Darfur & the Holocaust

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk



Darfur is a province in the western Sudan. The Sudan is a country in Africa, located south of Egypt and north of Ethiopia. It borders on the Red Sea.

Prior to the Second World War, the area was named “The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan” because both countries were ruled by England. After the English left in 1949, the Sudan became a divided yet independent country. Ruled by the northern Arabs, the southern Africans, mainly but not entirely Christians, were brutally suppressed by the Muslim bosses from the north who had all the guns and the powers of government. Consequently a civil war erupted in that country, particularly because the Arabs captured Christians and sold them as slaves in Saudi, but also because the Muslim Sharia law was enforced in the Christian south. Sharia law leads to mutilation of the body, including female circumcision and the amputation of limbs on conviction for several offenses.

As of today, the ongoing civil war has not ended. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands have been made homeless and more thousands have died in the conflict which is now described, together with all other human barbarities, as a holocaust. The Greek word HOLOCAUST means “whole fire” and was at one time used to describe in one word the slaughter of six million European Jews by the European haters. Today the word has lost its meaning, as even the killing and eating of animals is called a holocaust by the animal rights organizations.

It is appropriate, therefore, on this Holocaust Commemoration Day or Yom Hashoah, to note the difference between the destruction of the European Jews and the Darfur nightmare.

First, it is evident that despite all the inhuman barbarities existing in Africa, the victims have friends. Jews are their friends. That is the reason why Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism spoke forcefully at a New York rally for Darfur on March 13 of this year. He has since then been joined by 150 other rabbis. Unfortunately, no one spoke forcefully or softly for the European Jews inside Nazi Europe seventy years ago. On the contrary. Our great Jewish organizations rightly and justly defend the Arabs of Darfur but somehow could not remember the Jews of Germany. Now, you say that there are Holocaust Memorial rallies in all Jewish communities nationwide. That is true and most commendable. The persecution of our brethren in Europe must never be forgotten . Yet look at this difference. The Holocaust is remembered now. Seventy years after the fact.  Darfur is recognized now as it happens. The Jews of Germany, trapped in the Nazi terror, had no friends. Not even the Jewish community of the United States. The Darfur Arabs have many friends. Particularly the Jewish community of the United States.

Prior to the entry of the United States into the Second World War on December 7, 1941, the German Jews had already lived in the Nazi terror hell for six years and seven months, from January 30, 1933 to September 1, 1939. During all that time the 580,000 Jews then living in Germany could easily have been rescued by the large American Jewish community. Yet, there were no rallies. No appeals to that great Jew hater Franklin D. Roosevelt who collected every Jewish vote for four terms. On the contrary. While a few German Jews were indeed helped to immigrate by relatives and a few philanthropists (Greek: philo means lover and anthropus means man), none of the ever-collecting Jewish organizations brought the German Jews to safety.

The few German Jews who did escape to this country found that the Nazi bosses must have been correct in their assessment of Jews. Here American Jews told the German refugee Jews that (a) German Jews are arrogant, (b) German Jews are unwilling to work and (c) that German Jews consider themselves better than everyone else (these were precisely the accusations hurled at us by our Nazi bosses) and (d) German Jews were and are responsible for the mistreatment of the Russian Jewish immigrants of the early 20th century and therefore deserve no help now.

Example 1. An Austrian lawyer whose only son had been murdered by the Nazi killers arrived in New York. Seeking work, he was employed by a Jewish fraternity at Columbia University. He was their cook and all around “houseman”. Later a professor here in Buffalo, he told me that the Jewish members of this fraternity jeered at his accent, ridiculed his religious adherence, embarrassed him incessantly and told him to “forget about it already,” meaning his horror experiences in Austria.

Example 2. A young Jewish girl, newly arrived from Germany, was invited by a wealthy Jewish family to come to their house and be given some candy. She arrived and was confronted with a stick of gum and a piece of hard tack. She was told she could have one but not both. She did not understand English and believed she could have both pieces and took them both. Thereupon the wealthy Jews sang in Yiddish: “Shane is das Zigeuner lebben; ze woll’n nur nemmen un’ gonish gebben” which means: “Beautiful is the life of the gypsies, they only want to take but never give.” The child was wearing rags and living in a literal “hole in the wall”.

Example 3. A Jewish refugee from Germany asked the Rabbi at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel Foundation for food because he had not eaten all day, was “down and out” and in the streets and had no place to sleep. The Hillel House had a kosher dining room where wealthy students ate. The rabbi refused and told the “shnorrer” to get out.

Example 4. A German Jew, newly arrived, entered an orthodox synagogue on Saturday. He was asked to “davn” i.e. to lead the prayers. He did so according to the German customs. He sang the German synagogue melodies, etc. Having concluded, he was told by the largely eastern European origin congregants that he will never be allowed to lead again as they did not want to hear his German “arrogant” type of prayer and singing. Presumably, G’d didn’t want to hear that either.

5. A German immigrant attempted to enter a synagogue on Rosh Hashanah. Ignorant of the need to buy a ticket in advance and unable to understand English, he was ejected from the door of the synagogue as he attempted to enter. He did not understand the reason as he could not comprehend the language, except that he knew he was not welcome there. No money, no New Year. He spent the day on a park bench.

These and innumerable other examples could be listed here. Suffice it to say, that unlike the people of Darfur, no rabbi spoke on behalf of German Jewish refugees. In fact, to this day, long after the fact, some American Jews still pretend to know that anyone who did not die in a gas oven is exaggerating the persecutions of 1933-1945.

After 1967, when Israel won its great victory, we began to observe Holocaust Commemoration Day or Yom Hashoah. Now there are American Jews with doctorates in Holocaust studies and lawyers and others who hold grand speeches on such occasions. They cannot know anything about the Holocaust because, thank G’d, they were not there. This is true of all historical events, as none of us were present at the French Revolution or the Civil War. However, we could try to help Jews now in need. We are willing to help the people of Africa. We rally for every cause and every so-called holocaust. Yet a Jew who needed help has so far been on his own. It is therefore good news that the Jewish Federations across the country have now decided to help the Jewish poor. These Jewish poor are about 5% of the 5.5 million American Jews. In New York City the Federation has built four apartment houses for poor Jews. In Los Angeles, where Jewish poverty is 7%, an effort to help poor Jews has been announced by Federation officials. In California, Jewish poverty is particularly hard to bear as there are so many extremely wealthy Jewish movie moguls tooling around in Ferraris and enjoying other luxuries.

There are of course a good number of Jewish working poor. These are people who do not fit into the Jewish community of doctors, lawyers and accountants, professors and dentists, big business,"machers" and the archetype of Jewish “leader” -  the big contributor.

These Jews do not participate in Jewish affairs .They do not come to synagogues or Jewish sponsored dinners because we cannot tolerate Jewish cab drivers and tailors. We will not let our children date such people nor accord them any social honor.

Therefore the Jewish poor, like all the poor, are invisible.

Of course, here and there we have Jews who support Israel and the local Jewish community and give to the Jewish poor. These few are the light in the darkness, the redeemers of our people. The majority of us are as blind to our needs as was true during our darkest days. As George Santayana (1863-1952) said so wisely: “All we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history”.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Football & American Identity (2005) &  Youth Culture and the Generation Gap (2005) with Dr. Ursula A. Falk.

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