Terri Schiavo

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


The Murder of Theresa Schindler Schiavo

Those of us who have had personal experience with the Nazi methods of killing undesirables such as Jews and the disabled were most poignantly reminded of these horrors by the recent killing of Terri Schiavo.

Starvation was the most common method by which the Nazi government slaughtered so many millions.  The withholding of food from Jews began almost immediately after the Nazi takeover of Germany on January 31, 1933.  At once food stores displayed signs to the effect that "Jews are not wanted", making it impossible for anyone Jewish to buy food.  These efforts to starve the Jewish population were enhanced by the need to present food store clerks with food stamps, which were of course issued only to so-called Aryans but not to Jews.  Since Jews were also forbidden to enter any restaurant other than one designated for Jews only the Gestapo entered these restaurants at will and arrested all who were eating there.  Driven by hunger, Jews kept coming and were promptly murdered.

Starvation was also used in the European ghettos.  These ghettos were way stations before transportation to the concentration camps.  Millions of Jews were herded into these ghettos from all over Europe.  Transported without food or water in cattle cars, many died before they reached the ghettos while others starved there. All these killings were supported by German law, which held it legitimate to commit these murders.

Now in 2005 we find that a large number of Americans approve of the killing of a helplessly disabled woman by starvation. Supported by a brutal law which allows a husband to kill his wife because he's already living with another woman, Terri Schiavo was literally murdered because her disability made her superfluous.

Anyone who is disabled or anyone who may in the future become unconscious and unable to defend himself has reason to expect that he too will be slaughtered by judicial fiat for the convenience of those who find the disabled an unreasonable burden.

The killing of Terri Schiavo moves this country more and more into the orbit of the death culture, which also drives those who are constantly screaming for the so-called death penalty.

It is ridiculous for politicians of either party to seek some kind of advantage for themselves from the death of Terri Schiavo.  Instead it had always been our hope that the words of the Declaration of Independence concerning the inalienable right to life would be honored by both parties at all times.  Surely the right to life is the most fundamental right that all human beings must enjoy in any civilized society.  It is precisely because the Nazi regime was so contemptuous of human life that it has come to be a very model of everything rejected in a democratic society.

Yet we are now confronted by the spectacle of seeing our judiciary support murder.  This is the same judiciary which has largely upheld the death penalty, although recently the Supreme Court found it inappropriate to administer that penalty to youthful offenders.  Yet it appears appropriate for our judges to starve to death a woman whose only "crime" was her incapacitation.

The Jewish point of view in all this is best summarized by the Hebrew phrase: “Kiddush Hachayyim”, which means the sanctity of life.  The sixth Commandment, "You shall not murder”, is repeatedly augmented by other reminders in the Torah of the importance of preserving life.  The Talmud teaches us that he who saves one life has saved the whole world.

It is also a Jewish law that religious law may be violated to preserve life.  Therefore an ill person may eat on Yom Kippur and one who has been injured may violate the Sabbath to obtain medical aid.  In fact, one who violates the Sabbath in order to save the life of another is considered meritorious.  Jewish law recognizes that where life is at stake all other considerations must be ignored.  Therefore the starvation murder of Terri Schiavo is particularly heinous because it served the sole purpose of promoting the interests of her husband. Those who say that this man should not have been expected to live without female companionship for 15 years overlook that he could of course have attained a divorce, but did not do so for financial reasons.

These financial considerations also led to the exclusion of Terri Schiavo's parents from providing the care and support which she needed in order to save her life.  It is a particular cruelty on the part of the judiciary to exclude a mother and father from extending the help they wanted to give their child.

The Schiavo case gives us reason to consider that "it can't happen here", since the judicial killing of Terri Schiavo undermines the most minimal expectations which we are entitled to have of one another.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Man's Ascent to Reason (2003) & the forthcoming Football & American Identity.

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