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Yom HaShoah, in history and current day Israel
November 7, 2011 2:39 PM   Subscribe

Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, is Israel's day of memorial for those killed during the Holocaust and those who were part of the resistance.

At 10:00 am on Yom HaShoah, sirens are sounded throughout Israel for two minutes. During this time, people cease from action and stand at attention; cars stop, even on the highways; and the whole country comes to a standstill as people pay silent tribute to the dead.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (68 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Powerful. Very powerful.

Contrary to what is written in the first link, the date does not correspond to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. It is close, (the most significant part of the revolt in the Ghetto began on April 19, 1943 and ended in the middle of May) but the Israeli Knesset did not want it to occur during Passover, so set a random date.

More:
But if anything has marked Yom HaShoah, it has been impermanence. Even the date itself (27 Nisan), is an anniversary of nothing. In the first six years after the war, there was no rabbinic or secular date of observance. Secular Israelis were drawn to the April anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt. Orthodox Jews mostly folded Shoah memorials into Tisha B'Av. The Knesset, in 1951, set the date, as politicians will, by compromise, close to Passover, when the Warsaw uprising began, but not on Passover, out of respect for tradition. Linking Yom HaShoah to any one event would only antagonize those whose memories lay elsewhere, and so the date is linked to nothing, more political than inspirational.

The first major ritual, in the 1960s, was a non-denominational one - a siren that eerily broke the mid-day routine. Storekeepers would freeze behind their counters, pedestrians would stop walking, drivers would turn off their cars and stand at attention in the middle of the street. Bnai Jeshurun's Rabbi Rolando Matalon recalled being in Israel, studying a text: "I was alone-and then the siren. I stood up. There were no words, but it's the deepest I ever felt" on Yom HaShoah.

That minimalism is what Rabbi Matalon brings to his synagogue on Yom HaShoah: No megillah. No haggadah. Just silence as people wait in line to read the names of loved ones, while congregants hold two Torahs that survived the Shoah.

posted by zarq at 2:54 PM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pathetically ignorant of this country. Is Israel small enough that you can actually get away with stopping all transportation for two minutes? Wikipedia says the population is seven million people, which is about half of upstate New York, so I'm trying to imagine what would happen if people just parked their cars across every highway in half of New York state for two minutes, and the EMS implications are just horrifying.
posted by d. z. wang at 2:58 PM on November 7, 2011


I had no idea this was done. What an amazing thing to see.

My Opa was an Ohrdruf/Buchenwald liberator (89th Infantry). We have always made a point of observing Yom Hashoah, even though we are not Jewish.

A few years ago, we became Guardians of the Memory, and light a candle specifically for Jakob Winiki, who perished at Auschwitz, on Yom Hashoah; on his birthday; and on the anniversary of his death.
posted by MissySedai at 2:59 PM on November 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


They stop as well on Yom Hazikaron(Remembrance Day).
posted by PenDevil at 3:00 PM on November 7, 2011


Thanks for posting this. I've seen other videos of this event, but never on a busy expressway. This is really powerful.
posted by falameufilho at 3:00 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you.
posted by puddinghead at 3:00 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is Israel small enough that you can actually get away with stopping all transportation for two minutes? Wikipedia says the population is seven million people, which is about half of upstate New York, so I'm trying to imagine what would happen if people just parked their cars across every highway in half of New York state for two minutes, and the EMS implications are just horrifying.

How so, d. z. wang? It's not like cars jolt to a stop wherever they are. Instead, for two whole minutes, every roadway and intersection in Israel is clear of traffic.

And, I don't even think size matters. Suppose the US agreed to stop all (road) travel for two minutes, 9am ET, every Sep 11. So what? Everyone would be 2 minutes late, if they were driving at that moment. Once a year. Big deal.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:13 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one that's creeped out by the conspicuous conformity and apparent danger of not only stopping in the middle of a freeway but exiting their vehicle right in the middle of it?

Observing the body language of some of the drivers many seem to be anxious to get back into their cars and continue onward. More than a few were trying to re-enter their cars before the two minutes were over, and many/most seemed to wait until the very last minute or after the sirens begin to pull over.

I'm extrapolating that they really don't want to stop - and that they're doing it so they don't stand out from the crowd.

Further - is it illegal or culturally forbidden to not stop and observe?

And 2 minutes of air raid sirens isn't very silent. I'd personally find it more compelling if people actually observed the two minutes of silence without the sounds of warfare as a cue.

No disrespect meant against the very real trauma that was the holocaust, but I think these are valid questions or social criticisms. Regardless of meaning - that video looks like a scene out of a dystopian science fiction story.
posted by loquacious at 3:14 PM on November 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


Howard Zinn on the politicisation of the holocaust.

"If the Holocaust is to have any meaning, we must transfer our anger to today's brutalities. We must respect the memory of the Jewish Holocaust by refusing to allow atrocities to take place now."

From
posted by lalochezia at 3:14 PM on November 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


Oops - watched the video. They SHOULD pull over, leaving the center clear. They don't. That's foolish. (Sorry, d. z. wang)
posted by IAmBroom at 3:16 PM on November 7, 2011


Instead, for two whole minutes, every roadway and intersection in Israel is clear of traffic.

This is untrue based on just the linked video. That freeway appears to be mainly impassable to an emergency vehicle, at least at any reasonable speed. People stopped right in the middle of the freeway (some quite suddenly) wherever lane they were in.

If you did that here in the US it would be a catastrophe. There would be real, quantifiable deaths from people not making it to hospitals. Probably as well as from collisions.
posted by loquacious at 3:18 PM on November 7, 2011


"If the Holocaust is to have any meaning, we must transfer our anger to today's brutalities. We must respect the memory of the Jewish Holocaust by refusing to allow atrocities to take place now."

In other words: Israel should think twice about honoring ghetto uprisings. Some people might get the wrong idea.
posted by Trurl at 3:25 PM on November 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


loquacious: " This is untrue based on just the linked video. That freeway appears to be mainly impassable to an emergency vehicle, at least at any reasonable speed. People stopped right in the middle of the freeway (some quite suddenly) wherever lane they were in."

Loq, they're not frozen in place or unable to move. It's a Western country. If an ambulance set off its siren, everyone would jump in their cars and move the hell out of the way. Because that's what you do.

Israel is mostly secular, but from a Jewish religious perspective, saving a life takes precedent over every other obligation: observing the Sabbath, saying prayers and honoring the dead. This is why organ donation is now allowed across all three major Jewish sects.
posted by zarq at 3:30 PM on November 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


The video was sent to be by gman, just so ya'll know.

Here's what I after viewing it and why I wanted to share it: "Whoa, that's wild and quietly intense. It's funny, the siren almost seems to be background noise, just on the sheer wow/emotional power of the scene."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:32 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Further - is it illegal or culturally forbidden to not stop and observe?

I suspect it's culturally forbidden just as disrespect for the dead is forbidden in every culture. Nothing's stopping you from tap dancing on the sidewalk in front of a cemetery, but you don't. (You can get away with it if you're Irish, but then you can get away with a lot of things if you're Irish)
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:32 PM on November 7, 2011


loquacious: " Further - is it illegal or culturally forbidden to not stop and observe?"

No.

I mean, there may be some cultural pressure involved. But non-religious Israelis aren't exactly known for their conformism, even if they've served in the IDF.
posted by zarq at 3:40 PM on November 7, 2011


Even from an insider's perspective, it's an amazing cultural phenomenon. In grade school we all wear white shirts to school so the uniformity is even greater. All the kids stifle a laugh, out of embarassment. There's always the one who can't quite hold it in. And in Scouts, which are very big in Israel, feeling connected to the Jewish youth movements in the ghetto is emotionally powerful. Later on in the army it's even more intoxicating to stand those two minutes in uniform. Try to put all politics aside for a minute: it's a group of predominantly 18-21 year-olds standing in memory of their Jewish ancestors, wearing the uniform of the Jewish armed forces of the Jewish state. It's like, "We got here. Never again will this happen because the Jewish people have an army, and I am part of it."
I don't want to start a flamewar so I'd love it if we don't get into politics. I'm going more for the emotional angle of the memorial, every stage of our lives.
posted by alona at 3:46 PM on November 7, 2011 [17 favorites]


Uh. Yes. I also long to "co-opt" Yom HaShoah. Because I love being needlessly incendiary on days of mourning.
posted by weinbot at 4:13 PM on November 7, 2011


If I were an Israeli I suspect I might wonder why this particular 2 minute period had to be 'co-opted' instead of a couple of the other 525,598 available during the year.
posted by ftm at 4:14 PM on November 7, 2011


No different than the completely arbitrary dates/times of holidays in countries everywhere. See: Memorial Day in the US.
posted by weinbot at 4:24 PM on November 7, 2011


I didn't get that they were anxious to move on, at all. In fact, at first I was ready to be angry with the motorcyclist who was last-minute in pulling over. I assumed he was just going to travel down the road, and was ashamed of myself when actually he was just driving a short distance to get over to the edge where he was safe.

Brandon/gman, thanks for sharing this (and thanks to zarq for giving more context). I'd never heard of this. I find it to be a beautiful thing they are doing.
posted by Houstonian at 4:27 PM on November 7, 2011


[Few comments removed. Folks, please. We have this "MetaFilter doesn't do this well" issue because flat out people are not doing this well. Try harder. Go to MetaTalk if you can't. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:27 PM on November 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Even from an insider's perspective, it's an amazing cultural phenomenon.

Obviously, even as an outsider, it's amazing. When I first standing watching the video, I was like "Uh, ok bunch of cars pulled to the side for a siren, so what?" Then slowly every car stopped on the freeway and people got out and stood still and quiet on the freeway. On the freeway. That's an amazingly strong shared moment and to imagine it played out across not a city, but a country is powerful testament of solidarity.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:32 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it was going pretty fine

That's not what I was talking about. I'd like a post about the Holocaust to not turn into a referndum on modern day Israel/Palestinian relationships and people who have to go there should go to MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn at 4:33 PM on November 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


I find myself expecting the people to all be abducted by aliens or hit by a death ray or something.

The Zinn quotation seems really relevant here because that's the question that any memorialisation of the Holocaust has to grapple with. The Holocaust is a singular event in so many dimensions, but treating it too much as a singular event suggests that a similar event is not something we need to guard against. Because I am a cynic, I cannot help but wonder if this observance will continue to have meaning or if it will became a ritual done because no one dares suggest it's lost meaning.

I cannot help but think about how when visiting Munich, I declined to go to Dachau. The friend I was travelling with and I had pretty much agreed in advance we wouldn't go, as we figured it was only feasible if one of us was not going to be a wreck during/after and we knew that wasn't likely. But it felt like reneging on an obligation to the point that I was contemplating trying to convince him we should go. Then, when we got to Munich, there were leaflets seemingly aimed at American tourists for free trips to Dachau and the whole thing seemed a bit of an almost voyeuristic exercise, so I shelved the idea.
posted by hoyland at 4:48 PM on November 7, 2011


The Holocaust is a singular event in so many dimensions, but treating it too much as a singular event suggests that a similar event is not something we need to guard against.

My Hebrew school lessons about the Nazi era depicted the cruelties of the Warsaw ghetto as a crime-against-humanity in itself - with the death camps more their logical conclusion than a completely different kind of atrocity.
posted by Trurl at 5:01 PM on November 7, 2011


It was interesting to see some people anticipate the moment and pull aside ahead of time, and most stop before the siren is full-on wailing, but there are a few who keep driving.

Also, it was slightly amusing to hear horns sounding after most scramble to get moving again. I wonder if the first person to honk realized they were the first to break the silence following the siren?
posted by filthy light thief at 5:14 PM on November 7, 2011


If an ambulance set off its siren, everyone would jump in their cars and move the hell out of the way. Because that's what you do.

You obviously haven't spent much time in Israel! The speed at which cars move out of the way for ambulances is directly proportional to how bad the traffic is, people always want to get that one last car length ahead of someone else before pulling (slightly) to the side! The other amazing thing I've seen there and nowhere else is that when traffic is really bad (as it often is in the center), the 'new lane' that the ambulance opens up down the middle of a crowded road become a train of cars following the new path that has opened up. It's madness!
posted by cell divide at 5:36 PM on November 7, 2011


It's madness!

Sounds like 95 South through Providence 'round about 4:30 on a weekday afternoon. (Tho we did all get out of our cars and marked a moment of silence the last time Cianci got busted.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:41 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Zinn quotation seems really relevant here because that's the question that any memorialisation of the Holocaust has to grapple with.

I think it's a cheap and callous appropriation of other people's grief. This isn't some historical event hoisted out of history books: it's the day that the dead of the Holocaust are commemorated. If you're Jewish, particularly if you're an Israeli, you are surrounded by Holocaust survivors, and their children, and their relatives. You see people with Auschwitz tattoos. You find yourself helpless sometimes when grownups are crying, with thick heavy sobs, because something tapped their memories. You learn to avoid some topics. You don't learn about your grandparents, because it's just too painful. Those cars on the road - every single driver knows people who survived the Holocaust, and who lost family members.

So when Howard Zinn says "To remember what happened to the six million Jew ... served no important purpose unless it aroused indignation, anger, action against all atrocities, anywhere in the world," fsck him. It's a day to remember my father's cousin Georgie, and his wife Ilana, and their baby son Alex, and the new baby they were expecting. What other day do they have? It's not like we know when they died. It's not like they have a grave. Not everything has to be useful.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:34 PM on November 7, 2011 [33 favorites]


Yeah, Joe's hit the nail on the head... there are many sides to the story, and unless you're into the whole ethnic-cleansing thing, regardless of the outcome of the I/P conflict, Israel will always be profoundly Jewish, and remember intensely the Shoah.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:48 PM on November 7, 2011


Thank you Joe in Australia for saying what I was thinking. Just last night I asked my grandmother if my grandfather was a physically strong man. She told me that in the concentration camp he was in (in Poland, don't know which one) he did the work of lugging sand for concrete up and down hills for both himself and his brother who was too weak to work -- bringing the number of things I know about my grandfather's experiences to two because he never ever talked about it.

Amazing video.
posted by prettypretty at 6:49 PM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's a cheap and callous appropriation of other people's grief.

So when Howard Zinn says "To remember what happened to the six million Jew ... served no important purpose unless it aroused indignation, anger, action against all atrocities, anywhere in the world," fsck him.


Yeah thank you Joe in Australia, my sentiments exactly, I'll bet he'd never say something like that about, say, the International Day Against Violence Against Women (*), or to an Armenian who is commemorating the Armenian holocaust, but you know to keep up his academic bona fides amongst the limousine liberal chattering class set, he turns in a facile, lazy argument. Please pass the free-trade Chardonnay.

When I was in high school in Queens in the 70s, I was into spy and espionage novels, Le Carre, Follet, that kind of stuff. There was this one news stand/card store/ next to my high school in Queens that had cheap spy books. Owned by an older couple both of whom spoke with a mitteleuropa accent. I wanted to buy one book, can't remember some WW2 story of derring-do, maybe even Eye of the Needle, but I do remember it had a Swastika on the cover. The woman behind the counter literally couldn't complete the transaction and looked the greyest I had ever seen a person, like she had seen a horrible apparition. Her husband came over and took the sale, and then I saw it - the concentration camp tattoo on her arm. I'll never forget that day or that woman. So yeah, FU Zinn.

*would it were so that we'd all stop our cars for that!
posted by xetere at 7:00 PM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


[Seriously, MetaTalk is your option and we are very serious.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:20 PM on November 7, 2011


Steering clear of politics, that siren has some extremely odd resonances to it. I'd be interested if anyone did an analysis of the higher / lower registers - there's an element to it that really gets under your skin.

Compare to an old WWII version

As for history, a little back story that might denote a tale of progress:

... The "all-clear" signal is used three times yearly to denote a moment of silence (of one or two minutes), once on Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day and twice on Day of Remembrance, and, in many religious neighborhoods, to announce the arrival of candle-lighting times for Shabbat or religious holidays. Most of the sirens in urban areas are German-made HLS (supercharged) sirens, model F71 and ECN3000. The air-raid sirens are called אזעקה ("Az'aka", literally "alarm"), and consist of a continuous ascending and descending tone. The "all-clear" signal (called צפירת הרגעה, "Tzfirat Arga'ah") is a continuous single-pitch sound.

posted by Cheradine Zakalwe at 7:20 PM on November 7, 2011


So when Howard Zinn says "To remember what happened to the six million Jew ... served no important purpose unless it aroused indignation, anger, action against all atrocities, anywhere in the world," fsck him.
My sense, fwiw, is that this was super personal to Zinn, both because he was a Jew whose parents were born in Eastern Europe and because he bombed German cities during World War II and thought he had personally participated in atrocities. There aren't very many people from his background who didn't lose uncles, aunts, cousins and whatnot in the Holocaust. Whatever you think of his sentiments, I don't think he was coming from a remote, detached place on this one.

But yeah, it would be awesome if we could ever discuss the Holocaust without going down that road.
posted by craichead at 7:58 PM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one that's creeped out by the conspicuous conformity and apparent danger of not only stopping in the middle of a freeway but exiting their vehicle right in the middle of it?

Observing the body language of some of the drivers many seem to be anxious to get back into their cars and continue onward...I'm extrapolating that they really don't want to stop - and that they're doing it so they don't stand out from the crowd.

Further - is it illegal or culturally forbidden to not stop and observe?...No disrespect meant against the very real trauma that was the holocaust, but I think these are valid questions or social criticisms. Regardless of meaning - that video looks like a scene out of a dystopian science fiction story.

posted by loquacious at 6:14 PM on November 7


Loq, I'm from a small town in rural Kentucky. In our county, as in many rural counties in Kentucky (and, I suppose, across the American South), when a funeral procession goes by, you pull your car over, out of the way of the procession. You get out of the car and you bow your head. If you're a man wearing a hat, you take it off to show respect.

When my mother died five years ago, people did that as our funeral procession went past. They did it for my uncle when he died a year later. And for my cousin, when she died.

You know why they did it? Why they do it still? Because somebody fucking died, that's why. And even though they might not know the person or the families, there are some things you do because you're a goddamn decent human being. You do it because it comforts the family in their darkest hour. You do it because death comes for us all, and it's a show of solidarity with your fellow mortals. You do it because it's the right thing to do.

That's what this video put me in mind of. And whatever it may call to one's mind, it astonishes me that anyone can look at that and think "dystopian science fiction story". My Lord, what have we become, when a brief, simple courtesy showing respect for the dead and their surviving families is instead viewed as an act that crushes free will and enforces conformity?
posted by magstheaxe at 7:59 PM on November 7, 2011 [20 favorites]


Thank you, Joe. Well said.
posted by zarq at 8:01 PM on November 7, 2011


Wow, I'd read about this many times but never seen it. It's very moving. Sure, it would be danger if one day we announced that starting the next, everyone would have to stop. The Israelis have been doing this for years, at much lower speeds, I'm sure. They've had decades of practice.

On Sept.11, 2001, a friend was in a cab in Rome when all of a sudden the cars began stopping and the drivers started jumping out to kneel on the pavement to pray because they were hearing radio reports about the attacks. Now THAT imagery of a spontaneous event in the midst of mad traffic scares me, yet the friend never mentioned any accidents.
posted by etaoin at 8:18 PM on November 7, 2011


magstheaxe: " Loq, I'm from a small town in rural Kentucky. In our county, as in many rural counties in Kentucky (and, I suppose, across the American South), when a funeral procession goes by, you pull your car over, out of the way of the procession. You get out of the car and you bow your head. If you're a man wearing a hat, you take it off to show respect."

I was in my grandfather's funeral procession, which drove through a small town in the Texas Panhandle. The synagogue was way, way on the other side of town from the cemetery, so we went a bit of a distance.

I've been to a lot of funerals over the years but until then none in a rural town. I've never, ever seen anything like what happened that day. People pulled their cars over on the roads and on the highway to let the procession go by unimpeded. People who were walking outside stopped to watched us go by. We drove past a couple of construction sites, and the workers we drove past stopped, took off their hats/helmets and bowed their heads. When our police escort stopped outside the cemetery, the troopers got out of their cars and literally saluted our procession as it went by.

My grandfather was an unassuming gentle man who returned from several tours in WWII and then quietly worked his entire life to support his family. There are tears in my eyes now just remembering the respect they showed him. They didn't know him, but he had passed away and was part of the community. So they honored him by noting his passing. By showing his family they cared, for a brief moment. And it was deeply appreciated.
posted by zarq at 8:20 PM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Seems like I did miss a deletion up there, suppose that's what I get for not digging deeply enough. Regardless, meeting stupidity with aggressive commands rarely works out.

On topic: awesome moment and video, though I suppose my take on things is basically "suitable for non-major highways"... I grew up in a small town where all of the above stories of respect are true, but doing this on what seems to be equivalent to a interstate here in the US is pretty terrifying and surreal. Obviously they can make it work so my hat's off.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:03 PM on November 7, 2011


[more comments removed; if you feel like you need to end your remarks with "STFU," you're doing it wrong.]
posted by taz at 10:40 PM on November 7, 2011


Paying respect to the dead in a dignified way is something we should all strive for.
posted by arcticseal at 10:51 PM on November 7, 2011


Apologies for weirdness and ignorance and not saying what I mean to say well. I never meant to say that it wasn't appropriate or polite to have a moment of silence, or that someone should use it as a counter protest or anything that some have suggested in this thread.

The swearing at me isn't really necessary. I understand what being a decent human being is. I come at the idea of reverence from the dead from the philosophical space that no ritual is ever really enough - not that people shouldn't have rituals. I'm asking questions and wondering how something on that size and scale is organized and why and what the motivations are, and I learned about why.

I've really just never seen or heard anything like this. As an outsider it looks pretty intense and weird to me. At no time did I mean disrespect to the dead, I was just curious and phrased my questions and statements badly.
posted by loquacious at 12:50 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll bet he'd never say something like that about, say, the International Day Against Violence Against Women

Well, that's exactly it: this commemoration isn't like that. It's not International Day Against Racist State Violence. It presents the commemorated atrocity as being somehow metaphysically unique, something that cannot be an inspiration for present political action except by valorising those who most closely associate themselves with it. There are similar issues around the commemoration of the Great War.
posted by wwwwwhatt at 1:10 AM on November 8, 2011


And whatever it may call to one's mind, it astonishes me that anyone can look at that and think "dystopian science fiction story".

Since apparently I'm the one who's defective in some way: that's the sole reference point I have for that image of people stopped on a highway. The odd juxtaposition of alien invasion with memorial exercise is the way I remark that this practice is unlike anything I've ever seen. (Here, you pull over for emergency services and, hopefully, to keep funeral processions together. To be honest, I've always understood the latter as a courtesy, given that a funeral procession is likely full of people who don't know where they're going, rather than a mark of respect for the dead. No one ever gets out of their car in the road.)
posted by hoyland at 4:35 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's a cheap and callous appropriation of other people's grief.

Isn't it also his grief? He was Jewish after all. What you call cheap and callous appropriation I would call perspective or introspection.

Who remembers the other 6 million people who died at Hitler's hands? The thing that bugs me every time the holocaust discussed is the laser focus on only the Jewish victims. Why is it almost always without fail referred to as the Jewish holocaust? It seems to me that it represents a holocaust of humanity's other. It was a human holocaust. It's like one of the Sioux tribes claiming the genocide of the Native Americans was a Sioux holocaust.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:27 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's like one of the Sioux tribes claiming the genocide of the Native Americans was a Sioux holocaust.

So the Japanese Internment should be the Italian Internment instead? Civil Rights was about letting the white people into black-only sections?

This is a hairsbreadth from holocaust denial, and at best shows a breathtaking lack of perspective. This is one of the reasons why we don't do I/P well... it teeters into antisemitism on one side, and totters into hyperbole about antisemitism on the other side, never finding an even keel.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:12 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


AElfwine Evenstar: "The thing that bugs me every time the holocaust discussed is the laser focus on only the Jewish victims. Why is it almost always without fail referred to as the Jewish holocaust?."

It's a matter of perspective.

First, even though Hitler killed a shitload of Roma and homosexuals, the extermination machine was put in place to kill Jews. Other people from other groups ended up in there, of course, but the Auschwitz and its counterparts were first and foremost Jew-killing machines (see Wannsee Conference)

Second, you also have to look at the number of victims relative the population: Around 30% of the world's Jewry perished in the Holocaust (I'm think there were around 15 million Jews before the war, I think that's the figure I saw in Yad Vashem, but I'm terrible with numbers - please correct me if I'm wrong). That impact is unparalleled within the groups Hitler targeted.

Third, the Holocaust played a direct role in the foundation of the state of Israel. It's very much the sacrifice of these six million Jewish victims that strengthened the Zionist resolve ("never again") and motivated the creation of the state in 1948.

"It's like one of the Sioux tribes claiming the genocide of the Native Americans was a Sioux holocaust."

In conclusion - no, it's not like that at all.
posted by falameufilho at 7:14 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


AElfwine Evenstar: I'm sorry it bugs you. No, really, I am. I think there are a lot of criticisms that can be argued regarding the way the Shoah is studied [mine are mostly related to an in-group Jewish perspective and the over emphasis on the Shoah teaches kids that Judaism is about dying and suffering instead of, well, all the awesome things its been about for thousands of years], but I think that your specific criticism is weird.
I don't think it's surprising or sinister that Jews would focus on the Jews who died during WWII. But, I don't think that's an accurate description of what happens, mostly. I've been exposed to more Shoah education than I'd care to force upon, well, anyone-and almost all of it written, led, directed by Jews and Jewish organizations. And in almost if not all of those experiences, I was taught about all of the other groups that were killed and displaced by the Nazis. Further, based upon my learning and exposure to other genocides, I think that but for the Jewish focus on those events during WWII, we'd be unlikely to ever have any conversations about those other groups. I don't know anyone who refers to it as "Jewish Holocaust", although I will grant you completely that for most people, "Holocaust" now refers exclusively to those events during WWII.

The pre-WWII worldwide population of Jewry was about 17mil. By the end of WWII, over 1/3 of them were gone. From simply a community-minded perspective, the loss of 6 million people was devastating to the group, which had to recreate itself around the world. It is not surprising that Jews choose to remember and discuss such a calamitous event for a culture.
posted by atomicstone at 7:17 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm going to have to push back against the notion that the Shoah played a direct role in the foundation of the State of Israel. Except in as much that WWII destroyed Britain's will to continue as the colonial world-wide power, the Shoah and the creation of the State of Israel were two separate tracks.
The Balfour Declaration, the Sykes-Pico Treaty and the Peel Commission are all pre-WWII. The urgency leading up to the establishment of the State of Israel was the concern about a war between Arabs and Jews being fought there, not the Holocaust or even the resulting Jewish refugee "problem". If you want to argue that the UN recognized the state of Israel because of the Holocaust, I think you'd have to see a willingness for immigration of displaced people in large numbers to Israel. And that wasn't the International position.
Israel was created when it was created because Britain was done being a colonial power and the USSR and the US wanted to fight a little proxy-diplomacy game in the middle east.
I will agree that plenty of people [Jews and otherwise] have decided retroactively that it was the direct result of the Shoah, but I don't think history really backs that assertion up.
posted by atomicstone at 7:29 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


AElfwine Evenstar: " Who remembers the other 6 million people who died at Hitler's hands?

Jews.

Holocaust Museums, which are usually founded, funded and maintained by Jews and Jewish organizations talk about and focus on the non-Jewish groups that were murdered. The Museums also discuss the 60-80 million casualties during WWII, more than 60% of whom were civilians.

And I can't speak for all the other sects, but I know that Conservative prayer services for Yom Hashoah, and the four times a year we say prayers for the dead, yiskor, include prayers for everyone who was killed at the hands of the Nazis. Not just Jews. Similarly, there is an Israeli holiday, Yom Hazikaron, which was founded to commemorate Israelis who have been killed by terrorism, but has since been expended to commemorate anyone, anywhere, who has been a victim of terrorism. In some synagogues (I don't know how prevalent it is in them, I can only speak from experience from the couple I've attended,) the prayers specifically mention everyone, not just Jews.

The thing that bugs me every time the holocaust discussed is the laser focus on only the Jewish victims. Why is it almost always without fail referred to as the Jewish holocaust?

Jews refer to it as the Holocaust or Shoah, and do focus on our dead although not exclusively. Other groups probably do the same because we were the largest group of targeted concentration camp victims by the Nazis. And although the Russians lost more people in battle, they at least had a fighting chance for survival.

I think groups like the ADL have done a very thorough job of... if you'll excuse the term... branding the Holocaust as a Jewish genocide. Which it was. But I think you're right: the flip side of that is that media coverage focuses on Jews and the Jewish experience. And of course, movies like Schindler's List tell a specific, powerful story, from a specific perspective.

If it is important to you that the other side be heard, why not tell their story? Shine a spotlight on it. I know I'd be interested in reading MeFi posts about them, for example.

It seems to me that it represents a holocaust of humanity's other.

Ugh. I know what you mean, and I objectively agree with you but it's a hell of a lot easier to think abstractly about the Holocaust when you are removed from what happened. When you didn't lose people in the camps. Who weren't thrown into the ovens. When your grandparents and great grandparents didn't sit you on their knees as a child, pull out photo albums and crying, point out all the relatives they grew up with who aren't around anymore because they were murdered en masse. When you didn't grow up in a culture who taught you from a young age that atrocities aren't all that far away. That they didn't happen in the distant past, but during your parents' and grandparents' lifetimes. Who tell you what happened.

The people who lost relatives in the Holocaust may be able to intellectually conceptualize that those deaths are representative of "Humanity's Other." But I do think it's important to also keep in mind that some people lost entire branches of their families. Or were eliminated completely.

As atomicstone says, this was a traumatic event for the Jewish people. It shapes much of our literature, our culture and our prayers. It shapes the way we perceive the world. And it has sparked innumerable debates about the nature and 'values' of victimhood. Not to mention the effect it has had on Israeli foreign and domestic policies.

It was a human holocaust. It's like one of the Sioux tribes claiming the genocide of the Native Americans was a Sioux holocaust."

I'm not convinced of this. But perhaps on some level it is.
posted by zarq at 7:29 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


atomicstone: "I'm going to have to push back against the notion that the Shoah played a direct role in the foundation of the State of Israel. "

I won't derail the thread further arguing your points, also because they're mostly correct, but my impression is that if it wasn't for the Holocaust, the idea of a Jewish state in the middle east would have had a much lower priority in the grand scheme of things. So the Balfour Declaration and British colonial exhaustion were all well and good, but the Holocaust helped put the issue at the top of the list.

Of course this is one of those things that can't really be proven or disproven in hindsight, so I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that one.
posted by falameufilho at 7:38 AM on November 8, 2011


Who remembers the other 6 million people who died at Hitler's hands? The thing that bugs me every time the holocaust discussed is the laser focus on only the Jewish victims.

Well, speaking as somebody who was raised in an environment where there was a lot of education about the Holocaust:

Every Jew I have ever met.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:52 AM on November 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is a hairsbreadth from holocaust denial

I'd like you to elaborate on how you reached this conclusion, given that I neither implied nor stated anything of the sort. So if by hairsbreadth you mean not even fucking close then I agree.

Jews.

Thanks for the response zarq. It was a rhetorical question, but let me respond anyway. The Jewish people are not a monolithic entity. So I am sure that some Jewish people do remember the others killed. But there has also been a history of divisiveness about how the museums and memorials you mentioned should portray the genocide of the others. My point isn't to say OMG evil Jews or make any definitive statements. My point was merely to state my feelings on the subject. People are bound to disagree with me, but I have to thank you for responding rationally and evenhandedly given the emotionally charged issue. Here is an interesting paper on the issue of subject.

Jewish Responses to the Porrajmos

(note: not sure what the date is on this article so things may have changed since it was written)

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has not yet done enough to educate the world about the Romani experience; there, the "Gypsy" artifacts on display consist of a violin, a waggon and a woman's dress -- more Hollywood than Holocaust -- and very, very few of the Romani victims and inmates depicted in the photo exhibits (especially those involving Mengele's experiments with twins) are identified as such. Most galling of all was the absence of the key words "Gypsiy," "Rom," "Sinti," "Romani," "Zigeuner," etc. in the Computerized question-and-answer bank provided for the public to consult which led, In June, 1993, to the picketing of the museum by a group represented by Ms. Mary Thomas of Adoptive Parents and Friends of Romani Children demanding that more details of the fate of Roma and Sinti be included in the Museum. They argued that, when their newly acquired chilldren grow older and begin to ask about their background and the history of their people, and about the Holocaust in particular, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Musuem would not be the place to go for their answers, that the Gypsy story had been downplayed to the extent of re-presenting historical fact, of revision by omission. That protest led to the circulation of a petition asking, among other things, that more Romani scholars (rather than non-Gypsy "experts") be involved, that more documentation on the Romani Holocaust be displayed and made available to visitors to the Museum and has resulted in the inclusion of some Gypsy entries in the computerized data bank.

I have been both praised and criticized fro bringing attention to these issues. The director of one Holocaust center referred to me as a trouble-maker; another writer on the Holocaust called my discussion of the Romani case in the Jewish context "loathsome." People have got up and walked out when it has been my turn to speak about the Porrajmos, and one former professor at my own university adamantly refuted even to mention Roma and Sinti in his regular course on the Holocaust. Others have intimated that I should not be pursuing this because I am not a historian, and am therefore not qualified to engage in this kind of research. If you think these things don't hurt me, they do, deeply. There are people here today whom I am sure are angered by what I am saying, and who are ready to challenge me. Why should this be? I have tried to remain objective in my writings, and let the facts argue my case.....

....It has to be said that there is also an element of racism evident in the Jewish response. I have been told -- off the record -- that some Council members do not want to be judged by the company they fear they might how to keep. In every single public opinion poll, including that conducted In this country (end reported in the January 8th, 1992, Issue of The News York Times), Gypsies are seen as the most discriminated-against minority, the most despised ethnic population, and some of the stereotypes have rubbed off on some Council members. At one presentation I gave at a Hillel Center, I was interrupted by a women who leapt to her feet and demanded angrily why I was even comparing the Gypsy case to the Jewish, when Jews had given so much to the world and Gypsies were merely parasites and thieves.

posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:54 AM on November 8, 2011


It's like one of the Sioux tribes claiming the genocide of the Native Americans was a Sioux holocaust.
I think it's a little more like the Sioux having a ritual to commemorate the destruction done to their people during the genocide of Native Americans and then other people coming up with stupid objections because they had hangups about the Sioux.
posted by craichead at 8:06 AM on November 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


You do understand, AElfwine Evenstar, that the Holocaust specifically refers to the extermination of the Jews? Yes, there needs to be recognition of others who died at the hands of Hitler's machine of extermination. But museums and historical discussions must be allowed to represent the thing that they are about. Not every discussion of the extermination of the Jews must also include a discussion of the others who were killed -- and I would argue it is disrespectful to demand such a thing, sort of like showing up at a funeral to complaint that others have died and why aren't they being memorialized?

The murder of the Romani, and homosexuals, and political dissidents, and others -- they all deserve their memorialization, and their museums. But when the Holocaust itself is being discussed -- that is, the systematic destruction of European Jewry -- it's specific event, and can claim its own space.

I mean, American settlers didn't just kill Native Americans. They also killed Mexicans. But I would not insist that a museum about the genocide of America's native population must also detail America's murders of Mexicans. There is this puzzling sense that Jews must always make way in their memorials and in their examination of history for other atrocities. It can be useful to do so, and certainly the other people who have died deserve their memorial. But the Holocaust is a unique event in the history of Jewry, and the extermination of the Jews of Europe is a specific event in history. It is something that Jews should be able to memorialize and remember without constantly being told that others died.

Trust me, we know other people died.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:08 AM on November 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think most countries and people would benefit from these kind or moments to pause and remember the past. History give perspective, warning, and guidance that we too often ignore.
posted by Argyle at 8:20 AM on November 8, 2011


I think it's a little more like the Sioux having a ritual to commemorate the destruction done to their people during the genocide of Native Americans and then other people coming up with stupid objections because they had hangups about the Sioux.

No not really. But thanks for implying I have "hangups" about the Jews.

In fact having been raised about 10 miles from a Lakota Sioux reservation and having attended their yearly pow wow many times I can attest from experience that every year when they have their commemoration/dance for the dead they don't frame it as a destruction of "their" people but rather as a crime against all humans. In fact the Furthermore they also frame it as a crime against nature and the planet. Pretty universalist those Sioux. Anyway I see this is probably becoming a bit of a derail so I'll let what I've said stand on its own.

Also the video itself was very powerful, regardless of this discussion.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:38 AM on November 8, 2011


Out of curiosity, have you ever been to a Jewish commemoration of the Holocaust? I have, and there is an awful lot of discussion of the Holocaust in broader perspective, and others who died.

You seem to be characterizing Jewish response to the Holocaust in a way that is dramatically different than my experience of it. I assure you, if that has been your experience of the way Jews commemorate their destruction, it is not universal, or even representative.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:43 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


AElfwine Evenstar: " Thanks for the response zarq. It was a rhetorical question, but let me respond anyway. The Jewish people are not a monolithic entity. So I am sure that some Jewish people do remember the others killed. But there has also been a history of divisiveness about how the museums and memorials you mentioned should portray the genocide of the others. My point isn't to say OMG evil Jews or make any definitive statements. My point was merely to state my feelings on the subject. People are bound to disagree with me, but I have to thank you for responding rationally and evenhandedly given the emotionally charged issue. Here is an interesting paper on the issue of subject."

I think there's bound to be an element of defensiveness that will arise whenever you say, "but what about the non-Jews" because of the prevalence of outspoken Holocaust deniers. There has been an ongoing attempt by antisemites to marginalize, dismiss or deny what happened.

I do not think you were being antisemitic or trying to deny the Holocaust. But keep in mind that Jews, myself included(!) may bristle at being told we're being exclusionary when the topic of the FPP is footage of Israelis responding to a memorial siren in Israel, the Jewish homeland.

OK, so about the article: I am pretty sure but not positive that the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council was founded around 1980? Which would place the date of the article you linked to at around 1994, since it mentions that 14 years have passed since the founding of the council. I do know there was controversy at the beginning regarding the Roma/Sinti being under-represented. I did not know the details. My vague sense was that efforts had been made to correct it.

I can tell you that the main US Holocaust Museum now includes some information on them, as does their website, including images of victims' id cards, photos and a handful of profiles. Is more available to the public than was before? I don't know. Is it enough? I don't know that either. But I do know from observation that their story is not being ignored. I've been to several Holocaust Museums around the country and know that the other groups who were targeted by the Nazis aren't ignored at them either.

The USHM concentrates on five groups on non-Jews who were targeted:
Sinti and Roma
Poles
Jehovah's Witnesses
Homosexuals
Handicapped

These are pages for resources and brochures for teachers. There are other resources on their website if you search.

Even if we take the largest estimates for non-Jewish deaths the numbers of people killed in all of these groups put together do not equal the number of Jewish casualties. Which is probably one of the reasons why they aren't emphasized as strongly. I agree with you that their stories should be told and not dismissed or marginalized.
posted by zarq at 8:51 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Out of curiosity, have you ever been to a Jewish commemoration of the Holocaust? I have, and there is an awful lot of discussion of the Holocaust in broader perspective, and others who died.

This has always, always, been my experience at any Holocaust commemoration. While I'm aware that there are critiques of Holocaust remembrance insitutions for not being inclusive enough, every single one I've been to (and it's sort of a thing for me, visting these places if I'm in a location that has one) has specifically delineated space and resources towards non-Jewish victims of Nazi aggression.

One of the really difficult things about the Roma remembrances and documenting and institutionalizing them is that, as a people and historically a nomadic people, there hasn't been until quite recently a group of organized, funded folks who would put together something of the scale that Jewish organizations created for their remembrances. It's sort of like how there are a lot of civil rights museums put together by larger organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, but to look at the actual history of disenfranchised black people in the South is more complicated because their culture, for the longest time, just wasn't one that funded and supported large museum-y things. That is changing, but slowly. Going to Selma Alabama and seeing the in-someone's-house museum about the marches there is poignant especially because it has all the class markers of people who are still really struggling. This is not quite true with Jews in America, and that's a socially problematic thing for a lot of people.

But back to the personal: Holocaust remembrances by Jewish people that I have experienced absolutely commemorate all the victims and while there may be some high profile examples to the contrary I'd call them the marked exception and not the rule.
posted by jessamyn at 9:05 AM on November 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is always a tension in discussing the Holocaust between recognizing it as unique and recognizing it as universal -- unique in that it was done to these particular people, at that particular time, and with a fairly uniquely horrific efficiency, with an entire state apparatus devoted to the efficient slaughter of millions. Universal in that genocide has happened many times, in many places, and in that all of us can recognize the horror of what happened in the Holocaust (and other genocides) even if we are not personally connected to it. This tension exists in intra-Jewish discussions of the Holocuast, in academic discussions, in discussions by museum boards and memorial committees.

There is room for both of these types of recognition in most Holocaust memorials, and in most Holocaust memorials/museums I have seen, both types are recognized, although as it is a Holocaust memorial it is that event (the unique) that is given more emphasis. But I have never been to a Holocaust "thing" that doesn't view learning about the Holocaust not just as a remembrance but ALSO as a crucially important way to educate humanity about genocide, because only by knowing about genocide can we try to prevent it. If you have no idea such things can occur, you don't know you need to fight them. In itself this remembrance and education is a means of tikkun olam.

I actually just finished looking through the In Focus WWII 20-part series last night and just saw the set of Holocaust photos, so when I saw this, I was thinking, I wish more countries observed a date of remembrance for genocides -- Yom HaShoah or some other date. Because Veterans Day, coming up shortly, is good, and I'm glad to honor those who serve, but a day to remind us of the HORRIFIC STUPIDITY of attempting to solve any problem through slaughter would be good too. Even if a war is necessary, good God, what a waste.

On the practical question, doesn't a great deal of stuff stop in the UK on 11/11 at 11 a.m.? I seem to recall the baggage belts at Heathrow stop moving, and the planes all have to circle for a minute because nothing lands during the minute of silence? Not everything has to pursue efficiency at all costs at all times.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:32 AM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


So funny story. My wife, who happens to be Jewish and also a mefite, texted me this afternoon and asked me why I'm such a holocaust denier. :( She was joking of course but I did talk to her later on and she said I'm coming off as kind of an ass. I don't really have anything else to add except to say I still have a feeling that the other victims of the holocaust are sometimes marginalized(not because of some conspiracy but because of what the holocaust represents to the Jewish people) and thank you for the links and info and sorry for being an asshole.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:45 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I still have a feeling that the other victims of the holocaust are sometimes marginalized

I really don't understand this, and it is sort of at the heart of my objection.

I read (and am frustrated by) constant comments on Reddit to the effect of "people only care about the holocaust because the Jews had better marketers" etc etc.

The need to criticize the framing of the Holocaust seems generally baseless and an opportunity for people to grind their pet axes.
posted by rosswald at 2:41 PM on November 8, 2011


Eyebrows McGee: "On the practical question, doesn't a great deal of stuff stop in the UK on 11/11 at 11 a.m.?"

Yep.
posted by zarq at 2:57 PM on November 8, 2011


AElfwine Evenstar: "So funny story. My wife, who happens to be Jewish and also a mefite, texted me this afternoon and asked me why I'm such a holocaust denier. :( She was joking of course but I did talk to her later on and she said I'm coming off as kind of an ass. I don't really have anything else to add except to say I still have a feeling that the other victims of the holocaust are sometimes marginalized(not because of some conspiracy but because of what the holocaust represents to the Jewish people) and thank you for the links and info and sorry for being an asshole."

FWIW, I don't think you were being an asshole. It's okay.

By the way, this topic has come up before on MeFi. You might find the thread interesting, specifically this comment by explosion, the conversation it sparked, and the article linked in this comment I made, in which Martel discussed the idea of the Holocaust as a portable allegory.
posted by zarq at 8:43 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The view that "the other victims of the holocaust are sometimes marginalized" comes up frequently here and in other forums. I think it can be an expression of racism, but that's when the context is something like "the other victims of the holocaust are sometimes marginalized ... In contrast, I wouldn't have any problem with a statement like "the other victims of the holocaust are sometimes marginalized, which distorts our understanding of Nazi ideology".

Usually, though, the thought is just left hanging: "Oh, those Jews going on about the Holocaust again! It wasn't just Jews, you know!" And that's true; it wasn't, but that's not really the point. Jews go on about it because they're grieving. The Holocaust killed a lot of Jews, and it also punched a huge hole in Jewish history and identity. Jewish European culture today is a refugee culture - the sort of culture that develops among people violently torn away from their homes and families, with a bit taken from here, a bit from there, and only scraps of continuity. Consequently these Jews, like many refugees, are grieving for the security and continuity they thought they had and which has now been lost.

So yes, on an academic level it's fair enough to ask all sorts of questions about emphasis and so forth, but these are not academic exercises. The people who got out of their cars were participating in a communal ritual that satisfies a deeply human need: to grieve for things that have been lost. It isn't an attempt to push for a sort of priority of Jewish suffering; other events are irrelevant at this level. It reflects their needs, it's about their needs, because that's what it is.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:24 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


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