Phyllis Zimbler Miller
Writer of Nonfiction Holocaust Material to End Antisemitism

Antisemitism in Europe in 1971 and Now

During Shabbat this past weekend I had a varied reading experience. I read the Oct.23-24 (2021) Wall Street Journal op ed piece “Will the Sun Ever Set on Anti-Semitism” by Elliot Kaufman, the Journal’s letters editor. I also read the brief book ON TYRANNY: TWENTY LESSONS FROM THE TWENTIETH  CENTURY by Timothy Snyder that includes lessons from the Holocaust.

What I want to share here is something else I read during Shabbat:

An article of mine that I wrote when my U.S. Army officer husband and I were stationed in Munich from September 1970 to May 1972.

I sent this unsolicited article to the Jewish Sentinel newspaper (published weekly in Chicago from 1911 to 1996), and the article was published on April 29, 1971, with the headline “Lesson Of Germany Is That Nazi Horror Shall Never Be Forgotten.”

This article is as relevant now as when I originally wrote it, as you can read for yourself. (I left the article in its original version, resisting some of the word or spelling changes I would make now, such as Shabbat instead of Shabbas.)

On the Friday night before Purim, at the US Army chapel in Munich, Germany, the Jewish chaplain discussed with the congregation the passage from the Haftorah to be read the next day.

The passage deals with Amalek, who symbolizes all the people throughout history who have tried to destroy the Jewish people. The passage warns Jews to beware of Amalek and in each generation to wipe out the memory of Amalek (the ideas of Amalek, or the people with those ideas, that may arise to persecute Jews).

In the USA Jews apparently feel safe and secure enough not to attach any importance to this passage. Dr. Mark Krug in his speech reprinted in the Feb. 18 Sentinel seems much more concerned about how pollution and the SST will affect Jews in America than he is about Jewish survival.

This feeling of security is reflected by the statement of several wives at the end of the book “The Jewish Wife” by Gwen Gibson Schwartz and Barbara Wyden. These wives do not think that WWII style persecution of the Jews will ever happen again, especially in America.

They want their children and their children’s children to forget what Hitler did to the six million Jews. They want their children to disregard the horror of those days. But how wrong these women and others like them are! It is only by being mindful to beware of Amalek that we will prevent those days from recurring. If we forget for one moment what did happen, it will happen again.

Living in Germany, you understand better the present day Amalek inherent in the mass movement. One woman quoted in “The Jewish Wife” said she would be fearful if Germany was reunited. What she doesn’t understand is that West Germany, or any other country for that matter, has the ability by itself to harass and physically persecute Jews.

Just two weeks ago in Munich the German Jewish day school received a bomb threat. The following week was the first anniversary for the seven elderly Jews who died last year when the main synagog of Munich was set afire by an arsonist.

In the last few weeks the store of an Israeli in Munich was burned and police have ascertained that it, too, was set. Of course any or all of these acts could have been performed by the many El Fatah members who live in Munich. But a German or Arab Amalek makes no difference, we still have to be on guard.

Eric Hoffer shows in “The True Believer” how a mass movement develops and how its scapegoat is frequently the Jews. Anyone who has read the book realizes how easy a mass movement against the Jews even in the United States could start, and may happen.

When you visit the beer halls of Munich and see the atmosphere of drunken comradeship, you understand how the Amalek of Hitler came to pass.

In the U.S. it might be the growing discontent with hippies or radicals, many of whom are Jews. Or it might be something else, something we can’t even foresee today.

And the assimilated Jew must realize he is not as safe and secure in Anglo-Saxon America as he would like to believe. He forgets that Jews were more assimilated in Germany than any other place in Europe before Hitler came to power.

When we are most assimilated, then are we the biggest threat to others as we are competing directly with them. In Esther’s and Mordecai’s time the Jews were assimilated enough to allow a Jewess to marry the king, but Haman felt Mordecai was competing with him for honors and look what almost happened to all the Jews.

A constant reminder of how accepted Jews were not is only a few miles from Munich. At the concentration camp of Dachau a stone memorial proclaims in four languages “Never Again,” but Jews who read from the Haftorah on the Shabbas before Purim know we can, ultimately, rely only on ourselves.

“Never” is only as long as we keep up our guard against the memory of Amalek, whatever form it may take. If we let it down even for one moment, in that one moment it may happen, “Again.”

Listen now to the above podcast interview that co-host Evelyn Markus and I did with Katharina von Schnurbein, the first European Commission Coordinator on Combatting Antisemitism.

About the Author
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is a Los-Angeles based writer who is the co-author of the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION, the founder of the nonfiction Holocaust theater project and the co-host of the NEVER AGAIN IS NOW podcast about antisemitism --
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