“The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it. At the crest of their popular strength, in July 1932, the National Socialists had attained but 37 per cent of the vote. But the 63 per cent of the German people who expressed their opposition to Hitler were much too divided and shortsighted to combine against a common danger which they must have known would overwhelm them unless they united, however temporarily, to stamp it out.”
― William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
Next Tuesday, Americans will return to the polls for the 116th time in our nation’s history – to cast their votes in what would normally be considered a relatively inconsequential mid-term election. Only this time, perhaps more than at any other moment in our nation’s life, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
In addition to voting for people and policies capable of reviving our failing “American Dream,” this time around, we also may be deciding if the “Dream of America,” should continue. Our great nation, what President Ronald Reagan once called “a shining city on a hill,” has been under constant and intensifying attack during the first 21 months of the extreme, divisive, amoral, and dictatorial-leaning Trump administration.
From the start, Trump has waged war on cherished institutions and norms that have helped safeguard our national experiment in democracy, guiding its development in keeping with the legal principles and ideals enshrined in our Constitution. Trump has declared the press to be the “enemy of the people;” he has disparaged federal judges, the FBI, and the Department of Justice; he has normalized white supremacists, emboldened racial and religious hatred, and stoked anger and fear to the boiling point – culminating in the tragic events of Charlottesville, NC, and last week’s horrendous outbreaks of racial, religious, and politically-inspired violence.
Trump has disparaged our intelligence community, boasted about obstructing justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey, and he has led a non-stop campaign to discredit Special Counsel Mueller and his investigative team.
His daily lies, now numbering more than 5,000, and his constant deriding of factual reporting as “fake news,” have steadily helped undermine any sense of shared reality. Meanwhile, he encourages his most ardent followers to look to him as the sole arbiter of truth.
A fan of tyrants, he has repeatedly embraced Vladimir Putin, congratulated President Erdogan upon his seizure of power, in Turkey; expressed “love” for Kim Jong-un, the N. Korean dictator and vicious human-rights violator; and celebrated Xi Jinping’s decision, earlier this year, to appoint himself “President for Life” in China. In congratulating XI, Trump also publicly mused that perhaps that would be a title he should aspire to, in America.
Trump’s dictatorial, totalitarian aspirations, sadly, are no joke. With each passing month in office, this extreme narcissist – a man with no prior political experience, no moral compass, and a shocking lack of command of the facts – has grown increasingly bold and confident in his ability to single-handedly shape American domestic and foreign policy.
His reckless, amoral, transactional behavior has resulted in such horrific policies as separating children – as young as four months – from their asylum-seeking parents at the U.S.-Mexican border. Under his administration’s half-baked plan, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice dispersed these family members to dozens of shelters scattered across the country, without first creating any paper trail to keep track of them.
He is currently using Executive Orders, like fiats to single-handedly wage a global trade war that could wreck the U.S. economy and, in short order, end the Dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency. Most recently, he declared that he can use Executive Orders to amend the U.S. Constitution, ending “birthright citizenship” guarantees outlined in the 14th Amendment. When Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told Trump he lacked that power, the President scolded him publicly for not knowing what he was talking about.” He also criticized him for not staying focused on the mid-term elections.
If it isn’t yet obvious, Donald Trump has demonstrated the temperament, the inclination, and the conceit necessary to attempt to overthrow our political system and install himself as dictator. It only took 52 days for the Nazi party to end the rule of law and parliamentary government in Germany and to install Adolf Hitler as absolute leader.
The final act in the Nazi takeover of the Weimar Republic began on January 30th, 1933, when President Hindenberg named Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany. Exactly four weeks later – on February 27th – the Reichstag, Germany’s equivalent of the U.S. Capitol, burned to the ground. Hitler blamed the Communists, Germany’s second-largest political party and the Nazi’s leading competitor. He immediately outlawed the Communist Party and ordered that a new election be held on March 5th, at which time the Nazis secured a clear majority of the votes. Then, on March 23rd, just 52 days after Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor, the now Nazi-controlled parliament passed The Enabling Act, which gave Hitler the right to make laws without consulting Parliament -- for a period of four years. His power was absolute.
A month later, on April 26th, Hitler formed the gestapo and the Nazi party took control of all local governments in Germany. Six days after that, all trade unions were banned. And on May 10th the Nazi’s celebrated their seizure of power with the nation’s first public book burning. All told, 25,000 un-German books were set ablaze under the active encouragement of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s head of propaganda.
In recent days, Donald Trump, has been barnstorming the country, proclaiming himself to be an unabashed “nationalist” in order to inspire his base to turn out to vote in record numbers. He has begun framing the mid-term election as a vote of confidence for his administration. “When you vote next Tuesday,” he told a crowd in Missouri, “you’ll be voting for me.”
Do not be fooled. This is not merely the rhetoric of a desperate man determined to counter a predicted “blue wave” that some say could sweep the Democrats back into control of the House and, possibly, the Senate. Trump has raised the stakes far beyond that. If he succeeds in drowning the “blue wave,” Trump will feel further emboldened to tighten his grip on power in ways few of us may be prepared to consider.
This mid-term election is shaping up to be the most consequential vote of our lives. It’s time to regain control of the reins of power before it’s too late. If you care about your future and the future of this country, get to the polls and vote blue – and encourage everyone you know to do the same.
First Published as a Guest Blog in 2015
In 1890, my great grandmother, Manya Seidenberg, then a girl of 15, received some disturbing news from her father, Avram. Manya, the tenth of 12 children born to my great, great grandparents, lived with them in the small, rural town of Boguslav, a few miles southwest of Kiev, capital city of modern-day Ukraine. Thanks to the industrial revolution, which had finally reached the area a few decades earlier, Kiev had grown into a prosperous city on the western edge of the vast Russian Empire. It was also the largest city Manya had ever seen.
My great, great grandfather, a dealer in pelts, sat down with his daughter, the apple of his eye, and reluctantly told her his news. His business had suffered unexpected losses, he explained, and sadly, that meant he would not be able to furnish her with a suitable dowry. The news hit Manya hard. Without a dowry, she would not be able to make a good match for herself. Her choice of desirable, available husbands instantly evaporated, along with her dreams for the future. And so, out of necessity, my great grandmother made a courageous decision. This girl, who had never ventured more than a day's journey, by horse, from either shore of the nearby Dnieper River, decided to emigrate to America.
About a year later, she learned of a local family, with relations in America that planned to resettle there. Manya met with them, and they agreed to let her accompany them on their journey, when the time came. Manya's decision was courageous, because it required her to leave behind everything, and everyone, she knew. What's more, the break would be both immediate and permanent. Manya must have known she would never see her parents, or her brothers and sisters, again. She was trading the familiar, and comfortable, for the complete unknown. Ahead of her lay America, a strange and distant place, where people spoke a completely different language and where she would have no family, friends, or relations to rely on.
Manya could not even fortify herself with a long, tearful, loving 'goodbye' from her father. Her mother, Lea, who financed Manya's journey by raiding her considerable stash of "pin money," warned her not to tell Avram of her plans. "Your father would never let you go," she sighed. "He's much too attached to you!"
So, Manya had to leave Boguslav on a day when her father already had headed east, across the Dnieper River, to do business in the market town of Kharkov. Manya, and the neighboring family, traveled west, by train, first, to the German port of Hamburg, and from there, across the Atlantic Ocean, to America, in the steerage section of an ocean liner.
Manya landed at Ellis Island, NY, in 1892, a Russian-speaking, Jewish girl of 17, fresh from the Ukraine. She knew how to sew, and somehow, landed a job in a clothing factory, where she worked for six months before she and her newfound friends, the Friedel family, left New York for the slightly less bustling city of Baltimore, Maryland. A few years after that, she met my great grandfather, Bernard Feikin, a furrier, who had left Moscow for America some years before. And, the rest, as they say, is history.
When my grandmother told me her mother's story, she said Manya had an optimistic, "What's next?" outlook on life. That attitude, along with my great grandmother's personal moxie and character, allowed the Seidenberg line to merge with the Feikins and take root in American soil. It was a good, and fortuitous, thing that sprang out of her unwillingness to let a bad turn of events dictate her destiny.
Forty-nine years after my great grandmother first set foot in America, the Wehrmacht swept through the Ukraine as part of Hitler's massive operation Barbarossa. Behind them came the Einzatsgruppen death squads, intent on realizing the murderous goals of Hitler's "Final Solution." They found enthusiastic partners waiting for them among the newly indoctrinated units of the Ukrainian state police.
The area where my Great Grandmother's family had lived quickly became the site of some of the most ruthless, brutal mass-murder campaigns and atrocities ever committed against the Jews. The bloodletting, brutality, deprivation and exploitation in that area were so sudden, so intense and so complete, that few survivors ever lived to bear witness to it. I imagine most of my great grandmother's family, and my distant, faceless relatives, perished there together, in that awful place and time.
By Jon Reisfeld
(Originally published 4/18/2011)
After Israeli agents captured Adolf Eichmann, in 1960, and charged him with crimes against humanity for his role in implementing Hitler's Final Solution, the unrepentant former Nazi head of Jewish deportations shared several reveal-ing anecdotes with his captors concerning events from those dark days.
One story eventually found its way into CIA files, only to resurface, after declassification, in a 2009
National Archives report about Nazi War Criminals, U.S. intelligence agencies and the Cold War.
The story has special significance for all of us who pause today, on Yom Hashoah, to remember victims of The Holocaust. It also further refutes the claims of the stubborn, hateful few, who despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, continue to insist that The Holocaust never happened.
Eichmann said that while he was in Budapest, in the fall of 1944, he received orders from Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo, to prepare a report about the exact number of Jews the Nazis had killed since taking power, in 1933. Because he did not run the death camps or command the death squads in the field, a point Eichmann, no doubt, wished to impress upon his interrogators, he said he had to rely on estimates previously provided by concentration camp commandants and death-squad unit heads in order to prepare the report.
Eichmann's report estimated the number of murdered Jews at six million. Of these, he said, two-thirds (or 4 million) had died in the camps while the remaining 2 million had perished during special killing actions conducted near their homes in Poland and Russia.
Eichmann submitted his report and waited. Eventually, Himmler's assistant, Hoettl, informed him that his boss was dissatisfied, believing that the numbers should have been higher. Himmler ordered Eichmann to forward a copy of the report to the head of his statistical office (apparently, so that he could then review and revise it.)
Himmler, who had been closely involved in implementing the Final Solution, believed Eichmann had grossly underestimated the efficiency of the Nazi killing machine. Six million murdered Jews? That number, he insisted, was not even close.
The six-million dead included one million Jewish children, two million Jewish women and three million Jewish men, two-thirds of the estimated nine million Jews living in Europe prior to the war. They represented civilian deaths -- unarmed people whom the Nazis had singled out for slavery, endless brutality and slaughter, strictly because of their familial and religious heritage.
The number of dead may not have satisfied Himmler's blood lust, but 6 million is such a large number that it is difficult to fathom. How do we put it into perspective? If it took just three seconds to repeat each Holocaust victim's name aloud, a single person, reading the names of the dead non-stop, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, would need 208-and-a-third days -- or nearly seven sleepless months -- in which to complete the task. Of course, no single person's voice or body could long withstand the strain, so hundreds, perhaps thousands, of individuals would be needed, working in tandem, to complete the vigil.
Time has not lessened our sense of loss. Instead, it deepens with each new generation, as we note the conspicuous absence of millions of victims' descendants. The six million Jewish lives lost in The Holocaust continue to represent unspeakable tragedy and pain, horrifying in its scope and impossible, even for those of us alive 70 years later, to fully accept and comprehend.
UN honors Holocaust Remembrance Day with new exhibit (timesofisrael.com)
Some Nazi leaders betrayed by Zionists (middleeastatemporal.wordpress.com)
Yom HaShoah / Holocaust Rememberance Day (promoteliberty.wordpress.com)
Who is Adolf Eichmann? (rianputra84.wordpress.com)
A rare peek into Mossad's capture of Nazi Adolph Eichmann (thestar.com)
Eichmann exhibit gives glimpse of Israel's Mossad (ndtv.com)
Never Again! (golanskistreasures.com)
Mossad's hunt for the other Adolf: Spy agency's search for Eichmann revealed (cnn.com)
Adolf Eichmann's capture, as told by the Mossad, in Israel exhibition (guardian.co.uk)
The pernicious cycle of Holocaust denial (blogs.timesofisrael.com)