Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk




Lessons Not Learned


    On the 29th of February, 1940, Willy Cohn wrote into his diary: “Today is a day on which my expectations have shrunk to a minimum.” Cohn lived in Breslau, a southern German city which had had a good sized Jewish community and a rabbinical seminary of renown. By 1940, seven years after the accession of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nazi) to power, German Jews were nearly decimated by all those persecutions which awaited the Eastern European Jews after the invasion of Poland in 1939.

    Cohn was a historian, author and teacher who recorded his daily experiences in Nazi land from January 1933, when Hitler became dictator, to his deportation to Lithuania in November of 1941. On their arrival in Kaunau, the 1,000 Jews who had been transported there were shot to death at once. This included Willy Cohn, his second wife and his ten year old daughter.

    In 1995, the Conrad Publishing Co. of Germany published the history of the Breslau Jews by Cohn as well as his diaries. These are called Verwehte Spuren or Dispersed Footprints.

    Cohn was born in Breslau in 1888 and was 44 years old on the day Hitler assumed power. He had served in the German army during World War 1 (1914-1918) and had earned the Iron Cross for bravery in face of the enemy. The Iron Cross was seldom awarded to Jewish soldiers, as even in the First World War Jews were second class citizens of the Fatherland. For example, the German government paid Christian clergy to accompany the troops but rabbis had to be recruited and paid by the Jewish community itself during the First World War (I have in my possession the Iron Cross earned by my father, may he rest in peace).

        Willy Cohn was so enamored by his homeland Germany, that he was a patriot without bounds. Like many other German Jews, he denied the pre-Nazi bigotry which governed Jewish life at all times and wrote into his diary in February, 1933: “Despite boycott of Jewish business it is impossible to relinquish my love for Germany.”

   In June of 1933, Cohn, together with all German Jews, were fired from their jobs. Reduced to earning pennies for his contributions to Jewish publications, he and his wife and child were forced to move into rooms rented to them by Jewish property owners. Nevertheless, Cohn wrote into his diary in 1937: “I am rooted in Germany and I want to remain here, come what may.” That year he managed to visit his son and daughter by his first marriage, who had fled to the Holy Land. He didn’t like it and returned to Germany.

   As late as August 1940, a few days before the beginning of the 2nd World War, Cohn told his diary: “I am prepared to share the fate of Germany.”

   His diaries reveal that Cohn actually approved of the invasion of the Saarland by the Nazi army in 1936. He also approved of the invasion of Austria by the Nazi army and thought that the power that Germany displayed by these acts was admirable.

   Gradually, Cohn’s diaries reflect the ever increasing terror suffered by the German Jews. Cohn writes about the signs on all stores - “Jews prohibited” or “Jews will not be served” - as well as yellow park benches “for Jews only”. He records how Jews were beaten in the streets and German citizens shouted hate slogans at him. His entries end on November 17, 1941, the day of his deportation.

   Today, in 2007, the condition of the European Jews resembles that of the Jewish community in Europe shortly before the Nazi episode. Once more Jewish communities from England to the Ukraine are under siege. In London, which houses a Jewish community of 150,000, there were 75 reported hate offenses against Jews in the three months July-September,  2006. Many more were not reported to the police. Similar attacks occur regularly in France, in Germany, and in all other European countries, including the home of the largest Jewish cemetery in the world, Poland, where hate mongers scream and broadcast anti-Jewish slogans even now, when there are no Jews in Poland.

  Indeed, there are those in Europe who try to combat this oldest of European social movements, religious hate. Even in Poland, the land of Auschwitz, there are some who seek to oppose the persisting hate of people hardly any Poles have ever seen. In fact, in Krakow, which has no Jews, there is an annual Jewish culture festival, including Jewish foods, theatrical productions, books, music, etc. In short, some Poles really like dead Jews.

   In Germany, too, the government makes gestures opposing religious hate and even punishes holocaust denial with prison terms. Yet public opinion regarding Jews in Germany is the same it has always been. Of course. Why not? Surely, the habits and beliefs cultivated over 1,900 years cannot be erased.

   So we ask why the Jews of Europe remain there. Consider that the persecution of Jews in  Russia was endless. Yet despite the pogroms, only 1.5 million Russian Jews came to the U.S.A. before the immigration laws of 1924 closed the “golden door”. Six and one half million Jews remained there even though they too could have come here. In addition, three million western European Jews remained there and did not come. On the contrary; the rabbis told the European Jews not to come to America or go to the Holy Land because America was a “trayfene medeene” or “torn community” and the Holy Land should only be Jewish when the Messiah comes, but not before.

   Hate is still the most common bond of the European nations. Nevertheless, we must remember that the mass murders committed there were organized by governments. Private haters cannot do this. No European government is presently persecuting Jews. The perpetrators of anti-Jewish conduct in Europe are mainly Muslim immigrants who number in the millions in England, France and Germany. It is only in Poland that the haters are altogether natives. Of course, the Muslims have allies among the hate mongers in England, France, Sweden, Denmark, the low countries and elsewhere.

   So far, the Muslims who live here have not been able to mount such attacks on us. However, they have numerous allies among such prominent Democrats as Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton, the former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, and the Republican former Secretary of State James “f****the Jews” Baker. Jewish “liberals” who support these people are as blind to reality as Willy Cohn was 67 years ago. “Liberals” who invited Carter to speak at Brandeis University repeat again and again the stupid policy of refusing to see the facts. The “liberals” who side with Ahmadinejad and curse Israel “would if they could” kill us all.

   Sociologists speak of the “broken window” theory. This means that if we don’t fix one broken window in a neighborhood, then soon all windows will be broken and bottles will lie all over the streets together with used needles. Drunks and addicts will lie there with them and crime will soar.  Likewise, if we don’t come down “like a ton of bricks” on the Jimmy Carters of this world but approve of him, as does the so-called Rabbi Lerner, then the haters will gain the upper hand and poison the minds of the American people against us.

   Now is the time to recognize our enemies for who they are and what they want. Carter and company seek our destruction. Carter is a Democrat. With few exceptions all our enemies are Democrats. So why do so many Jews vote for them? Because they are the Willy Cohns of today. That is the lesson not learned. For the sake of our survival we must learn it now.  

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The Restoration of Israel (2006).

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