fbpx

The Nazis Are Back

Following the terrorist, antisemitic, racist attacks by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and their collaborators on innocent civilians we are forced as experts on violence against children to call these actions by name.
[additional-authors]
October 17, 2023
A woman looks at a wall with photos of hostages kidnapped and taken to Gaza in last Saturday’s Hamas attack on October 17, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

The current war in Israel brings a new urgency to questions of the fate of Jewish children as targets of genocide. History repeats itself today on Israeli soil: Jews are being killed as Jews. Following the terrorist, antisemitic, racist attacks by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and their collaborators on innocent civilians we are forced as experts on violence against children to call these actions by name.

A genocide “means … to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group“ (UN). We emphasize that it is obvious from the death toll that Jewish children have now become targets of murder and abuse just like in the Nazi era.

The Nazi elite implemented its genocidal policy onto Jewish children. Their favorite vocabulary included “judenrein,” which means “clean” or free of Jews. Free of Jews means free of Jewish children. This freedom meant killings, massacres, extermination, abuse, torture. Jewish children had to run for their lives. The numbers are only estimates and well known: 1.5 million children were murdered in the Holocaust. “The Germans as you know, hate Jewish children,” said 10-year-old child survivor Sara Lajbowicz in Poland in 1945

Historical Background

Following the victory over the Nazis it became obvious that only a small number of Jewish children had endured the widespread Nazi camp system, round-ups and mass killings all over Europe in hiding—with foreign families, in monasteries, in partisan units or in the Soviet Union. They were the victims of a unique atrocity against the Jewish child. The Nazis carried specific murder actions against Jewish children. In ghettos they proclaimed “children´s actions,” which were manhunts, and they boasted about doing their duty. Nazi stakeholders from the leadership elite, such as Heinrich Himmler in October 1943 in Posen, declared their specific aims to murder Jewish children so that they could not come back and take revenge. And Rudolf Höss, commandant in Auschwitz, wrote in his in his postwar memories: “The destruction of Judaism was necessary to free Germany, to free our descendants for all time from the toughest adversaries.”

To Jews under Nazi rule it became obvious that they targeted Jewish children specifically. Emanuel Ringelblum, Jewish historian and chronicler of the Warsaw ghetto, wrote in 1942:

“Constantly we receive testimonies of the murder of Jewish children and elders. … Of course, the intention here is not just any field, but simply the extermination of young people. … Except for the pharaoh who ordered the sons to be thrown into the Nile River, we know of no other similar case. On the contrary, they always left the children alive to give them to Christianity. Even in the darkest ages, in the middle ages, there was a spark of humanity in the rough hearts of the barbarians who, in general, forgave the lives of babies. However, this did not happen with the Nazi animal that devoured precisely the most beloved, which awakens the greatest of mercies—the innocent children.”

The Voice of the Children

The testimonies of the tiny number of Jewish children given right after the Holocaust tell us of their harrowing experiences. They brutally had to learn that Jews were killed because they were Jews. They starved in the ghettos, were incarcerated in camps, hounded over the countryside, lost their families, and fended for themselves, escaping one life threatening situation after the other. Moreover, we have no documentation of the experiences of the children who did not survive—the 97 percent who didn’t make it. The younger a child was, the more he or she regarded the world of the Holocaust as “normal”; it was not possible for them to use the time before as a reference. After the war´s end it became obvious that survival did not yet mean life; it was an intermediate state, and they had to learn to live again. For the little ones in particular they often knew the preliminary stages of death better than life.

Today

As they grew older many child survivors starting writing their memoirs and gave testimonies. Their voices were heard. In 2009 Holocaust survivors of the concentration camps, many of whom were child survivors, released their declared legacy to younger generations: The last eyewitnesses turn to Germany, to all the European countries and the international community to continue the human gift of remembrance and commemoration in the future. We ask the young people to support our struggle against Nazi ideology and for a just, peaceful and tolerant world, a world in which antisemitism, racism, xenophobia and right-wing extremism have no place.”

One of the child survivors whose declared aim was to fight for peace was Hannah Pick-Goslar, friend of Anne Frank. “If it happens once—it can happen twice.” This is the opposite of “never again.” Unfortunately it happened again, on October 7 in the genocidal attacks of Israel by Hamas, in villages and kibbutzim.

The terrible events of violence against children and their families, including parents sacrificing themselves to save or hide their children, are very strong psychological and historical triggers to Jewish children survivors of the Holocaust and their offspring. To them, the Holocaust was never really over. The world cannot ignore this strong connection. Ruti, daughter of Hannah Pick-Goslar, living in Jerusalem, a 2nd-generation Holocaust survivor, says: “It´s there all the time, you carry it every day with you—even though everything looks nicely. It is always in the back, it says, ‘be careful, everything can be omit in once.’” This is exactly what happened to civilians, families and babies on October 7 when Hamas and its collaborators made every effort to carry out its genocidal policy by brutally attacking Israeli citizens.

This is exactly what happened to civilians, families and babies on October 7 when Hamas and its collaborators made every effort to carry out its genocidal policy by brutally attacking Israeli citizens.

We as Holocaust scholars owe it not only to Holocaust survivors to speak out. We owe it also to the victims of the new Nazis. Hamas and its collaborators kidnapped Jewish children and elderly to Gaza; they conducted a “manhunt” and executed civilians. You can´t say “yes, but …” It is important to name it for what it is: a Nazi-like, genocidal policy. And anyone who supports this is failing both historically and morally and is supporting a Nazi-like ideology. Now, the world is full of Hamas and its supporters. On TikTok and Instagram, the videos show and celebrate cruelty and sexual and racial abuse. The Nazis produced similar materials.

We as Holocaust researchers are calling you to speak out and take action against this!

The granddaughter of a Holocaust child survivor stated on October 12, 2023: “The past few days have been devastating to any Israeli citizen. What is important to grasp as we’re talking about this past week of horror is that Israel is a very small country, which means that when over 1,300 civilians are slaughtered, and over 130 are kidnapped, every single family knows someone who lost their loved ones. And while we mourn all of them, we are also being drafted to protect our country, all at the same time. As a granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, Mirijam Lapid, it feels really hard to put any words together. My grandma’s story of survival has always sounded so surreal, like nothing you can imagine yourself living through and surviving with such bravery. One of the main goals of the establishment of our country has always been providing a safe home for all Jewish people and promising ‘Never Again.’ As more footage and stories are being shared throughout this week, you can’t help but realizing it is happening again. The descriptions told by survivors of the horrific deeds towards innocent civilians—men, women, children, babies and elderly (some of them are Holocaust survivors themselves)—is unbelievably heart-wrenching. My heart goes to all Holocaust survivors who are now reliving and rewatching the worst shape of human cruelty in front of their very eyes.“


Dr. Boaz Cohen is Head of the Holocaust Studies Program at Western Galilee College Akko in Israel. Dr. Verena Buser, from Berlin, is a research fellow at Western Galilee College.

 

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

wildpixel/Getty Images

Politically Homeless

Although I used to just call myself a moderate, that’s never actually been accurate.

The Good German

Christian brothers and sisters, do your Jewish friends think of you as a person who will stand by them?

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.