I cede my Holocaust card to you. And you. To all of you. Play it now, on behalf of the children of immigrants separated from their families on the Texas border!
Play it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Play it, Culture Minister Miri Regev. Play it, Education Minister Naftali Bennet. Play it Cabinet Members. Play it Chairman of the Yesh Atid Party and child of a Holocaust survivor (like myself), Yair Lapid. Play it, US Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman.
Play it, now! G-d knows you’ve played it before. Your silence is deafening. Never again? Or never again to the Jews?
I am not – heaven forbid – comparing the Ursula Texas facility that the migrants call “La Perrera” (the dog kennel) to my father’s Theresienstadt and Majdanek or my mother’s Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. My family was forcibly transported to those destinations to be systematically exterminated. They did not go of their own free will nor did they break anyone’s laws – Draconian or not.
But don’t accuse me or anyone else of playing or cheapening the Holocaust now. I carry the splintered DNA of parents who were the same age as the children clutching space blankets on thin blue mats in Texas. My parents were their age when they were separated from my grandparents. I woke up as a toddler and throughout my childhood to the screaming nightmares of my parents. The Holocaust card is mine to play. The children of migrants’ children warehoused in Texas will wake up to the screaming nightmares of theirs. I am playing the Holocaust card on their behalf.
It is not cheapening the Holocaust to invoke the Holocaust on behalf of a caged two-year old in Texas ripped from her mothers’ arms to be taken to a fictitious “bath,” a child too short to reach the Trump administration’s ping-pong table in Ursula. I invoke the Holocaust on her behalf, in the name of my father, Yosef Spiegel z”l, who was shipped to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp that the Nazis originally branded as a model community with a “rich cultural life” to fool Western allies.
I have watched hundreds of Holocaust survivors, close family and friends, recount their personal stories in gruesome detail – the round-ups, the beatings, the hunger, the humiliation – without shedding a tear. I have never known a single survivor who could hold back his or her tears when describing that moment in which they were separated from their parents. It is true that they never saw their parents again. But who can, who will, guarantee that the children in Texas will be reunited with theirs? And what use is telling that now to a two-year old child?
As a child, I got off buses long before our stop when my mother heard someone speaking German. These children will get off buses long before their stops when their mothers hear someone speaking English in a Texas accent. When my kids hear someone speaking German on a bus they know that I would get bus sick if I heard it. My children get bus sick. The children of migrants’ children detained on the Texas border will get bus sick too. They will be anxious. They will curse Americans, all Americans, for generations. That will not be fair.
They will also curse the citizenry and leaders of nations who did not condemn this atrocity in a loud, clear voice. I urge Israel’s leaders and Jewish leaders abroad to assure that Israel and the Jewish People are not among those nations. That would not be fair either.
Please play the Holocaust card before it’s too late – before the children on the Texas border become physically ill, before the emotional shrapnel is indelibly lodged in their hearts and their souls, before they are shipped off to an unknown destination and an unknown fate. Before they and their children and their children’s children can think of nothing else when they meet you and your children and your children’s children. Let the children in Texas remember us, all of us, the way we Jews remember the Holocaust’s Righteous Gentiles.
In addition to speaking out, the Texas Tribune has a list of ways you can help organizations that are mobilizing to help immigrant children separated from their families.
Last, but not least, I thank those who have and are playing the Holocaust card on behalf of these children. I thank Former CIA Director Michael Hayden from the bottom of my heart for posting a photo of the Birkenau death camp at Auschwitz and writing, “Other governments have separated mothers and children.” I thank Director Hayden for playing the Holocaust card on behalf of the children in Texas and myself, in the name of my grandparents, my uncles, my aunts and my cousins of Blessed Memory who perished in the Holocaust, one at least of whom marched through those very gates of Birkenau to his death. I know from my mother’s and father’s stories about them that they would thank you too.