Tag Archives: Holocaust

MSNBC host needs to issue a full-throated apology

Chris Matthews has stepped in it. Big time.

The MSNBC “Hardball” host is taking intense social media fire over a remark he made over the weekend in which he likened Sen. Bernie Sanders’ big win in the Nevada caucus to the Nazi invasion and conquest of France during World War II.

One serious problem has emerged immediately after Matthews shot off his loud and boisterous mouth. Sanders, who is Jewish, lost many of his family members during the Holocaust.

Social media have gone berserk. Viewers are calling for Matthews, a veteran newspaper columnist, a former congressional aide and a longtime cable TV broadcast personality, to resign. Short of resignation, social media critics are calling on MSBNC to fire Matthews for his display of extreme insensitivity.

Here’s what I think ought to happen.

Chris Matthews needs to go on the air and issue an apology. And I don’t mean one of those phony “If I offended anyone” non-apologies. He needs to say something like this: “I made a terrible mistake. I am sorry for what I said. I engaged my motor mouth without turning on my sensitivity filter. I blew it and I apologize to everyone who heard me make that hideous comparison on the air.”

If the apology doesn’t stem the criticism, then he should quit. My hope would be that a full-throated, sincere apology might do the job.

What’s more, Matthews — who is known for his machine-gun delivery — needs to re-calibrate the manner in which he delivers his commentary.

Fate delivers tragic blow to congregants … and the nation

I saw this list online and decided to post it here.

All the names tell a story. All the victims who died in the Tree of Life synagogue massacre this weekend leave behind those who loved them deeply and who cherished their relationship with God.

One of the names jumped out at me: Rose Mallinger.

Ms. Mallinger was 97 years of age when the gunman murdered her. I was struck as well by what I read about her. She attended temple without fail for many decades. She is being remembered by her friends and family members as a spry, lively, and lovely virtual centenarian.

Her daughter was among those wounded by the gunman. Ms. Mallinger’s daughter said her mother didn’t live like a 97-year-old.

Her fellow congregants called her “vivacious” and “vital.”

I am struck, too, by the fact that at 97 years of age, she was old enough to remember what happened in Europe to other Jews, who were rounded up and sent by the millions to concentration camps.

The Holocaust has to be considered the 20th century’s most horrific crime against humanity, one that took 6 million to 7 million lives. Why? Because the victims were Jewish and the Nazi tyrants who killed them considered them to be subhuman, not worthy of living, not worthy of rearing their families or of seeking a better life themselves and their loved ones.

The 11 victims of the hideous monster who killed them also have been denied their rights — as prescribed by their government — of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

They have become martyrs. I am positive they wouldn’t want to be remembered for what happened to them while they worshiped. But they are. Forever.

My heart breaks for them all, but there’s something tragically poignant in knowing the age of a victim who died with memories of just how horrifying religious hatred can become.

And my heart breaks for our nation … where this horror originated.

Nazi Holocaust denier becomes GOP nominee … wow!

I don’t know who coined the phrase, although I heard the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards say it once or twice.

“You dance with them that brung ya.”

So it is that Illinois Republican voters are facing a strange election season this fall. The GOP primary in a Chicago-area congressional district has nominated an avowed Nazi and a Holocaust denier. His name is Arthur Jones. None other than the Cruz Missile himself, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has urged voters in that congressional district to vote for the Democrat rather than the Republican nominee.

Cruz tweeted: “To the good people of Illinois, you have two reasonable choices: write in another candidate, or vote for the Democrat. This bigoted fool should receive ZERO votes.”

The state GOP is trying to find a way to run an alternative candidate against incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski. I’d say Lipinski will win in the heavily Democratic district, but then again, I thought Hillary Rodham Clinton would be elected president of the United States in 2016.

Here is how Politico reported the story.

Well, I am afraid the Republican Party primary has produced a winner. Art Jones is the man slated to run for Congress. The GOP sought to get Jones pushed off the ballot; it tried to find someone to challenge him in the primary. They failed. Jones was nominated.

Should the GOP succeed in finding an “alternative” candidate? We’ll see about that. It looks to me as though Republicans will have to “dance” with the guy they nominated.

Or … they can vote for the Democratic incumbent.

Abbas utters shameful anti-Semitic rant

The long-sought “two-state solution” to a lasting peace agreement in the Middle East might have been given a critical punch in the gut because of hideous remarks from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Holocaust, Abbas said, was partly caused by the behavior of Jews. According to The Hill: Abbas pointed to the Jews’ “social behavior” and “their social function related to banks and interest” in a speech on Monday to the Palestinian National Council.

“From the 11th century until the Holocaust that took place in Germany, those Jews — who moved to western and eastern Europe — were subjected to a massacre every 10 to 15 years. But why did this happen? They say: ‘It is because we are Jews,’ ” Abbas said.

Abbas’s remarks have drawn worldwide condemnation. This came from former Secretary of State John Kerry, who said, via Twitter: These comments are wrong, ugly, and unacceptable – anywhere from anyone – but particularly from anyone who says he wants to be a peacemaker. No excuses for antisemitism: words to be condemned, not explained away. 

And this came from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, gave another anti-Semitic speech. With utmost ignorance and brazen gall, he claimed that European Jews were persecuted and murdered not because they were Jews but because they gave loans with interest.

Indeed, the Abbas’s comments disgrace the cause of the search for peace.

The Holocaust was caused solely by the evil intent of a regime that took control of a sovereign country, Germany, and sought to eradicate Europe of citizens merely because of their religious faith.

For Mahmoud Abbas to somehow lay part of the blame on Jews because of their “social behavior” is like blaming a child for the beating he gets from an adult because he cries too much.

Disgraceful.

We must never forget those victims

Humankind can be generous, gentle and loving.

We humans, though, also are capable of extreme hatred.

Today isn’t the day to remember the good side of humanity, but to remember its cruelest behavior. International Holocaust Remembrance Day reminds us of just how dastardly we humans can behave.

There have been remembrances in Europe, where millions of Jews died at the hands of Nazi butchers prior to and during World War II.

***

I want to share a point of personal privilege. I’ve had the honor of seeing up close the monuments to man’s monstrous acts.

Yad Vashem is a museum located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in Israel. It tells the story of what the Nazis did to European Jews. They killed an estimated 6 million human beings, consigning them to starvation, assorted forms of physical torture and then sent to gas chambers in death camps scattered throughout central and eastern Europe.

The Israelis certainly remember the Holocaust. Indeed, their country was founded in 1948 by Europeans who fled to the Middle East to establish a homeland.

I had the honor — I won’t call it a “pleasure” — of touring Yad Vashem in June 2009. I will never forget the emotional impact of that museum and the history told by people whose ancestors suffered so grievously.

Germans also recall their shame in what Adolf Hitler brought to their nation. The Nazi tyrants — along with their Japanese allies — stood trial in Nuremberg after World War II; they were charged with crimes against humanity.

Nuremberg has erected what is called a Documentation Center. My wife and I visited Nuremberg in September 2016 and I got to see how Germany has confronted its shame. The Documentation Center tells the story in graphic language and images.

Germans won’t forget, either.

***

But such acts of genocide aren’t restricted to Europe or are committed only by Europeans.

In 1989 and again in 2004, I was able to tour killing fields in Cambodia, on the other side of the planet. They remain as a silent testimony to Pol Pot’s murderous regime, which was exposed to the world when Vietnamese troops routed Pol Pot from power in 1978.

I remember talking in 1989 to a young woman, who told me if Pol Pot — who was still living at the time — were to return, “We all will become soldiers” who would fight him to the death.

There are many other examples of humanity’s capacity for unspeakable horror. They have occurred in places such as Uganda, in Armenia, the Balkans, China and, oh yes, in the United States of America — where Native Americans were routed from their own homeland by settlers who moved from east to west in the 18th and 19th centuries.

We mustn’t forget these lessons of history.

As Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has said, “The opposite of love isn’t hate. It is indifference.”

One final thought about POTUS and Yad Vashem

I had not planned to say anything else about Donald Trump’s visit to Yad Vashem, but I cannot resist one final thought.

Here is what the president wrote in the book at one of the world’s most solemn and gripping monuments to the depths of humankind’s cruelty:

“It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends – so amazing + will never forget!”

That’s it. That was the commentary and remembrance offered by the president of the United States of America at a museum dedicated to remembering the Holocaust committed against Jews in Europe prior to and during World War II. Yad Vashem is as grim an exhibit as there is; it is just outside of Jerusalem.

To be candid, the notation from the president might as well have been doodled in a high school yearbook.

Anyone who goes there should be moved to commit something from deep within his or her gut to memorialize that visit.

I get that the president isn’t known for expressing himself in that fashion. He speaks in shallow platitudes. He attaches adjectives such as “amazing,” or “fantastic” to experiences that ought to elicit some expressions that are a bit more profound.

I came away from Yad Vashem in June 2009 barely able to control my emotions after seeing how the Israelis have remembered the unspeakable pain inflicted by the monstrous Nazi regime during the Holocaust.

Is it possible that Donald Trump will be able to grow into the job to which he was elected? I am increasingly certain that it won’t happen. Not … ever!

That is my final word on this particular matter.

Trump visits Yad Vashem, and then …

I cannot shake this feeling that the president of the United States cannot be moved by artifacts intended to stir the human soul.

Donald Trump has departed Israel. He made the usual stops at the Western Wall, called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then visited Yad Vashem, the Israelis’ memorial to the Holocaust.

He left a short note in the remembrance book at the museum on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/05/23/israels-holocaust-memorial-comparing-donald-trump-obama-and-bush-notes/102053636/

It was brief. He wrote of being there among “friends” and finished with “never forget.”

Yad Vashem is a stirring reminder of just how cruel human beings can be toward one another. I wrote about my own visit there in June 2009 and about the visit that the president’s immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, made there in 2013.

Yad Vashem stands as testament to human cruelty

I don’t know what strikes Donald Trump’s heart, what makes it beat a little more quickly. I cannot pretend to understand this billionaire’s thinking and what moves him deeply. He once said famously that he’s never asked for God’s forgiveness. Goodness, gracious.

That is what sticks my craw today as I watch the president travel through and then exit the Holy Land en route to his next stop: a visit in the Vatican with the head of the Catholic Church.

I concluded my own blog post about President Obama’s visit to Yad Vashem this way: “Indeed, a tour of Yad Vashem ought to be required of every head of state who takes an oath to preserve the peace.”

At least Donald Trump went there. I hope — I pray — it moved him.

Smart man makes stupid point about Hitler

Sean Spicer is not a stupid man.

However, he made a stupid point this week using the time-honored reference to Adolf Hitler to make some kind of contemporary argument.

The White House press secretary said that Adolf Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons on Holocaust victims, implying that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s use of such weapons is even more despicable than anything Hitler did.

Time out!

How about stop using any references to Hitler? Spicer’s careless and reckless use of the historical record illustrates one of the risks involved with referencing the dastardly deeds of the 20th century’s most heinous tyrant.

I’m not going to invoke the “both sides do it” canard, which I believe is meant to dilute the transgression of one side’s error. Spicer has acknowledged forthrightly the gravity of his blunder and has manned up appropriately.

However, many of Donald Trump’s critics have used Hitler references to express their fear of what might occur during Trump’s presidency. I dislike those references, too.

If the White House press flack has learned any lesson from this unfortunate episode, it ought to be to steer far, far away from any references to Hitler.

For that matter, the lesson I want to impart is that Hitler’s deeds shouldn’t be compared to anyone else. The memories of millions of his victims compel us to recall with singular loathing the Nazi tyrant’s heinous record.

Spicer earns dubious place in flackery annals

As if we needed proof of the seemingly obvious …

Sean Spicer’s performance this week has confirmed what many Americans have long suspected, which is that he’ll go down in history as one of the most inept White House press flacks in the history of the office.

My goodness. How does one calculate the impact of this man’s performance as he sought to clarify, re-clarify, and then re-re-clarify a statement he made about the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on civilians?

However, at another level, I feel a bit badly for Spicer. He is merely representative of the most incompetent presidential administration I’ve ever witnessed. Hey, I’m now 67 years of age. I’ve been watching these transitions with some interest now for quite some time. I’ve witnessed presidents assemble governments quickly in the wake of intense national tragedy and national scandal. None of them compares with the bungling boobery  we’ve witnessed with the Donald John Trump administration.

Spicer this week demonstrated precisely the muddled messaging that occurs with startling regularity.

During his daily press briefing, Spicer said — during the week of Passover, for crying out loud! — that Adolf Hitler didn’t use “chemical weapons” on millions of Holocaust victims. Huh?

He implied that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s gassing of civilians somehow was worse than what Hitler did to European Jews prior to and during World War II.

OK, then he backed off of that … more or less. He said he meant to acknowledge that Hitler gassed millions of people, but was comparing it to Assad’s use of aircraft to drop chemical weapons on “innocent victims.” OK. Then, did he mean that the Holocaust victims weren’t, uh, innocent?

No, that’s not what he meant … he said.

Throughout all this stumbling and bumbling, he dropped in the term “Holocaust center” to refer to the Nazi death camps erected throughout eastern and central Europe during World War II.

Social media exploded.

Finally, Spicer spoke to NBC News and offered a fulsome apology for the mistakes he made. I give him great credit for refusing to say, “If I offended anyone … “, which I consider to be the phoniest form of apology one can offer. He took ownership of his inarticulateness.

He came to the White House after serving as press secretary for the Republican National Committee. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when Trump selected him. Then, during his first press confrontation, he excoriated the media for reporting that Trump’s inaugural crowd was far smaller than the one that welcome Barack Obama in January 2009.

Actually, young man, the crowd was much smaller. There was no need to scold anyone in the media for reporting the truth. Thus, we heard the term “alternative facts” presented for the first time by another White House adviser, the inimitable Kellyanne Conway.

The president keeps telling us that things are going swimmingly at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., when in fact they are not. The president cannot fill key staff jobs; critical political appointments haven’t been made. So, Mr. President, stop insulting our intelligence by repeating such outright falsehoods about your “fine-tuned machine.”

Now we hear that the annual White House Easter Egg Roll — set for Monday — is in trouble because the administration lacks the staff to assemble an event that has become a staple of first families’ occupancy of the White House.

Speaking of first families, where is the first lady, Melania Trump? Isn’t it her responsibility to put this event together?

I’m actually beginning to pity Sean Spicer. He delivered a clunker of a performance this week. It’s tough being the face and the voice of a presidential administration that doesn’t have a clue.

Nation faces its own past

george-w-bush-obama-1

“A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws, and corrects them.”

Former President George W. Bush, in remarks dedicating the Museum of African-American History

Indeed, they dedicated a museum this weekend that pays tribute to the contributions African-Americans gave to this country’s rich history and culture.

It also revisits the grim aspects of that experience. Slavery, life under Jim Crow laws, the street battles that ensued as the civil rights movement gained traction.

It was a bipartisan affair this weekend, with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on hand to welcome the opening of this exhibit.

I wanted to share the quote from President Bush and put it in another context.

My wife and I returned recently from two weeks in Germany and The Netherlands. It was in Germany where I saw how another great nation treats a grim portion of its otherwise glorious past.

Nuremberg became the site where Nazi Germany’s high command was put on trial for committing the most hideous crimes against humanity one ever could imagine. The Germans have erected a museum there to remember that dark chapter. They do not honor it. They don’t celebrate it. They put it out there for all the world to see.

That’s how they remind the world — and themselves — that they cannot allow the persecution, intimidation and murder of their fellow citizens simply because of their religious faith. That, of course, is what happened in Europe prior to and during the Second World War.

The African-American museum that’s now open in Washington, of course, also honors the extraordinary contributions that African-Americans have given to this nation. It also remembers the terrible times brought on by the enslavement of human beings and the struggles they endured as they fought for the equality the nation’s founders had declared had been granted to them by their “Creator.”

President Bush is right. Great nations do not sweep their darker chapters away. They don’t ignore them. They don’t wish them away.

They stare those chapters down and declare never again will we allow ourselves to repeat these tragic mistakes.