Opinion

Not everyone you disagree with is a Nazi

It's a classic rhetorical move in our modern times to call your opposition Nazis. Don't like what that guy said? He's a Nazi. But actually, he's not.

Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA
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It's a classic rhetorical move in our modern times to call your opposition Nazis. Don't like what that guy said? He's a Nazi. Don't agree with what that guy thinks? He's a Nazi. But actually, he's not.

Keyboard activists seem to believe that anyone who disagrees with them should be called a Nazi, a fascist, a white supremacist even if they are Jewish or a minority or a victim of hate groups. Anyone who throws around these terms so easily is demonstrating their own ignorance of history, especially with regards to the 10 million souls brutally murdered for being different by white supremacists under the fascist rule of Adolf Hitler.

As children in Jewish day schools, we were raised on stories of Jewish martyrs. Rabbi Akiva, who while being tortured by the Romans, died saying the holiest of prayers the Shema. Elieazar the Maccabee, facing overwhelming odds from the Assyrian army, stabbed an elephant he believed was carrying King Antiochus, villain of the Hannukah story, and in the process died when the elephant collapsed on top of him. Spanish Jews who refused to convert during the inquisition and were tortured or expelled. European Jews in concentration camps who risked everything to light a menorah made out of potatoes or smuggle a pair of tefillin for prayer.

Not everyone learned the story of Mordechai Anielewicz, the leader of the ?ydowska Organizacja Bojowa (?OB), who led the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. By November of 1940 roughly 400,000 Jews, representing about 30% of all Warsaw’s population, were forced to live in a total area of 1.3 square miles surrounded by barbed wire and guards because they were different. Jews found outside the Ghetto without permission were executed. Extreme overcrowding, inadequate food supply and disease caused tens of thousands of deaths before deportation even began.

By the end of 1941 rumors of mass extermination of Jews reached the Ghetto. Anielewicz began organizing a resistance. In 1942, German authorities began deporting 6000 Jews a day to extermination camps. By September of 1942, over 300,000 Jews had been dispatched from the ghetto with over 265,000 being murdered in the Treblika concentration camp. The Jewish Marine Corps were able to smuggle in weapons and build bunkers in the ghetto. After several skirmishes and escapes, on Passover in April of 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began.

Before the uprising, Anielewicz wrote a letter:

"To the Jewish Masses in the Ghetto

"On January 22, 1943, six months will have passed since the deportations from Warsaw began. We all remember well the days of terror during which 300,000 of our brothers and sisters were cruelly put to death in the death camp of Treblinka. Six months have passed of life in constant fear of death, not knowing what the next day may bring. We have received information from all sides about the destruction of the Jews in the Government-General, in Germany, in the occupied territories.

"When we listen to this bitter news we wait for our own hour to come, every day and every moment. Today we must understand that the Nazi murderers have let us live only because they want to make use of our capacity to work to our last drop of blood and sweat, to our last breath. We are slaves, and when slaves are no longer profitable, they are killed. Everyone among us must understand that, and everyone among us must remember it always.“

Approximately 750 Jews from the ghetto were able to resist the German army and the SS for close to a month, using guerilla tactics and makeshift weapons. On May 8th Anielewicz’s bunker was discovered and destroyed killing Mordechai, his girlfriend and hundreds of other Jewish resistance fighters. While some managed to escape, the majority of the remaining Jews were sent to concentration camps and murdered.

I was always fascinated by this story and confused at the same time. Why didn’t more Jews resist during the Holocaust? There were those who joined partisan groups and other armies after escaping but why did the overwhelming majority go as lambs to the slaughter?

A dark topic not often discussed are the Judenraete, Jewish councils established by the Germans to ensure that Nazi orders and regulations were carried out. Council members were faced with impossible decisions such as complying with Nazi demands for lists of Jews to be deported or refuse and face certain death. Some like Joseph Parnes in Lvov, refused and were executed. Some advocated compliance like Jacob Gens in Vilna and even turned over Jewish resistance leaders. In Warsaw, the resistance attacked the Capos, Jewish Police who aided in enforcing German policy, viewing them as collaborators. For every Moshe Merin who denounced the underground in Sosnowiec, there was an Elchana Elkes who assisted the underground in Kovno.

Throughout our history of persecution, Jews have been faced with impossible decisions. Submit or die. I am tired of seeing people using Nazi analogies for those they disagree with. The act cheapens and lessens the evils committed by them. Just because you disagree with someone’s politics does not make them Hitler. Nazis murdered millions of people for being different. Not wearing a face mask or imposing lockdown orders does not make someone a Nazi intent on killing everyone around them. Full stop.

Something else has been troubling me. There are many, Jews and non Jews alike who would like to resume prayer services safely. There aren’t that many of us. We are .02% of the world’s population, not even a statistical anomaly. Outside of the tri state area and Los Angeles, many synagogues are not crowded on sabbath. You could literally have 6 feet of separation between each person with room to spare or hold services outdoors. Worshipers could use their own prayer books and doors could be propped open so avoid surface contact. What troubles me are those determined to stop their co-religionists.

Few are advocating for a re-opening without precautions. The majority are being cautious and respectful, yearning for services. Some disagree and that is their right. No one is forcing them to go back to services. They can stay home as long as they want. But for every person that wants public prayers, there is a counterpart who has reported them, bad mouthed them, glared at them, judging them for conducting prayer services, business or other activities allowed under guidelines.

There are even those too afraid to even attempt it, worried about what people might say or threats from elected officials or clergy. In the age of coronavirus there is no certainty of death hanging like a pall over every decision. As of today, ironically, there is a .02 percent chance of it. With the fear I have seen during this pandemic, I now understand how many could be so scared that they would go like lambs to the slaughter and turn on their co-religionists. I myself was reported for operating my business safely during coronavirus by a fellow Jew.

Stop calling people you disagree with Nazis, fascists, white supremacists and worse. Anyone who throws around those terms is displaying their own ignorance. Stop judging those who have made a different choice than you. Allow those of us who are trying to return to normal responsibly to do so without judgement. You are the examples your children will be raised on.

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