As a child Hannah Rosenthal was quite aware of the Holocaust. It was a household word. Other families had large gatherings with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. You could count her family reunions on one hand.
That’s because 72 years ago, during Kristalnacht, her father, Rabbi Franz Rosenthal, and many of his congregants were sent to Buchenwald. Every other person in his family perished in Auschwitz. He alone survived.
He never knew the date his parents died so he’d say kaddish on their birthdays.
Recently Hannah’s daughter Shira wrote her college thesis on Grandpa Franz. Researching in the archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Shira discovered the deportation orders of family members.
“Now I know when to say kaddish for my grandparents,” Hannah said. “Mitzie and Heinrich Rosenthal died on May 28, 1942.”
Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, related her personal story at the New York dinner of the U.S. Holocaust Museum on June 2 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The event honored Elizabeth and Oliver Stanton. She has a clothing line in production. He is co-owner of Transammonia Inc. and is a board member of the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue and the 92nd Street Y.
On the job for a year and a half at the State Department, Rosenthal identified six trends in global anti-Semitism.
“The old-fashioned anti-Semitism is alive and well,” she said, which consist of defacing property, charges of using Christian blood to bake matzah and kidnaping gentile children to steal their organs, conspiracy theories of Jewish control of the U.S. media and the world banking system, and the continued dissemination of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
Another potent trend is Holocaust denial, coming from religious leaders, some heads of state, academic institutions in some places, and numerous websites. A third trend is Holocaust glorification, seen in parades honoring the Waffen SS and the growth of neo-Nazi groups. Then there is Holocaust relativism or revisionism where government agencies and museums “are grouping the lessons of the Holocaust with other repressive regimes, especially in the former Soviet Union.”
A fifth trend is anti-Semitism cloaked as criticism of Israel. She hears from the 194 State Department posts around the world that opposition to a policy by Israel “morphs into anti-Semitism easily and often.”
Finally, she sees an increase of nationalistic movements which target “the other” — immigrants or religious and ethnic minorities — in the name of protecting the identity of the nation. When this fear of the “other” occurs, or when people try to find a scapegoat for instability, it is never good for the Jews.
“The last time government officials spoke of the purity of a nation we have seen that movie before.”
Tim Boxer is editor of 15MinutesMagazine.com.