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James R. Russell

Yom ha-Shoah Commemoration

This is the text of my lecture at the Holocaust commemoration held at Beth Jacob synagogue here in Fresno, California last night, 18 April 2023.

הזכרת יום השואה, ק׳׳ק בית יעקב, פרסנו, קליפרניה, ארה׳׳ב, כ׳׳ז בניסן, ה׳תשפ׳׳ג

יעקב בן יוסף ברוך

לכבוד הורי ומורי יוסף ברוך בן אשר זעליג ורחל בת יוסף, ז׳׳ל
In honor of my parents and teachers of blessed memory, Yosef Boruch ben Asher Zelig and Rachel bat Yosef.

It is an honor to be invited again to lecture here for our community at the commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day. This is also the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, when a partisan band amongst the remnant of the nearly half million Jews who had been imprisoned in the ghetto began their armed struggle on Passover 5703 against our German Nazi oppressors and their Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Polish henchmen. Our little band of untrained citizen fighters, overwhelmingly outgunned and outmanned, held out longer against the fascist war machine than the huge, populous country of Poland, with its modern army, had done in September 1939. In the last lecture here, before the pandemic, I spoke about the importance of armed self-defense— in the Holocaust itself, by the State of Israel in its wake and down to the present moment, and for Jewish communities in the Diaspora confronted by a resurgent and murderous anti-Semitism. This evening I will address aspects of the history of the Holocaust itself, how it is both rightly and wrongly perceived in the historical record, and what the reverberations of those perceptions are.

The Nazi Holocaust was a watershed on the landscape of human infamy, the defining event of the age we live in, and the darkest chapter in the long story of our people. Because of its very enormity— a policy of industrialized mass murder in the middle of the 20th century, at the heart of Western civilization— there is a tendency to isolate it, even to mythologize and sacralize it, as though it were both central to our identity as Jews and outside the course of human and earthly activity. It is neither. Anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem but a gentile sickness, and though it is a predicament we must confront, it does not define who we are. Nor was the Holocaust a mythological event, an irruption of the supernatural into the universe: it happened in history, and for all its uniqueness it had historical precedent.

Its dark gravity attracts further fallacies. One of these is defined by the Latin phrase post hoc ergo propter hoc, meaning “after which, therefore because of which”. According to this mistaken line of thinking, the State of Israel, which proclaimed its independence three years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, came into existence because of it. It is therefore further suggested that the surviving Jews of the Diaspora lacked any claim to the land that had come to be called “Palestine”, and a temporarily abashed international community granted it to us in compensation, as a kind of consolation prize at the expense of the Arabs, who were presumed to be the country’s aboriginal inhabitants. They, it is argued, were innocent of any anti-Jewish animus and in any case had no involvement in European affairs. Thus the creation of Israel enabled Europe to wash its bloodstained hands of a matter for which it should have borne responsibility. Those who hold this view often go on to assert that the Jews were ourselves colonialists, acting at the behest of the imperialist West and in its interests.

It has become commonplace for such people then to make an Orwellian equation of Israel’s restrained and careful acts of self-defense against Arab and Islamist terrorism with the crimes of the Nazis. The mainstream media, such as the BBC, call terrorist groups whose aim is the destruction of Israel, not terrorists but “militants”. The justification for this is that when the latter commit acts of violence, these do not constitute terrorism since they can be regarded as acts of armed resistance to an occupier. The result is that much of the world offers a carte blanche to Islamist extremism everywhere, on the assumption that because of the very existence of Israel, Arabs are being made to suffer for a crime they did not commit and therefore they have a right to be angry. The 9/11 attacks nearly a quarter century ago in my hometown, New York City? Shortly afterwards, a concerned citizen scrawled on the memorial wall of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, “Is Israel still worth it?” The Christian Science Monitor devoted an investigative report to this question and concluded that the United States should sever its relationship with the Jewish state, since the cost— the eruption of Arab anger into 9/11— is too high for Americans to pay. Carte blanche.

The bombing of the Boston Marathon, which I lived through in Boston exactly a decade ago? (Before moving to Fresno in retirement, I worked as a Harvard professor for a quarter century.) Last week, Netflix aired a three-part documentary about the attack: much time is given to several talking heads who inveigh solemnly against “Islamophobia”. The bombers were two Chechen Muslim brothers, the Tsarnayevs. I was once introduced to the surviving, younger one of them, who was then a lifeguard at Harvard’s Blodgett swimming pool. He is now on death row. Dzhokhar and his elder brother Tamerlan attended the mosque on Prospect Street, off Central Square in Cambridge. That mosque received faxed sermons from Saudi Arabia after 9/11 praising the destroyers of the Twin Towers as jihadis, holy warriors. (I was shown the documents at the time by Federal law enforcement and asked to evaluate them. They were not classified material and I advised the Feds in a purely volunteer capacity as a Near East specialist, without any security clearance, contract, or oath.) But in the Netflix documentary the imam of that same mosque, who was serving as imam when the Tsarnayevs prayed and head sermons there, insists with a straight face that jihad means only spiritual striving toward ethical ends and has nothing to do with violence. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. Carte blanche.

The murder last week of an English Jewish mother and her two teenage daughters, close friends of a friend of mine in Israel? Hamas, which the BBC calls “militant”, praised the attack and called for more. Iran, which funds Hamas’ murderous violence as well as anti-Semitic activity around the world, calls for the destruction of Israel and is building an atomic bomb to accomplish the task. But nobody is doing anything to stop Iran. Carte blanche.

These perversions of common morality arise out of a fallacious interpretation of historical events. That is why the study of history is important. The particular animus towards Israel is fueled by anti-Semitism, the oldest of hatreds. It exists because Christianity and Islam both arose out of Judaism: although gentiles flocked to these adaptations of our religion, most Jews remained steadfast in our Covenant, preserved the genuine Bible in its original Hebrew language, and, despite centuries of exile, never renounced our claim to the ancestral homeland, the Land of Israel, which the Romans had derisively renamed “Palestine”. Our younger siblings resented our obstinate refusal to become somebody else, and to stay ourselves. Organized religion and secular power are often associated, and the stubbornly enduring Jews, stigmatized as outsiders, proved useful as scapegoats. Such a villain is convenient to a demagogue, particularly when that villain has assumed the folkloric dimensions of a misanthropic Christ-killer, a murderer of children who uses their blood to bake Passover matzah, a sorcerer, a usurer, a satanist, and, in more recent times, an international conspirator responsible for both capitalism and the latter’s antithesis, Communism.

Crucially, in the 19th century classical theological anti-Semitism, with its frightening repertoire, was augmented by pseudo-scientific racial theory and social Darwinism. The latter is a pseudo-scientific sociological doctrine that extends the ostensibly battle for the survival of the fittest going on in nature to the realm of human societies and “races”. European nationalists sacralized their own blood and soil, replacing the Bible with local heroic epics such as the Germanic Nibelungenlied set to music by the bigot Richard Wagner. The new, nationalist rather than theological anti-Semites rejected traditional Jews as an alien element, while Jews who had sought acceptance by assimilation were shunned as infectious, pollutant infiltrators. The Zionist movement, founded in the late 19th century, sought to rescue an endangered nation by making the millennial dream of return to Zion a reality. Its goal was not apocalyptic redemption or the hastening of the Messiah, but the security of military and economic self-reliance and political independence. And this was to be achieved, not through prayer or Kabbalistic theurgy, but by political and physical effort. Life in the Diaspora was perilous, darker clouds were on the horizon, and the rescue operation needed to be swift.

The impoverished and disenfranchised Jewish masses, most of whom spoke Yiddish and lived in Eastern and Central Europe, longed for social justice, and many sought its fulfillment where they lived, through the socialist movements in Russia and elsewhere. Others saw repatriation to the ancient homeland as a better recipe for survival; and for many religious Jews, Zionist aspirations dovetailed with the religious yearning for Zion and Jerusalem. The holy city already had a large Jewish population; the Zionist pioneers sought to redeem the rest of land, and themselves, by living as farmers— draining the swamps and making the desert bloom. Repatriation, called Aliyah, literally “ascent”, began. The Land of Israel was a pestilential, thinly populated backwater of the Ottoman empire: as the Jews developed the land, Arabs from neighboring regions flooded in, too, to take advantage of economic opportunity, improved health care, and progressive labor conditions. Britain conquered the Land in 1917 and issued the Balfour declaration, opening the way to Jewish statehood. Lord Balfour’s wording is notoriously ambiguous, but Jewish statehood was at any rate how Englishmen intimately involved with the Middle East understood the declaration at the time: Lawrence of Arabia supported it; Colonel Meinertzhagen was to fight alongside us for it.

Although not all Arab leaders opposed the Zionist project of return of the Jews to our native land, most did; and in World War I the Ottoman colonial authorities had encouraged pogroms, killed and exiled Zionist activists in the Land of Israel, and planned mass deportations. There were major Arab riots in 1920, 1929, and 1936; and Britain, the colonial power in charge of “Mandate Palestine”, sought to placate both the mobs in the streets and its oil-rich allies by curtailing Jewish repatriation. It did so precisely, and fatally, at just the time when Hitler came to power. How did a monster take charge of a civilized nation? First, resentment and revanchism: Germany had been humiliated by the punitive terms of the treaty of Versailles after the armistice that ended World War I. Many Germans believed they had not been defeated on the battlefield, but had been betrayed by liberal politicians. Second, political and economic instability: Germany was convulsed by the ensuing political and economic chaos of the early 1920s. Third, no foundation in constitutional government or the rule of law: Germany had been united as a country only half a century earlier, and was ruled by a Kaiser and a class of aristocrats and industrialists. Unlike Britain, it had no long tradition of constitutional government.

And there is a fourth factor: just as the fragile Weimar Republic was becoming a viable entity, the Great Depression reduced many Germans to penury, annihilating the progress of the decade since the country’s emergence from the Great War. In the elections of 1932, Hitler’s party won many seats in the Reichstag. Forming partnerships with right-wing nationalists and big business, he succeeded in parlaying his position into one of absolute power within a few months. In the fifth century B.C. Plato observed: “The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness… This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears, he is a protector.” Protector against what? In the same year as the issuing of Balfour declaration, the October Revolution gave birth to the world’s first socialist state, Soviet Russia. “This baby must be strangled in its cradle,” said Winston Churchill at the time. America and Britain invaded Russia, after World War I, and when they were unable to defeat the Communists, they sought to destroy the young USSR by means of sanctions, a cordon sanitaire.
Hitler presented himself as the protector of Western civilization against Communism. Although the democracies were wary of Hitler and other fascist regimes, he was seen as preferable to, and even as a counterweight against, the Soviet Union.

Not all fascists were racists, and not all racists were fascists, though the two abominations go well together: democratic America was a thoroughly racist society. But the Nazis made racism the centerpiece of their world view. Beginning in the 19th century, an interest in what was called “race”— the word is Latin in origin and means “root”— engaged scientists and historians. Hebrew and Arabic both belong to the group of Semitic languages; and the term Semite was thus extended to us as a “race” with ostensibly common biological origins and characteristics, though the German inventors of racialist anti-Semitism took pains to stress that the term referred exclusively to Jews and did not include Arabs or speakers of other Semitic languages. (Language has no relation to biology: Yiddish is a Germanic, “Aryan” language, as indeed is English, the language I am writing now.) It was thought that people of different races had different characteristics: adverse ones could be bred out selectively, through eugenics. Eugenics was very popular in the 1920s and 30s: most of the presidents of major American universities belonged to eugenic societies, which advocated, for instance, the involuntary sterilization of people with characteristics deemed to be inferior. Eugenicists also opposed “miscegenation”, that is, marriage of people of different skin color. Miscegenation was illegal in many American states down to the late 20th century.

Race is pseudo-science, nonsense, a lie. Humans share most of our genome with earthworms; the differences between humans ourselves, such as skin color, are negligible and have nothing to do with ability or character. The only race in existence is the human race. And in fact we are on the frontier of inter-species cooperation, if we choose to look beyond our imbecilic prejudices. We already take for granted our friendship with horses, dogs, cats, parrots, and other pleasant neighbors. But they are very similar to us. We parted company a very long time ago indeed in our genetic evolution with the octopus, a truly alien species, who has a brain in each tentacle and can live happily in ocean depths of over five miles. Yet the octopus is an intelligent and emotional creature that can make friendships with humans and cooperate with us. It likes to live in a private home and to decorate its front garden with pleasant objects. Never mind race, there is no sane reason to hate another wildly alien species. As a religious Jew I would simply say God created us all.

Nazism is the epitome, though, of hate. And the centerpiece of Nazi ideology, the thing into which the Nazis channeled all their concentrated malice, was what we would call today critical race theory. According to it, humanity has no common denominator, but is divided into irreconcilably and mutually hostile races, some superior and others inferior, that are locked in a Darwinian struggle for the survival of the fittest. The Aryans, the Nazis asserted, are the superior race; the Germans, the pinnacle of the Aryans. All of history and culture must be viewed through the prism of race “science”; and the elimination of harmful races, though repellent perhaps to adherents of obsolete moral systems like Christianity, is merely a logical extension of genetics and eugenics. Civilized Germany descended rapidly into mass delusion, with calipers measuring proper or improper skulls and charts of eye color and so on.

Predictably, Hitler blamed Germany’s misfortunes on the Jews, the convenient, age-old scapegoat of enduring superstition. But Nazi critical race theory went further than the medieval Christians: it did not seek to convert Jews to another religion, but classified us as a subhuman race, an infectious virus to be physically eliminated in the grand project of purging the world and making Germans, the master race, great again. The Holocaust, which the Nazis called the Endlosung, the “Final Solution”, was inevitable, even if the details of its operation had not yet been worked out. Arab leaders embraced the Nazis, because of their shared anti-Semitism and in the absurd hope that Germany would liberate them from the colonial rule of Great Britain and France. Britain in its turn appeased both the Arabs and Hitler: the former, by curtailing Jewish immigration into Mandate Palestine; the latter, by allowing Germany to make its first conquests, in the Rhineland, in Austria, in Czechoslovakia, without firing a shot. The USSR, which had made anti-Semitism and racism crimes punishable under law, called in vain for collective security against Hitler. The United States simply closed its doors.

The Holocaust was thus a policy grounded in an ideology that had a history. The mass murder of a whole people had precedent as well: Hitler admired the white settlers of the Americas, not just for their radical, systematic extermination of the American Indians, but also for the way they had justified their genocidal crimes as the operation of “manifest destiny”. Thereby the killers were memorialized as pioneer heroes; their victims, as savages and villains. It was ingenious. Hitler’s principal practical model, though, was the Armenian Genocide. Using the previous world war as a cover and pretext, Ottoman Turkey carried out the premeditated and carefully planned massacre of the Armenians, an ancient and civilized people, the first Christian nation on earth.

The start of the campaign is generally commemorated on 24 April, the date in 1915 when several hundred Armenian community and cultural leaders slated to be killed were rounded up in the capital, Constantinople. There had been numerous and ominous dress rehearsals, to be sure, but few believed or imagined the possibility of the genocidal murder by a modern state of its own citizens, in this case a productive and largely peaceable ethnic minority. When the death marches of the Armenians began, all over Anatolia, the terrorized victims were kept in the dark about their fate lest panic or resistance ensue: generally, they were told at each stopping place that they were being deported in order to work. Nationalist rhetoric and even pseudo-science were invoked to make the crime palatable to the perpetrators; and often collaborators were assured they were jihadis— Islamic holy warriors battling the Christian infidel lest they be killed themselves. This pretext was employed to justify the mass slaughter of men, women, and children who were shot, burned alive in barns, loaded onto barges and sunk at sea, or simply herded into the desert to die of thirst, starvation, and disease.

I was a professor of Armenian studies most of my life. I met elderly survivors as a teenager. I recorded their testimonies. A Polish Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, coined the word “genocide” precisely in order to give legal definition to what had been done to the Armenians. Yet for nearly a century after the crime most governments quibbled about whether Turkey— which stoutly maintains the crime never happened— intended it, or was provoked, or just made lamentable wartime mistakes, etc. Till recently the New York Times called it a massacre. Now the paper of record admits it was a genocide. Although Turkey surrendered in 1918 and lost most of its colonial possessions, an Ottoman officer named Mustafa Kemal continued the policy of making Turkey a unitary state: in September 1922 his forces burned most of the great, ancient Aegean port city of Smyrna (now Izmir) to the ground, massacring many of its Greek and Armenian residents and driving the others literally into the sea, as ships of the US Navy and other powers watched passively at anchor in the harbor. About a million died. Mustafa Kemal founded the present Turkish Republic, receiving the honorific Atatürk, “father of the Turks”, if you please. Atatürk was a hero of the Nazi party from its inception. Hitler, at least, never doubted for a moment whether Turkey had committed genocide against the Armenians— except that he welcomed it.

On a mountain near the Mediterranean coast named after Moses, Musa Dagh, some Armenian villagers had refused the Ottoman deportation order during the Genocide and fought back. Most of them survived to be rescued by a French battleship, and in the early 1930s a Czech Jew who wrote in German, Franz Werfel, published a novel about it, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. On a tour to promote the book, which quickly became a bestseller in some 35 languages, Werfel found himself staying in the same hotel as Adolf Hitler, who was campaigning for the 1932 elections. Werfel intended his book as a warning: what had happened less than a generation before, to the Armenians, was about to happen again, this time to the Jews. During the Holocaust, many Jews planning armed resistance in the Warsaw and Vilna ghettos were inspired by Werfel’s book; and as German forces were advancing across North Africa, the Haganah in the Land of Israel planned a last stand on mount Carmel and called it Operation Musa Dagh.

As we know, the Nazis experimented with various techniques of mass murder. When they invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, their Einsatzgruppen— death squads composed of Germans and Ukrainian and Baltic volunteers— killed over a million Jews with old-fashioned bullets. We owe the more industrialized method of the gas chambers to eugenics: before the war, Nazi doctors used these to kill mental patients, children with Downs syndrome, and so on. The project was called by the code name T4 after the address of its head office at Tiergarten 4 in Berlin. Tiergarten means “zoo”, you know, the place where we take children to teach them to love gaily colored tropical birds, playful sea lions, and slow, wise elephants. I cannot bear this.

I began with the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy about the Holocaust and Israel— the notion that since Israel became independent after the Holocaust, the latter was the reason the country was founded. There are several very damaging assumptions that, as we have seen, arose from this initial untruth and were buttressed by old prejudices camouflaged in new rhetorical guise. This very brief survey of the history of nations and ideas shows the contrary to be true: Israel became a state, not because of the Holocaust but inspite of it. If anything, Israel came ten years too late. Had we achieved statehood a mere ten years before 1948, that is, in the year Hitler’s armies rolled into Prague and Vienna, the European Jews would have had a place to escape to. Sigmund Freud could have taken his last look at the world he made us think of anew, not in London, but in a sunny grove of olive trees. Bruno Schulz would be crafting his frescoes and fantasies in an old-new land more dreamlike than his native Drohobycz in Galicia. Admo”r Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, H”yd, the relative of my father Yosef Boruch, z”l, might be teaching and writing, not in the deprivation and terror of the Warsaw Ghetto, but in a Yeshiva in Bnei Brak or Bet Shemesh or Yerushalayim. The artists Charlotte Salomon and Gela Seksztajn, both of whom the Nazis killed, might have lived to paint new canvases in the Bezalel academy, of in Safed. The little boy Petr Ginz, who drew his dreams of the cosmos in Theresienstadt, might have lived to become an astronaut. My father and mother passed away over the last year and a half and this lecture is dedicated to them. My father’s family were decimated in Galicia and Hungary; Mom’s, in Salonica. Dad had corresponded as a boy with two cousins in Kraków. One day there were no more letters. My Grandma sat down one day in my Aunt Gloria’s apartment and remembered fifty of our family, the Saltiels and Benrubys, who had moved to France from Greece and then were lost.

Had the Western democracies joined the Soviet Union in a collective security alliance, had they lifted their arms embargo against Republican Spain in the late 1930s, Hitler could have been stopped and there might never have been a Second World War, never mind a Holocaust, at all. The Armenian Communist hero of the French Resistance Missak Manouchian and the Polish Jewish and Spanish Republican comrades he led would have lived out their lives drinking wine and composing poems about love in Paris. Babi Yar would have remained a sleepy ravine on the outskirts of Kiev; Oswiecim, an everyday Polish railway junction; half of Leningrad would not be resting beneath the granite of Piskaryovka. In the words of the Russian song “Prewar Waltz”: Все они живы, все они живы, все, все, все. “They are all alive, they’re all alive, all, all, all.” What might have been. But here we are, with what is.

The centenary of the Nazi Holocaust is fast approaching. But the restoration of anti-Semitism to respectability has happened much faster. Anti-Semitic offenses now account for the majority of hate crimes in the United States, even though the Jews are less than two percent of the population. Anti-Semitism is the currency of both the extreme right and the left. France, with the largest surviving Jewish population in Europe, is no longer a safe place for Jews to live. Latvia and Lithuania, both active wartime accomplices of Hitler, now present themselves as victims and erect monuments to such mass murderers of Jews as Jonas Noreika. The armed, neo-Nazi Right Sector, the SS Galician Brigade, and the Azov Battalion with their Nazi insignia, parade openly in the Ukraine. In Poland, it is illegal to talk about the pogroms against Jews that Poles carried out without German help or encouragement at Jedwabne, during the war, or at Kielce and elsewhere, even after it. After it! The grandchildren murderers are writing and enforcing pseudo-history with the same monstrous agility with which their forbears perverted science. What is to be done?

I want to leave you with an idea of what you can do, what every human being can do. Last summer my teacher and friend Nina Georgievna Garsoian passed away at the age of 99. She was a Russian Armenian, born to émigré parents in France. She and her mother, an artist who had been a colleague of Leon Bakst in Moscow, moved to New York in 1933, warned by a cousin that the new German chancellor Hitler promised trouble and they should get out while the getting was good. When the war began, Madame Garsoian and her daughter met European artists, writers, and composers, many but not all of them Jews, who had fled Hitler this way: for a time, the Germans did not occupy the south of France and though the Vichy regime was oppressive, if you got to Marseille you could then attempt to obtain an exit visa from Vichy, an entry visa from somewhere else, and escape. Or you could try your luck by crossing the Pyrenees illegally into Spain. The US State Department was doing its level best to keep Jews and other undesirables out, but a sympathetic consular official was issuing American visas anyway.

One young man, a recent graduate of Harvard named Varian Fry, was running the whole rescue operation almost singlehanded. His name kept coming up in conversations in New York among the refugees. But after the war he simply disappeared, and it was many years before a book about him was published. Nina Georgievna urged me to read A Hero of Our Own. She also commanded me never to give my loyalty to any institution, but to follow my own lone conscience the way Varian Fry did. Do not follow the multitude to do evil, the Torah says; and you will recall Plato’s conviction that the mob makes the tyrant. Every person must assume the burden of conscience individually and make his own moral choices, for which he must bear full responsibility. It is true that there is strength in numbers, but if that company is not made up of virtuous individuals, then it can become the mob that raises a tyrant. When there are no people acting like human beings around you, the second chapter of Mishnah Avot teaches, then it is up to you to act like one. Apparently the 18th-century Irish philosopher Edmund Burke may not have said what is often attributed to him, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” but it is still true.

Hugh Latimer, the churchman who was burned at the stake at Oxford two centuries earlier, definitely did say to his fellow martyr, “Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” I first read that in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, a science fiction novel for children about good and evil that every adult, too, should read.

This lecture’s been about history, which somebody defined as one damned thing after another, which leaves much to be desired but is still a better way to approach it than the fallacious post hoc ergo propter hoc. The idea of history still leaves the sense of random inevitability, of forces too vast to control. Yet in the example of Varian Fry, in the declarations of maybe Burke and certainly Latimer, in the teachings of our own Sages of blessed memory, one is reminded that history doesn’t just happen. Human beings make history, and we make it through the way we think, the moral choices presented to us, and our actions. Confronted by evil, a man or woman must stand up, alone if need be, and fight back. And he or she can make a difference. History.

On a cool, sunny autumn morning in 1977, my Dad and I sat down on a bench outside Highgate Cemetery. We had just visited the tall granite plinth that crowns the grave of a great German Jewish thinker and revolutionary, and Dad recited the famous words carved upon it: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”

To change it! No more genocides and holocausts, no more war. Changing it starts with you and me. Fear not and be of good cheer: even when we stand alone, the immortal shades of our virtuous ancestors stand behind us, including that grand old man whose mortal remains rest at Highgate, Karl Marx. And my Dad and Mom, Yosef Boruch son of Asher Zelig and Rachel daughter of Yosef, zikhronam le-vrakha, and all the victims of war and the fighters against fascism. Remember the Holocaust, learn from history, and change history. Never again!

About the Author
James R. Russell is Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies, Emeritus, at Harvard University, and has served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Associate Professor of Ancient Iranian at Columbia, and part-time Lecturer in Jewish Studies and Biblical Hebrew at California State University, Fresno. He serves on the Editorial Boards of the journal Judaica Petropolitana, St. Petersburg State University; the journal Linguistica Petropolitana, Russian Academy of Sciences; and the journal Homo Loquens, Russian Christian Humanities Association, St. Petersburg. He is a founding member of the International Association for Jewish Studies, chartered in the Russian Federation. He holds the PhD in Zoroastrian Studies, from the School of Oriental Studies of the University of London; B.Litt. (Oxon.); B.A. (summa) (Columbia). His recent books include "Poets, Heroes, and Their Dragons", 2 vols., UC Irvine Iranian Series, 2020, and "The Complete Poems of Misak Medzarents", CSU Fresno Armenian Series, 2021.
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