For those who do not follow Jewish dietary laws, here they are in a nutshell: We keep meat separate from dairy and for those things that are neither meat or dairy, we have a special word “pareve.” It is the middle ground reserved for fruits, vegetables, and the ever bland, but versatile tofu.
Tofu is the product that absorbs the flavor of whatever it is cooked with. In my vegan kitchen, it becomes “ice cream,” “cheesecake” and takes on the flavors of any Italian, Japanese or Chinese dish. It is neutral.
This week, the Trump administration turned the Holocaust into tofu. The White House commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day with the following statement:
“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.”
The Holocaust Mr. President is not tofu. It is not bland. In the history of mankind it was unique in its terror and awfulness. It is definite, precise and it was aimed at eradicating an entire people based on their religion.
One could excuse the President. He is new to the job. Others have made the same mistake. Last year, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau also omitted mention of the Jews in his statement. This year, he did not. His statement left no doubt about the victims of the Holocaust.
“Today, on the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we remember the more than six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust and the countless other victims of Nazi brutality.
“The Holocaust serves as a tragic reminder of the horrors that can be born of racism and hate. We must always remember those who experienced the worst of humanity – in ghettos, cattle cars, and Nazi death camps – and never forget our collective responsibility to prevent the seeds of intolerance and hate from taking root in our communities, country, and world.
“As we take time today to reflect on the haunting legacy of the Holocaust, let us pay tribute to the strength and spirit of the Jewish people and the many others who persevered during one of the darkest periods of human history.
“Today, and every day, we reaffirm our commitment to stand against anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and prejudice in all its forms. It is through this commitment that we remember those we have lost and honor those whose stories must never be forgotten.”
Justin found his spine. Our President should have learned from Junior across the border.
Unfortunately, when asked for a clarification, the White House Director of Strategic Communications, Hope Hicks, made a fool of herself. Ms. Hicks, whose knowledge of the Holocaust reflects the single paragraph she read in her high school textbook, replied: “Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered.” If ignorance is bliss, Hope Hicks is in nirvana.
If Mr. Trump desires to become a statesman, he needs to learn from one. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan made the blunder of his political lifetime. Mr. Reagan was to make a visit to Germany. The goal of the visit was to help heal the wounds of the “recent unpleasantness” and put WWII behind us. His host, Helmut Schmidt felt the President could best achieve this by visiting a German military cemetery. The White House agreed. It was suggested that the President also visit Dachau. The White House declined. When pressed, President Reagan made a statement for which he paid dearly.
“These [SS troops] were the villains, as we know, that conducted the persecutions and all. But there are 2,000 graves there, and most of those, the average age is about 18. I think that there’s nothing wrong with visiting that cemetery where those young men are victims of Nazism also, even though they were fighting in the German uniform, drafted into service to carry out the hateful wishes of the Nazis. They were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.”
The outrage was immediate. Elie Wiesel poignantly addressed the Reagan’s statement when he was honored at the White House. ”The issue here is not politics, but good and evil. And we must never confuse them. For I have seen the SS at work. And I have seen their victims. They were my friends. They were my parents. Mr. President, there was a degree of suffering in the concentration camps that defies imagination.”
Soon after, the White House issued an apology: “‘The president is very sensitive to the colossal tragedy of the Jewish population during world war II. He has often said that the Holocaust should never be forgotten.”
I can forgive the President for his lack of political prowess, but he is known for his savvy. He should have taken command of the situation and issued a statement. Instead, the White House sent an idiot to do a statesman’s work.
I supported the President and I voted him. I would do the same again. Admittedly, Ronald Reagan was an orator for the ages. President Trump needs to learn and learn quickly. He should have taken command and issued a statement. Instead, the White House sent an idiot to do a statesman’s work.
We also need to stop with the “other vicitms” business. That is a slap in the face of the Jewish people. The Holocaust occurred because a nation, The German nation and its European collaborators (i.e. Europe),chose to exterminate Jews. To this end, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks says it best. “The hate that begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews.”
It was not “other victims” who were rounded up and shot by the Waffen SS, as they methodically went from town to town and eradicated the Jewish population. Auschwitz was not designed to gas and cremate “other victims.”
“Other victims” became victims because the Germans became so good at destroying the Jews. We should never confuse the two.
Next year, I hope the White House issues a better statement. I would be happy to offer my services to help draft it.
A few months ago, we lost Elie Wiesel. He can no longer speak for us. We lost his eloquence, we lost his emotion. We must speak for ourselves and the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but only he can have the last word:
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”