A Glass Still Full
A Reflection by
Jay B Gaskill, attorney at law
Monday’s San Francisco Chronicle carried a wrenching story about three Jewish girls who were taken from their home in Wierzbnik, Poland by the Nazis in 1942. As their parents were taken away on a separate train, Annie Glass, 18, was told by her mother to “Hang on to your sisters!” (Sally, 15, and Miriam, 13).
For anyone who is the least bit complacent about the fate of Jews forced to live under a hostile regime, or doubtful of the moral legitimacy and ultimate necessity of Israel as the world’s one Jewish refuge state, this story – one of thousands like it – provides a necessary corrective.
San Francisco Chronicle, September 13, 2010
Sisters offer living link to Holocaust
Auschwitz survivors teach value of family
This entire piece is now available in full at this link –
I recommend that you take the time to read the whole article. I have some comments below.
Here are extended excerpts from Meredith May’s excellent piece:
“The girls knew they were losing their home when they saw their parents burying family heirlooms and concealing fabrics from the family textile business in the walls. … [F]amilies were marched at gunpoint to waiting trains, [its] destination … a concentration camp. [Those with work papers were spared for slave labor in nearby factories.]
“The young girls, unbelievably, had work papers. Their mother, through a textile connection, had been able to pawn her jewelry to buy the papers, even though most of the work permits were going to men of working age.
“[Annie] stood Miriam on a brick so she would appear older. Guards shuttled the girls to the work car — their first stroke of luck.
“They were taken to a barracks and factory called Majowka, where a brutal overseer killed Jews for sport, forcing them to balance on a beam and shooting them when they wavered.
“Guards with machine guns routinely entered the sick ward at Majowka and killed patients in their beds, according to historian Christopher Browning’s book ‘Remembering Survival’.
“When [Annie] heard her mother was in the labor camp kitchen, she found her peeling potatoes. But something was wrong. …she had delivered a bunkmate’s baby, but the Germans heard its cries and injected it with something to kill it.
“A week later, [mother] died of heartbreak in my arms,” [Annie] said. “I see that picture in my eyes all the time. Two soldiers put a sheet over her, and I jumped on her, begging the soldiers to kill me.
“After the five-day train ride, the girls were registered, their heads shaved and their arms tattooed with a crude needle.
“The sisters, and 200 others, were told to strip and enter a gas chamber. It was night. They sat shivering on long wooden benches waiting to die.
“Night became morning.
“A soldier finally came in and shouted to the girls to put some clothes on and go to the barracks…
[Later], “On one of their morning marches, a guard saw that Miriam’s face was flushed and pulled her away from her sisters for the camp hospital.
“…[H]er baby sister would surely be killed, because it was hospital policy to ship the sick to the crematories. She began gathering twigs and weeds to make a broom. The next morning, she sneaked into the hospital and found a nurse who spoke Polish. She presented her a gift of the broom and pleaded with the woman to look after her sister.
“Days passed. Glass was in line for the bathroom when she saw trucks loading hospital patients for the gas chambers. [She ran] ‘into the hospital, and it was empty. … ‘The nurse was there, and she opened a closet. She had hidden Miriam in the linens and pillows.’”
Two of the three sisters are now living in San Francisco. Miriam was murdered there in 1977. All in all, the Glass family has been decimated; one of the sisters’ cousins survived the camps, an aunt and uncle were able to move to Israel.
Modern Israel was born (reborn) under the auspices of the United Nations in 1948, sustained by the singular, morally confident backing of US President Harry S. Truman.
“At midnight on May 14, 1948, the Provisional Government of Israel proclaimed the new State of Israel. On that same date the United States, in the person of President Truman, recognized the provisional Jewish government as de facto authority of the new Jewish state (de jure recognition was extended on January 31). The U.S. delegates to the U.N. and top ranking State Department officials were angered that Truman released his recognition statement to the press without notifying them first. On May 15, 1948, the Arab states issued their response statement and Arab armies invaded Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war began.” From the Truman Library website –http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/israel/large/index.php
“Truman’s “pro-Israel outlook ‘was based primarily on humanitarian, moral, and sentimental grounds, many of which were an outgrowth of the president’s religious upbringing and his familiarity with the Bible.’ Extensive research into Truman’s biography and earlier career shows his impressive consistency.”
Daniel Pipes reviewing Benson’s Harry S Truman and The founding of Israel, in The Middle East Quarterly, September 1998.
The Italian republican revolutionary, Giuseppe Garibaldi, is credited with the observation that “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Whether Garibaldi said it first, he undoubtedly observed it. The forces of good must learn to triumph over evil over and over again, because evil is a recurring pathogen.
The homicidal haters of the Jewish peoples are a recurring pathogen of the human condition.
Sadly, the courage shown by Harry S Truman and the founders of Israel was not a one-off permanent fix. The enemy is a permanent one. Western civilization itself, of which Israel is but a local example, is the target of an atavistic form of malignent narcissism. This mindset is characterized by the destructive urge to bring down the “others” who enjoy perceived success, because their very existence is an affront, making the contrast intolerable to one’s own sense of failure. It is a form of insanity to be sure, but a durable one. Malignent narcissism is why, for example, drug addicts attempt to recruit others (validating their own depravity) and why, from an Islamic perspective, the material and technological successes of the Western liberal democracies must be seen as a perversion (validation their own failure).
If the Jewish people were just another tribe jockeying for territory, the unhinged-jihad against them might have cooled by now. The homicidal animus towards Israel stems from the fact that the Jewish state operates under a different paradigm than Islam, that of a free, marginally “decadent”, but morally centered society. Israel’s very success threatens Arab, Islamic triumphalism. Israel and the West are not threatened by a major world religion, but by a militant ideology transmuted from the unreformed versions of that religion.
Sanity can not be expected to surrender to malevolent insanity.
Another aphorism comes to mind – By their enemies, you shall know them.
There is an ugly, recurring consistency of spirit and world view that is shared by the Jew-haters of the 20th and 21st century. The current malevolence of Israel’s enemies threads back to the Germany of the 1930’s. Recall that the Nazi movement was born in the great German humiliation. The failure of German greatness in WW I and the reparations that followed was seen though the lens of resentment. To the malignent narcissist mind, the “unjust” success of everyone else is a death penalty offence.
And this is how the worst form of authoritarian triumphalism can arise: It becomes national therapy.
We now know that Nazi propaganda was aimed specifically – and with significant success- at the Arab populations, using quotations from the Qur’an to promote anti-Semitism as a common ground in the German war effort.
One report, among that the many recent accounts that are corroborating this, comes from the University of Maryland.
“After four decades of studying Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, Maryland history Professor Jeffrey Herf made one of the most important archival discoveries of his career just a mile from his office.
“More than 3,000 pages of transcripts of Nazi radio broadcasts to Arab nations in the Middle East, stored at the National Archives in College Park, had apparently gone without notice since being declassified in 1977. They reveal the extent to which German officials not only presented their country as an ally of Arab anti-imperialism but also exploited the Koran to spread anti-Semitism.
“Herf’s exploration of this treasure trove became the foundation for his fifth book, ‘Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World,’ published last month  by Yale University Press.
“The broadcasts also show how the Nazis selectively used passages from the Koran to spread hatred of the Jews and of Zionism. Herf asserts that the wartime propaganda offensive was an important chapter in the longer and broader history of Islamic extremism.
“A July 1942 broadcast on the Voice of Free Arabism station, ‘Kill the Jews Before They Kill You,’ opened with the false statement that Britain had armed Jews in Egypt to rise up against Egyptians when the Nazis drove British forces from the country.
In 2009, Iran’s mullahs engineered the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a raging anti-Semite and holocaust denier, as the country’s president. As I write this, Iran is actively working towards the next holocaust, this one to be accomplished using atomic weapons.
Note the convenience of atomic weapons, especially for a country hobbled by a third world infrastructure, yet bent on mass murder. The German-engineered holocaust required organizational and transportation skills currently beyond the capability of Iran and its allied jihad-actors. If just one nation can just build a few atomic bombs, it will no longer have to rely on a vast network of railroad cars, camps and ovens, and the sprawling bureaucracy such an undertaking entails.
No honest expert now assesses the Iranian nuclear program as peaceful, nor doubts the regime’s malevolent deceptions and plans. But Israel is under strong pressure by the current US administration (headed by someone I have called the anti-Truman) to stay its hand.
Again, the world faces an outbreak of recrudescent authoritarian triumphalism, once again as national therapy, this time for the economic and political failures of the regimes of theocratic Islam.
I can hear that soul shattering parental admonition, shouted from a retreating Nazi train: Look after your sisters!
That simple statement touched the sturdy moral reality manifested by Harry S Truman and our greatest generation. This is our time now, and the clock is running out.