May 12, 2009

Two Sides of the Coin

While one former Nazi (John Demjanjuk) is being deported from his home back to Germany where he might get some of what he deserves (he is wanted for the murder of 29,000 Jews in Sobibor - how can he possibly get what he deserves for that?), another former Nazi is being given the royal treatment by Jews in the Holy Land.

And while the politicians are all condemning him today because yesterday at the ceremony in Yad VaShem he did not ask forgiveness or even express sorrow over what happened in Nazi Germany, what did they really expect from him? He has not really been favorable at all to the Jews until now. Did they really think that by tripping all over themselves to show him some honor he would suddenly change his spots?

Send the holy pope on his holy way and get the traffic back in order. Just because of the way he messed up Jerusalem traffic yesterday, and will likely do so again today, it was not worth this holy visit from a former Nazi.


  1. I have been a bit ambivalent about his visit. I am not sure that it helps/harms anything.

  2. I dont see it as helping anything. As far as harming, it is also unlikely.

  3. Rafi, I don't like him either, but it's just not correct to call him a former Nazi. Being a member of Hitler Youth does not make one a Nazi.

  4. he also signed up for and joined the Wehrmacht

  5. it may not be accurate because his past is so ambiguous and hidden in secrecy (unless you trust his wiki entry), but the little that is known is enough for me

  6. According to wikipedia, he wasn't so happy about being in Hitler's youth (which I kind of figure is like Bnei Akiva - pretty much everyone joins it or something similar) and was actually requierd to join, and he was drafted into the German army. This is straight out of Wikipedia, but it's pretty reasonable - I would find it hard to believe that someone who was gung-ho to join the army would end up having the desire to devote his life to religion to such an extent that he would eventually become Pope.

    Also, let's not forget that he didn't kill any non-combatants. It was also 60+ years ago, and he hasn't exactly been bearing the Nazi torch ever since.

    Also, what happened to the idea that a person could change? If the right could vilify Ariel Sharon for the disengagement while ignoring his past for which they (at the time) so adored him, it shouldn't be such a stretch to ignore Ratzinger uncomfortable past as well.

    I also don't see why he should apologize. He was not a member of the Nazi party or the SS, as far as we know. The Church's role in the Holocaust is subject to debate, and, in any event previous Popes have apologized. Just because the Holocaust is an important event in Jewish history does not mean that everyone else in the world has to dwell on it.

  7. no account has him as a nazi guard or as having killed Jews. What he did do is guarded in secrecy and in recent years the story has been that he joined reluctantly. but who knows...
    yes, a person can change. Maybe he has changed, but he has not shown himself to be a friend of the Jews. or even interested in warm relations.

    apology? I dont know why some people wanted it, but read the haaretz or ynet article on what he said and it was not just the lack of apology. He spoke about the tragedy of humanity rather than the anything specific to Jews. All involved were very disappointed with his choice of words and consider what he said to have been chosen to be aloof and disconnected.

  8. Jews have never had warm relations with Rome - whether with pagan Rome or with the Christian city that became the Catholic Church. There is no reason to ever expect the two sides to become good friends and I share the ambivalence.

  9. He spoke about the tragedy of humanity rather than the anything specific to Jews.Fantastic. If he just related to the Holocaust as a Jewish tragedy, then he's basically saying that there's no reason for anyone besides those affected to care about it. But by realting to the human aspect, he universalizes the scope of the tragedy, and thus calls on the entire world to learn the lessons of the Holocaust.

    (Let's not forget as well that about 40% of those who perished in the Holocaust were not Jewish. 6 million Jews is out of about 10 million people murdered. Thus, the Holocaust was not a strictly Jewish tragedy.)

    As an aside, I'm appreciate not being pidgeon-holed as a part of a victim caste.

  10. In general in agree with Yoni R. at 10:11.
    I think that whatever the pope does he will be criticized. Even if he would have apologized, he would not have been believed. It would have been considered as lip service.

  11. All involved were very disappointed with his choice of words and consider what he said to have been chosen to be aloof and disconnected.Agreed. But that still doesn't mean that it's okay to call him a Nazi!!!

  12. Not a former Nazi either. Kids in Hitler Youth were not Nazis.

  13. On the other hand, Oskar Schindler was a member of the Nazi party. So apparently a checkered past is not an indelible mark of Cain.

    (OK, he saved a lot of Jews during the war. But his membership in the Nazi party, not just Hitler's Youth, is never even brought up. I'd like to see the "price sheet" for getting someone's association with the Nazis purged from his record.)

  14. True not ONLY Jews were killed,however it was Hitler's goal to Annihilate all of the Jews where ever they lived.That wasn't his goal for the others that were killed.

  15. Rafi being a member of the Hitler Youth as a kid doesn't make one a Nazi. When you use the word when it shouldn't it limits its potency when used correctly.

  16. I just heard on the radio that some rep in the vatican protested against the protests in Israel about the pope's speech.
    he said that the pope never was a member of hitler youth, and his service in the wehrmacht was forced upon him. therefore he did not need to apologize for anything.
    so it seems like either wiki cannot be trusted, or the vatican spokesman cannot be trusted.

  17. ...or neither can be trusted

  18. Not a former Nazi either. Kids in Hitler Youth were not Nazis.[space]

    But you would think that the Catholic Church would have the sense and decency to elect a pope (of all their good cardinals) that wasn't a Hitler youth?

  19. I've always wondered why people imagine that after the war everyone went home, folded their nazi uniforms neatly in their trunk and then went about raising their children and grandchildren to love jews.

  20. the same way they were fine with the jews before the war, then the nazis come to power and make jew-hatred legitimate, start mass murderign jews, then all of the sudden all these good friendly neighbors are turning in their jewish friends and neighbors and helping the nazis kill jews.
    Just like they could easily make that switch, they can easily make the switch back again.

  21. RAFI:

    "the same way they were fine with the jews before the war"

    they were not fine with the jews before the war

  22. LOZ - in what way? In the books I read, it was often described as situations where friendly neighbors (dormant anti-semitism perhaps) surprisingly turned on jewish neighbors who were shocked that their friends would turn them in and/or refuse to help them.
    Aside from the many exceptions of chasidei umot ha'olam of course.

  23. in what way?In many ways. Now I'll tell a story about how Jew hatred and how German practical acceptance of Jew hatred saved my grandfathers life.

    My fathers family is from Germany. Not just regular Germans, but real hard-core Germans that lived there for many hundreds of years, in one case that we know of, more than 800 years. And not just Jews in Germany, but Germans. And not just Germans, but patriotic Germans, so much so that my great-Grandfather fought and died in World War I - fighting on the German side. After his death, my great-Grandmother began receiving pension payments from the German government. Enough background.

    My grandfather was a cattle trader in a small village in Bavaria (I've been there* and it is really small, even today it's less than 200 or so people**) and his family did business there for centuries. In the mid 30's, someone my grandfather did business with refused to pay him (clearly because he was a Jew) and my grandfather went to the local constable to complain. The constable essentially told him "Shut up, Jew, I won't do anything for you" followed by the guy (the business 'partner') threatening my grandfathers life (because he was causing him trouble with the constabulary). At first, my grandfather didn't take it seriously, but later, after an attempt on his life, he ran away to Switzerland (one of the closest border states to his home). The business was obviously given up and the various neighbors "took care" of his cattle (i.e. stole them).

    He stayed in Switzerland for a few months and was in contact with his mother back home who told him that the guy was still "hot" and wanted to kill him, and that the local constabulary was even worse towards Jews than they had been before. She told him to remain away from Germany because his life was in grave danger. So he worked (illegally, I presume) in various places around Europe and then ended up in the British Mandate of Palestine shortly thereafter. Remember, this was the mid-30's, well before the war.

    So he survived. Everyone else in his family and extended family (other than some very distant cousins that came to the USA in the 1800's) were eventually gassed and cremated.

    And that's how German Jew hatred and German general acceptance of Jew hatred saved my grandfathers life. If not for the guy that threatened my grandfathers life, he would have also been gassed and cremated.


    * When I and my parents visited the village many years ago, we visited the people that now live in my great-grandparents house and they were visibly scared that we came to take our property back from them (that they obviously stole). But we didn't.

    ** If you are interested, the village is called "Nenzehheim" and if you look on google maps, you will see how tiny it is.

  24. Mark - thanks. That is a truly fascinating story.


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