Anti-Semitism is not a convenient tool to be used by demagogues or fools. It is a virulent affliction that has cost millions of lives, and is upon us yet again.
George Santayana, the noted Hispanic American philosopher, famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Two tragic events illustrate for me the merit and timeliness of that sage observation.
In early 1934, my parents fled Germany for Paris (though a year later, they were enticed to return). The Nazi-organized nationwide boycott of Jewish-owed businesses and services in 1933 should have provided notice to the world as to what lay ahead. The verbal and physical assaults of Jews that followed with ever increasing ferocity left little room for hope.
The unchallenged vicious slurs of public officials and purge of Jewish officials were excused, if not embraced, encouraging ever greater outrages.
The handwriting was literally on the wall — hateful, hurtful vitriol.
My maternal grandparents owned a small dry cleaning establishment in the city of Zwickau, Germany. One morning, in 1938, they awoke to find the word “Juden” painted on its window, an unmistakable warning. My grandparents (and many others who businesses were thus branded) did not heed the message.
A few months later, on Oct. 28-29, 1938, they and virtually all of their remaining relatives (save my parents and me, who had fled Germany weeks previously) were rounded up, and at gunpoint, were forced across the border to Poland, and ultimately butchery.
Decades later, as the survivors of that dark era rapidly die off — and with them, the dreadful memories and recounted tales of the price of savagery — the early warning signs of recurrence are ominously present. This time in our backyard.
Several members of Congress, as well as other supposedly upright members of society, urge boycott of Jewish businesses under the guise of anti-Israel protest — a transparent proxy and bigots’ mask. Orthodox Jews are beaten and robbed in Brooklyn because of who they are, not what they possess.
Not just the walls, but the mass communication media of our times are filled with hurtful, hateful vitriol. Respected and effective Jewish members of Congress from the New York area are unconscionably targeted to be purged. And the significance of this biased putsch fails to penetrate the desensitized consciousness of so-called opinion makers.
Plainly we have not learned the lessons of history. The demons of the past are with us again.
The U.S. Supreme Court, other tribunals, international conventions, and scholarly works have accurately equated anti-Semitism with racism. Yet, the blatant racism of those public officials and their minions who have come to symbolize this return to man’s darkest hour stands largely unchallenged, both by the media (which seemingly excuses it in favor of its quest to unseat a more prominent target), and by so-called polite society (the same nice people who stood idly by in the 1930s while rabid arsonists assembled the kindling for mankind’s largest and most brutal conflagration).
Sadly, Santayana’s caution is being disregarded as we unthinkingly scurry about our daily affairs, unconcerned with the inevitable consequences of our own tolerance of racists and bigots who poison society in their single-minded quest for power and glory.
Diogenes famously sought the honest man. Now, however, is the time to seek out and encourage those who will stand against this reincarnation of evil. The alternative for some will again be belated recognition that the time for principled, courageous and successful opposition has passed, and flight may again be the sole recourse — but to where?