Being a Jew means being eternally vigilant. In Europe it is astonishing how many groups, tribes and nations took the opportunity during WWII to turn on their Jewish neighbors and kill them, usually for money (and we were called money grubbing). Here is a short list: Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians, Ukrainians, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Dutch, Belgians, French, Italians, Greeks, Norwegians, Swedes, Croats, Bosnians (Muslims), and so on. If you are a member of any one of these groups you owe a debt to humanity and to the Jewish people in particular.
The only peoples on record that did anything to protect their Jewish citizens were the Danes (who ferried them across to neutral Sweden), Bulgarians, and Albanians (who are Muslims). The Swedes were supposedly neutral, but cooperated with the Nazis, selling them iron ore and safe-guarding their stolen gold. Switzerland was neutral, but readily returned Jews who managed to desperately cross the border into their territory. The Italians protected some of their Jews and the Spanish also, even though Franco was allied with Germany and similarly with the Finns. Although many Russians were anti-Semitic, the Red Army included many Jewish soldiers and they were very helpful to the starving decimated Jews as they defeated the German Army (Wehrmacht).
And so far I have not mentioned the Arabs and the Muslims in general, who are anti-Semitic from Mohammed and the Koran, apart from European influence. It’s not a pretty picture, and as many reports attest, its getting worse again. The Turks attack the Kurds, but there are no liberal-leftist demonstrations in the West, the Burmese attack the Rohingya, but ditto. But, the Palestinians attack Israel and there are demonstrations against – Israel. Yes, the only safe place for Jews, notwithstanding all this animosity, is Israel.
Today is Yom Hashoah in Israel, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I went to Netanya on Tues to hear my friend Eddie Bielawski talk about how he and his family of 10 survived for 3 years in hiding in (1941-4) in Poland. The story is told in the book he wrote and I edited entitled “Invisible Jews: surviving the Holocaust in Poland.” One anecdote tells it all, he and his mother were travelling by train from Poland to Austria after the War. Polish police got on the train to check everyone’s papers. Seven people were identified as Jews. They were taken off the train and shot. Even as a child he knew not to draw attention to himself.
Six million Jews were murdered, most in very horrific ways. They were part of the overall ca. 50 million people murdered during WWII. Most of them were innocent civilians. But, the toll for the Jewish people was most terrible. Some anti-Semites argue that we make too much of the Holocaust. I argue that we do not make enough of it. They want to forget it, or even deny it. We must never forget or diminish the historic impact of the most terrible crime in history.