the TRT channel, Radkin said.The group had planned to broadcast the film on an Egyptian channel, but has put the plans on hold amid unrest that ousted longtime President Hosni Mubarak.
Iran has started a website with cartoons on the Holocaust aimed at undermining the historic dimensions of the mass murder of Jews during World War II, Fars news agency reported on Thursday. The site – http://holocartoons.com – is financed by a non-governmental cultural foundation and mainly based on a cartoon book on the Holocaust published in 2008 which contained satirical cartoons and texts aimed at questioning the Holocaust and how the issue was allegedly used by Israelis.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned the historic dimensions of the Holocaust but rejected the label of an anti-Semite, the Fars news agency reported Friday.
“The West made a claim – about the Holocaust – and urges all the people in the world to accept it or otherwise go to prison,” Ahmadinejad told a group of Islamic scholars Thursday in Nigeria, where he attended a summit of the Developing Eight, a group of countries with large Muslim populations.
“The West allows everybody to question prophets and even God but not to pose a simple question and open the black box of a historic event,” he charged.
Parliament president Jerzy Buzek has described the Holocaust as “the greatest ever human tragedy”, 65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Buzek, who grew up a stone’s throw from the Nazi death camp, returned to his native Poland for a commemoration ceremony, organised by the European Jewish Congress, World Holocaust Forum, and Yad Vashem.
Following an evocative opera performance in Krakow, which depicted the suffering of Jews at the hands of their Nazi occupiers, Buzek said that, for him, it wasn’t just a performance but a “demonstration of what it looked like”.
“I am here today as a representative of the citizens of a united Europe,” he said. “But the path to this point was a long and painful one.”
Paying tribute to the camp’s Soviet liberators – some of whom were in the audience for the ceremony – the president highlighted the importance of parliament’s role in promoting human rights and democracy.
European institutions are loudest in demanding respect for human rights, said Buzek, and “it is an obligation we have to follow”.
Heading a delegation of more than 25 MEPs from 11 countries, the former Polish prime minister said we must learn from our past, and warned that future generations are “not allowed to forget” what happened in Auschwitz.
“It is our duty as Europeans to ensure remembrance and to educate,” he said.
“Those who lived through the hell of the camps never forget.
“But there are fewer and fewer of them among us. The others – the younger generations – must not be allowed to forget.”
And it is the task of the European parliament, argued Buzek, to help educate younger generations to “guard” the memory of Auschwitz.
His comments were echoed by Aleksander Kwasniewski, chair of the European Council on Tolerance, who said, “We will not be content with not remembering. Here, the Nazis did not succeed.”
But he warned that “memory alone is not enough”, and said the world must ensure such suffering never happens again.
He said future generations had been safeguarded “in a way”. But pointing to cases such as Bosnia, Cambodia and Darfur, he argued that “the mantra of ‘never again’ proved, to an extent, powerless”.
No country can claim that the battle against intolerance has been won, Kwasniewski said, adding, “Tolerance is continually being put to the test.”
Iran was singled out for criticism by speakers at the Krakow event.
Earlier this week, EU foreign policy chiefs meeting in Brussels decided that there would be no unilateral sanctions imposed on Tehran over its uranium enrichment programme without UN security council approval.
However, Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said, “I see another horror coming to our world. I am talking about Iran.
“We have a man who denies the Holocaust, who talks about the destruction of Israel and hatred of Jews.”
Referring to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Lauder called on international leaders to “take him [Ahmadinejad] seriously”.
“Unless we do, we have great problems in store,” he warned. “The EU must continue to fight against this tyrant with the rest of the free world.”
Meir Lau, the chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, told of his own experience as a seven year-old when, as prisoners were lined up to be taken away, his mother pushed him into the arms of his elder brother. “She saved my life,” he said.
And he called on world leaders to “be brave enough and determined enough” to save lives if faced with a similar threat.
“Take decisions, don’t hesitate,” the Holocaust survivor said.
“Decisions are better late than never. Don’t stand on the blood of someone. Do what is possible.”
The third international forum, “Let my people live”, took place within the framework of the international Holocaust remembrance day, ahead of an official state commemoration ceremony at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s supreme leader predicted the destruction of Israel in comments posted on his Web site on Wednesday, in some of his strongest remarks in years about the Jewish state.
In the past, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called Israel a “cancerous tumour” that must be wiped from the map, but the new comments mark the first time in years he has openly speculated about Israel’s demise.
“Definitely, the day will come when nations of the region will witness the destruction of the Zionist regime,” Khamenei was quoted as saying. “How soon or late (Israel’s demise) will happen depends on how Islamic countries and Muslim nations approach the issue.” He did not elaborate.
Khamenei, who made the comments during a meeting with the Mauritanian president on Tuesday, also accused Israel of trying to destroy the Palestinians “through continued pressure, blockades and genocide.” He said the Jewish state will not succeed.
Khamenei’s comments come as the world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday, the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi-run Auschwitz death camp.
Iran does not recognize Israel, and the two countries have been bitter enemies since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, and current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel’s destruction.
Tehran is accused of supporting Lebanon’s Shiite Muslim militant group, Hezbollah, which fought Israel until it withdrew it soldiers from southern Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah continues to launch occasional attacks against Israeli troops in a disputed strip of land on Lebanon’s southern border. Iran also backs Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls the Gaza Strip.
American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants denounces Hezbollah’s ‘disgraceful act’ as a twin blow against decency. ‘It is a blatant expression of Holocaust denial, and an assault on one of the great works of modern literature and civilization,’ group says
|Published:||11.13.09, 07:30 / Israel Jewish Scene|
The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants recently slammed Hezbollah for censoring Anne Frank