Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Hillcrest High School Students in NYC Stage Mini Pogrom; Anti-Semitism Rampant in NYC Schools


 A Jewish teacher from a NYC high school attended a pro-Israel rally and held up a sign saying "I Stand with Israel." Students saw photo of this teacher and staged a mini pogrom in Hillcrest high school, rioting through the halls, seeking the teacher, aiming to harm her. They memorialized their threats in social media. The teacher took refuge in a locked room. 

Students posted videos online of their mini pogrom. The rioters appear to be majority non-white. 

In response, schools chancellor David Banks soft pedaled the mini pogrom. It is important to "listen" to the teen pogromists, he insisted. 

From the New York Post

“Over 400 students threatened the life of a teacher, solely because she is Jewish,” ...

Banks "failed to recognize the deep-seated Jewish hate present in our school ,,.

“We have heard from employees and parents who have shared experiences and evidence of Jewish hate across the school system,”...

Graffiti “depicting Jewish hate” in the bathroom of her school went untouched for more than a month ,,,

“I can’t imagine how these students must feel in New York City, 2023, knowing that so many people in school are wishing them harm solely because they are Jewish,” she said. 

From a subsequent Post article 

Banks faulted TikTok and other social media for exposing students to daily depictions of “children and young people in Palestine being blown up”: The students “feel a kindred spirit with the folks of the Palestinian community. This is a very visceral and emotional issue for them,” said Banks, noting that 30% of the Hillcrest student body is Arab. 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Relativism: A New French Novel Sanitizes Holocaust History


The New York Times reports that a new French novel uses relativism to sanitize France's role in the Holocaust. The novel fictionalizes the life of the woman in the Robert Capa photo "Shaved Woman of Chartres." The woman, Simone Touseau, was a pro Nazi collaborator. In the novel, she is presented sympathetically, because, as the author says in the above quote, there are no saints or bastards. 

That's a relativist stance. In fact there are saints and there are bastards. 

See the full Times article here

Monday, November 20, 2023

Pro Israel March in Warsaw

Watch the video here

"The Volunteer" Witold Pilecki; Book Review by Filip Mazurczak

Jack Fairweather's 2019 book The Volunteer: One Man, an Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz sheds light on one of World War II's great unsung heroes: Witold Pilecki, a leader of the Polish resistance who willingly became an Auschwitz prisoner, only to be executed by the communist regime. While the book's potential educational value, especially outside Poland, is immense, it offers a very limited perspective on its subject.

Witold Pilecki is the only known person to volunteer to be imprisoned at Auschwitz. Wiesław Kielar, a Polish inmate of the notorious death factory, aptly titled his memoir of the camp Anus Mundi, the "anus of the world" in Latin. No one in their right mind would volunteer to go to such a horrible place; as one of Pilecki's earliest collaborators told him upon learning of his mission: "You must be nuts! […] If what you say is true, you're either the greatest hero or the biggest fool" (Fairweather, p. 88).

Pilecki volunteered to go to Auschwitz to gain intel about the camp to inform the Western Allies about atrocities and to create a resistance group there. Why wasn't I taught about Pilecki in high school history class? you might be asking. Why hasn't a $100 million Hollywood blockbuster starring Russell Crowe or Mark Wahlberg been made about Pilecki? The reason is tragically simple: because Pilecki was a member of the Polish Home Army, a simultaneously anti-Nazi and anti-Soviet resistance group in occupied Poland, he was executed by the Stalinist government in 1948.

The communist regime not only physically annihilated Pilecki: it was largely successful in writing him out of history books and the national consciousness. For many years, he was only mentioned in publications by Polish émigré writers, like Józef Garliński, one of Pilecki's collaborators in Auschwitz, and the author of Fighting Auschwitz. It was only around the 2000s that many Poles began to discover Pilecki, who has since become the protagonist of many Polish books, films, and museum exhibits, while a growing number of streets and schools across Poland are named after him, including the Cavalry Captain Witold Pilecki State University of Małopolska in Oświęcim, the Polish town that during the war would be forcibly Germanized and renamed Auschwitz.

Poland's communist regime, in fact, falsely ascribed Pilecki's heroism to the premier Józef Cyrankiewicz (1947-1952), also a prisoner of Auschwitz who was active in the Auschwitz resistance but did not play a leadership role. As head of the communist government, Cyrankiewicz refused to pardon his fellow inmate who had been sentenced to death. Thus, today we have the bizarre situation in which more people outside Poland know of German resisters to Nazism like Dietrich Bonhoeffer than heroes like Witold Pilecki from Poland, the first nation to resist Hitler.

(To me, the most perfect example of this absurd fate of many Polish war heroes is that of Kazimierz Moczarski, a member of the Home Army sentenced to death who shared a cell with the German war criminal Jürgen Stroop, responsible for the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in which 50,000 Polish Jews were murdered; following the Khrushchev-era thaw in 1956, Moczarski was released from prison, and he turned recollections of his death row talks with Stroop into Conversations with an Executioner, one of the best World War II books I have read.)

Jack Fairweather is a well-known war reporter for the Washington Post and Daily Telegraph, and The Volunteer is the first major book on Pilecki published in English by a mainstream publisher (Custom House, an imprint of HarperCollins). The very fact that Fairweather endeavored to write this deserves praise, and I hope that the upcoming Polish-British film about Pilecki will make him better known, if not a household name.

The Volunteer is a riveting read. Apart from a fine overview of Pilecki's wartime heroism, Fairweather presents an intriguing cast of characters. Most interesting is the case of Dr. Władysław Dering, a Polish physician interned at Auschwitz. Dering is famous for having participated in medical experiments on the reproductive organs of Auschwitz inmates, mostly Jews (although, as Fairweather writes, he also castrated a German homosexual prisoner). After World War II, Dering immigrated to Britain, and Poland's communist regime sought his extradition to try him for war crimes. Because Dering is briefly mentioned in Leon Uris' Exodus, a huge success with the American reading public (but not with literary critics as well as a growing number of scholars who deplore Uris' racist depiction of Arabs), the doctor sued the author for libel and was awarded a half-penny in damages; the Dering v. Uris trial received extensive press coverage in the 1960s and was the subject of a made-for-television movie starring Anthony Hopkins (which I haven't seen but apparently is no Silence of the Lambs, just a historically inaccurate mess).

Fairweather introduces a very balanced and novel perspective on Dering, who seems to be neither the monster Uris made him out to be nor the hero Dering claimed he was in court. We learn from Fairweather's account that Dering was a major participant in Pilecki's Auschwitz resistance cell and that he refused to kill inmates by injecting them with phenol. However, Fairweather cites another physician inmate working in the medical block who claims the SS let her refrain from participating in experiments, thus contradicting Dering's court room claims of compulsion. Furthermore, Fairweather notes that Dering (whose surname was originally spelled Dehring) had German ancestry and took advantage of that fact to be released from Auschwitz, which Pilecki's group viewed as treason.

The author's approach reminds us that while amidst the horrors of the Nazi concentration camp system there were a handful of heroes like Pilecki, Maximilian Kolbe, or Janusz Korczak on the one hand and some sadistic guards and kapos on the other, most inmates, like Dering, were in what Primo Levi famously called the "grey zone" of morality.

The Volunteer also presents the history of Auschwitz completely and accurately. Most of Fairweather's American and British readers associate Auschwitz-Birkenau with the Holocaust; given that 90 percent of the camp's victims were Jews, that is only reasonable. However, to understand Pilecki's mission, the beginnings of the camp must also be understood. Auschwitz was initially formed in 1940 to terrorize Poles; if Jewish inmates were imprisoned there before 1942, they ended up there not on account of their ethnicity but because they were affiliated with the Polish resistance, belonged to the nation's elites, or were the victims of street roundups (Pilecki himself used an assumed identity and let himself get caught in a Warsaw roundup).

Fairweather's tracing the history of the camp is crucial not only to understanding how Pilecki ended up in the camp but, more important, how his understanding of the camp's purpose evolved. Once the first gassings of Jews in Auschwitz began, it took Pilecki a while to understand that the German's intentions towards the Jews were more macabre than that of Polish Gentiles: complete annihilation rather than enslavement and partial extermination. Fairweather cites Pilecki and General Stefan Grot-Rowecki, the main commander of the Home Army, as thinking that the first gassings were "just" another pogrom, one of many throughout European history.

While claiming that Rowecki was skeptical of Pilecki's pleas for the Polish underground to attack Auschwitz, Fairweather does not explain why. Antisemitism cannot be a reason, as 150,000 non-Jewish Poles were at various points interned there. I would assume Rowecki's hesitance resulted from the Polish resistance's limited arsenal or fear of repressions, but unfortunately Fairweather does not explore this issue.

The United States and Allies were also informed of what was happening to Europe's Jews. While they had the military capabilities to, for example, attack German cities in retaliation or bomb the railways leading to Auschwitz or the camp's crematoria, they refused to do so. Polish and Jewish resistance groups authored some of the first reports of the Holocaust, and the Polish government-in-exile in London appealed to London and Washington for action. This fact is well-known from classic works of history like Walter Laqueur's The Terrible Secret or David S. Wyman's The Abandonment of the Jews. Yet Fairweather's book shows the perspective of one idealist who wanted to inform the world of genocide. Pilecki seems almost naïve as he smuggles reports on Auschwitz out of the camp through couriers, thinking that Roosevelt and Churchill would care about the tragic fate of millions destined to become ash.

While I recommend The Volunteer to English-speaking readers (I personally preferred Italian historian Marco Patricelli's biography, also titled The Volunteer, but it is available only in Italian and Polish), the book has several major flaws.

First, the book features surprisingly little context. Fairweather's readers in Anglophone countries are taught little about the invasion of Poland in September 1939 (and, likely, are taught myths, such as that the Polish cavalry bravely but stupidly charged at German tanks). Yet the invasion of Poland is the subject of just one short chapter (less than twenty pages) which deals less with the military, diplomatic, and humanitarian contexts and more with Pilecki's experience.

Nonetheless, the reader learns very little about Pilecki's background. The fact that he had a wife and two children is occasionally alluded to, while his participation in the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1919-1921 is also barely mentioned. The Volunteer almost exclusively focuses on Pilecki's mission in Auschwitz, with a little bit about his escape from Auschwitz, participation in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising (which resulted in the city's complete destruction and loss of 150,000 to 200,000 mostly civilian lives), and postwar trial.

Most annoyingly, Fairweather completely omits the fact that Pilecki was a devout Catholic with a strong devotion to the rosary and attachment to Thomas a Kempis' spiritual classic The Imitation of Christ (which influenced many other noble figures, such as the Swedish humanitarian Dag Hammarskjöld – after his death in an airplane crash, a copy was found in his suitcase). Fairweather begins his book with a quote from Thomas a Kempis, but never again alludes to the book. In fact, in 2008 and 2013 groups of Poles sent letters to Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, respectively, asking them to open a cause for Pilecki's canonization.

At one point, Fairweather refers to Adam Sapieha as "Poland's archbishop" (p. 102). No such function exists; Sapieha was archbishop of Krakow. I suppose that one could explain this by the fact that Fairweather is ignorant about Catholicism because he is from Britain, a very secular, traditionally Protestant society where Catholics make up less than a tenth of the population.

Yet although I may not be an expert on Hinduism, if I were commissioned to write a biography of Gandhi I would study the religion, as it is crucial to understanding the Indian leader's approach to non-violence, the sanctity of all life (human and animal alike), and vegetarianism.

Fairweather also asserts that Pilecki "likely held a paternal view toward the local Polish and Belarusian peasants and shared in some of the prevailing anti-Semitic views" (p. 9). I do not deny that there was plenty of endemic antisemitism in twentieth-century Poland. However, Fairweather offers no evidence to support these claims. Such a guilty-by-association approach is contradicted by the author himself at least twice. First, in the very same endnote to this risky assertion on page 9 Fairweather writes that although Pilecki did evict a Jewish tenant from his estate, "[t]here is no evidence to suggest racial animus behind the incident" (p. 412). Elsewhere, Fairweather quotes one of Pilecki's reports from after the war in which the latter comments on the Kielce pogrom in which Poles murdered 38 to 42 Jews (not 37, as Fairweather writes), calling it "a tragedy" (pp. 377-378).

While such flaws make The Volunteer a somewhat frustrating read, Jack Fairweather deserves praise for helping to undo the injustices to the Polish communist regime's egregious history policy and reminding readers that not even the murderous depravity of Auschwitz could quench the Polish fighting spirit.

You can find more of Filip Mazurczak's articles here and here

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Hamas Atrocities? Blame Poland


I've been paying a lot of attention to the Muslim Arab atrocities against Jews committed on October 7, 2023. I'm horrified. Decent people everywhere are horrified.
On social media, I saw a photo of audience members watching video taken by the Muslim Arabs as they raped, tortured, and murdered, as they violated corpses, and carried the decapitated heads of Jews around as war trophies. The audience members looked horrified. You can see some photos of audiences watching the vile Hamas footage here.


After the Hamas attacks, anti-Semitism flared up worldwide. This is disgusting and terrifying. Anti-Semitism has a very bad record. This insane hatred causes calamity.


Watching American and European youth, who have every reason to know better, chanting genocidal, anti-Semitic slogans about making "Palestine" judenrein "from the river to the sea" is nauseating and infuriating.


The world is in a very precarious place. Unlike during the rise of Nazism, we now live in a nuclear world. Humanity's stupid hatreds could render the planet unlivable.


I've donated to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Please consider donating to this or some other worthy organization. I've published a few articles about October 7 and subsequent events. I have very little power but I wanted to use what little power I have to contribute to light at a dark time.


I support Israel. I oppose anti-Semitism. I oppose jihad. I don't like Jews more than other people. I don't dislike Arabs or Muslims. I support peace. I support the international order. I think torture and murder and rape and the desecration of corpses are really bad things. I don't want to see a wider war.


In my pieces, I've pointed out that the Muslim Arabs committing atrocities against Jews on October 7 could cite Koran verses, hadith, and examples from the biography of Muhammad to support their behavior. I've also cited atrocities and discrimination against Jews in the Muslim world going back centuries. These facts are not often mentioned by others. People fail to mention these facts because they are ignorant, or they are cowards. Massacres of Jews in Morocco, Baghdad, Libya, and Algeria. Read more here.


Until we address religiously-supported anti-Semitism in Islam, we won't make progress.


On November 9, Ridvan Aydemir, a YouTube content creator, read from Documents on German Foreign Policy. The particular document he read from was a Nazi document detailing Muslim Arab support for Hitler, Nazism, and the Holocaust. You can watch that video here. The documents are online here.


I've been reading / watching / listening to much media devoted to the conflict. I listened to a podcast called "Is Anti-Zionism the New Anti-Semitism?" It was produced by "Open to Debate," a program that used to be called "Intelligence Squared." It's broadcast via National Public Radio. The mission of the organization is to "address the extreme polarization of our nation and our politics" and "restore critical thinking, facts, reason, and civility to American public discourse."  Their website is here.


Host John Donvan said that "Open to Debate" actually rejected the idea of holding a new debate after October 7 because the staff couldn't handle it. Why couldn't the staff handle it? Presumably the staff of such a prestige program are intelligent and highly educated. They are in touch with thought leaders.


Donvan doesn't say why the staff couldn't handle a debate devoted to the October 7 atrocities and subsequent events, but just look at any newspaper's front page since October 7. American's universities and media are full of anti-Semites who viciously attack the right of Jews to exist. And they think they are the righteous ones.


Instead of exhibiting the courage of their own convictions, "Open to Debate" re-broadcast a show from 2020, "Is Anti-Zionism the New Anti-Semitism?" Arguing yes, it is, were Bret Stephens, a New York Times columnist, and Einat Wilf, a former member of the Israeli Parliament. Arguing against the motion were Peter Beinart, author of The Crisis of Zionism, and Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.


Munayyer depicted Arabs as a tiny group of people oppressed by hateful and powerful Jews. He argued that Jews in Israel should just stand down and hand power over to Arabs. Arabs would grant Jews all rights and everyone would live in peace. Clearly, Munayyer's insistence that Muslim Arabs are a tiny, helpless group was absurd. His insistence that Jews had nothing to fear from living in a Muslim, Arab dominated state was also absurd. Hamas has openly stated its religiously-supported goal of genocide. See here.


During the "Open to Debate" debate, none of the debaters took on Munayyer's folly. His fellow debaters treated him and his transparently absurd promises with kid gloves.


Rather, the real problem was Poland. Poland was mentioned four times in the debate, a debate that lasted less than one hour. Poland was depicted as a country that is unsafe for Jews. Poland expels Jews because it is so anti-Semitic.


In fact, the event to which Wilf referred was a Soviet, Communist anti-Semitic action. Poland is now a country of "no Jews." Her statement is false; there is a small but vibrant Jewish community in Poland. Peter Beinart invoked Poland as a terrible place for Jews; in contrast, the Muslim world, like Morocco or Iraq, is preferable.


So there you have it. Intelligent, educated people, speaking on a network funded by taxpayer dollars, were afraid to state the simple fact that the Koran, the hadith, and the biography of Muhammad contain verses that inspire and justify anti-Semitic atrocities like October 7. They were afraid to say that the Muslim world has a history of anti-Semitic violence, violence condoned by explicit religious teachings. They were afraid to say that Muslim Arabs have a history of collaboration with Nazism. No one had the courage to peak any of these pertinent truths. But they could condemn Poland.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Bieganski Lives: "Poland is Safe for Jews. How Ironic." "You support Israel; What's the Catch?"


Michael Rubenfeld is a Canadian-Polish-Jewish actor, writer, festival producer, and YouTube content creator. He recently published a video in which he says it is "ironic" that as a Jew he feels safe in Poland, safer than he would feel in Canada or the US. You can view that video at the link below. 

The assumption that Poland should be unsafe for Jews could be attributed to a couple of different factors. The Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. Poland had Europe's largest Jewish population. The Holocaust occurred largely in Poland, in notorious death camps like Auschwitz, Birkenau, Treblinka, etc. 

There's another factor that might indicate to Rubenfeld that Poland is supposed to be unsafe for Jews. that is the Bieganski Brute Polak stereotype

I've encountered what seems to me to be the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype in responses to recent articles I've published. 

I support Israel. My support for Israel is clear from my articles. 

In a recent article, posted here, I argued that 

* When Christians commit anti-Semitic crimes, they are acting against the example of their founder, their scripture, and their highest teachings over the course of centuries. And yet, mass media and academia, when addressing Christian anti-Semitism, pay more attention to religion than historical context re: Christian anti-Semitism. 

* When Muslims commit anti-Semitic crimes, they are acting in accord with the example of their founder, their scripture, and their most authoritative teachings over the course of centuries. And yet, mass media and academia, when addressing Muslim anti-Semitism, pay more attention to historical context than to religion re: Muslim anti-Semitism. 

I recommended a reversal of this approach. 

Most online comments were positive, but a couple reflected, it seemed to me, the domination of the Bieganski stereotype in the mindset of the person making the comment. 

One person said, "You didn't mention the Polish numerus clausus!" Another person said, "You didn't mention John Chrysostom!" 

The implication of these complaints is that I was hiding something or lying or just plain stupid. In short, that I am Bieganski. 

This is unfortunate. I want to be an ally. And two readers could see only an enemy. 

View Michael Rubenfeld's vlog here

Thursday, November 9, 2023

How We Understand Anti-Semitism


How We Understand Anti-Semitism, Christianity, and Islam
 Let's avoid popular misconceptions


The atrocities Hamas committed on October 7, 2023, and subsequent worldwide support for the genocidal "judenrein-from-the-river-to-the-sea" ideology revealed the prevalence of widespread anti-Semitism. Terrorism has a worldwide reach. The Israel-Hamas war affects international markets and geopolitics. Anyone on the planet, Jewish or not, might suffer from anti-Semitism. It is important, therefore, to understand anti-Semitism.


This essay rejects supernatural or genetic explanations for anti-Semitism. Jews are not a different species of human being. Humans are more alike than different. Children born black or white, Muslim or Jewish, offer the same potential.


Both anti-Semites and philo-Semites repeat the same formulaic phrases: "Jews are the most persecuted minority," and "Anti-Semitism is the world's oldest hatred." Anti-Semites like these phrases. There must be something wrong with Jews, they insist, since Jews are hated everywhere. My friend Alex, a philo-Semite, repeats these phrases as well. He sees them as proof of a unique and romantic quality to Jewishness. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt, the seventeenth-century Ukrainian leader Bogdan Chmielnicki, and Hamas are all identical because they all killed Jews. I disagree. The pharaohs, seventeenth-century Ukrainians, and Hamas are not magical reincarnations of each other. They had different motivations, methods, and goals. No supernatural thread connects them. To understand them, one must understand their particular historical context, not presumed supernatural curses.


Anti-Semitism isn't the world's oldest hatred, nor is it the hatred with the highest body count. Misogyny has a longer history and has claimed more victims. The caste system in India "has existed in some form for at least 3000 years." Recent estimates are that there are 200 million Dalits, aka untouchables. The suffering Dalits have endured is unspeakable.


Westerners, living in a world strongly affected by Christendom, associate anti-Semitism with Christianity. The standard approach is to blame Christianity, the religion, and to ignore historical context. If discussing anti-Semitism among Muslims, the standard position is to argue that historical context, rather than religion, caused the anti-Semitism. This essay argues for a reverse of these approaches.


These approaches distort reality. When Christianity is understood as inherently anti-Semitic, Christians, even those who support Israel, are assessed as inescapably anti-Semitic. Anthony Weiner is a former congressman who currently broadcasts via WABC. In October, 2023, he made a comment that shocked me. I requested clarification. Did he really say that "Christians support Israel because they want all the Jews to be in one spot so that God can kill them all more easily"? Weiner did not respond with a yes or a no, but with a link to a Washington Post article.


In the "Christianity is anti-Semitic" worldview, Christians who are not anti-Semitic are understood to be "modernized." In this view, the more Christian you are, the more anti-Semitic you are, and the more "modern" or "secular" you are, the less anti-Semitic you are. Data does not support this assumption. In Russell Middleton's peer-reviewed publication, "Do Christian Beliefs Cause anti-Semitism?" Middleton concluded that "Religious orthodoxy was uncorrelated with anti-Semitism" and that "the well-springs of anti-Semitism today" may be "largely secular." A 2019 Gallup poll suggested that those who attend church regularly are more likely to be sympathetic to Israel. "Highly religious Americans continue to be much more sympathetic toward Israel than those who are less religious." Worldwide anti-Semitic protests in autumn, 2023, are not populated by visibly Christian protestors. Rather, these protesters appear to be more Woke than Christian.


This distortion of Christians and Christianity matters. Some start from this false assumption and go on to apply a distorted lens to Islam. That distorted conclusion goes like this, "Christians were anti-Semitic when they were devout, but as they modernized they became less anti-Semitic." We can't assume that anything like this process will change the hearts and minds of Muslims. "Modern" Muslims might turn out to be just as anti-Semitic as "old-fashioned" Muslims.  


This essay will argue that to understand anti-Semitism among Christians, one must factor in historical context. To understand anti-Semitism among Muslims, more attention must be paid to religion.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Splinters from a Broken Heart: Israel, Hamas and Social Media


Splinters from a Broken Heart
Israel, Hamas, and social media

Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a sixteenth-century star in the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance. He's most often associated with paintings of peasants and other common people doing everyday things: hunting in the snow, ice-skating, dancing at a wedding, eating, sleeping, and playing children's games. In one painting, a peasant is doing what peasants have been doing for over ten thousand years. He is plowing. The earth rises up in furrows. The horse trudges forward. The plowman keeps his gaze directed at the ground beneath his feet. On a terrace beneath the plowman, a blank-faced shepherd, surrounded by sheep, leans on his staff and directs his gaze toward the sky. Further down, a fisherman casts out his line. In the distance, the wind puffs the sails of a galleon. Only after learning the name of the painting does the viewer search the scene beyond these prominent features. And there the viewer finds them: two pale, naked legs are plunging into the water. This is "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus." Icarus was a character in Greek mythology. His father manufactured wings so his son could fly. The wings gave way and Icarus fell to earth. Many other artists have depicted Icarus' fall. They usually place him in the center. Bruegel did not.

In 1938, almost four hundred years after "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus," poet W.H. Auden visited Belgium's Royal Museums of Fine Arts. He wrote a poem about the paintings he saw there. Auden observes that the Old Masters were never wrong in their artistic depictions of human suffering. In Nativity scenes, there are some children who don't much care about the birth of the Messiah; they are off ice-skating. In scenes of martyrdom, "the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse scratches its innocent behind on a tree."

And then there is that boy falling out of the sky.

"the ploughman may

have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,

but for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone

as it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green

water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen

something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,

had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on."

The human ability to ignore shocking data and to carry on with the business of every day life is an important survival skill. Perhaps nothing is as shocking to an individual as losing a loved one to death, and yet we get up the next morning, make breakfast, clock in at work, and march dully forward into a future void where our departed loved one will never again play any part. The problem is, of course, that evil people count on this human ability to stroll past atrocity. The internet seemed, at first, to promise that that most precious of commodities, human attention, would be focused on wrongdoing. Evil people, thus exposed, would hesitate to commit crimes, or would stop committing crimes once those crimes were filmed and witnessed by others.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Der Spiegel "Wir Haben Angst" Jews are Afraid

 From the New York Times: 

“Wir Haben Angst,” or “We Are Scared,” was the headline across this week’s cover of Der Spiegel, the leading German newsmagazine, over photographs of four German Jews, one of them a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, Ivar Buterfas-Frankenthal, who said, “We Jews are once again easy targets.”

Full article here