Whoopi Goldberg said that “the Holocaust isn’t about race” during a discussion on “The View” about a Tennessee school board’s banning of the book Maus, written by a Holocaust survivor. Whoopi could not be more wrong. Unfortunately, she is another example of how important education about the Holocaust is more relevant today than at any other time. With social media spewing misinformation about the Holocaust, it is even more urgent and necessary.
The killing of six million Jews with the intent of murdering another five million in what was termed “The Final Solution” was totally and completely about race. The goal was to exterminate the Jewish People. The Jewish “race” was singled out and marked for slaughter.
It was more than coincidence that several days before her comments, the world memorialized the Holocaust with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was established in 2005.
The six million who were gassed, shot, burned alive, and tortured by the Nazis want to be remembered as Jews. This is their cry. This is their plea from the ashes. To lose focus one iota from this fact is to diminish their death, their sacrifice, and the deaths of their brethren.
Whoopi Goldberg is not alone. Like the wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made clear after he misspoke about the Holocaust and Anne Frank, Cheryl Hines said, “The atrocities that millions endured during the Holocaust should never be compared to anyone or anything.”
It is truly incomprehensible to fathom the horror and dread that six million Jews faced. It is to their memory and to their lives lost that I put power to pen. I hope by recounting some stories from the Holocaust (I intend to publish more in the future), celebrities and politicians will stop using the Holocaust as a springboard for comparison and metaphor. They could do justice to the Holocaust by addressing the facts and helping educate in a positive and constructive way. This could help prevent another.
The latest memoir about the Holocaust by Mala Kacenberg, entitled Mala’s Cat (originally published by the title Alone in the Forest), captures some of the horror that Jews experienced at the hands of the Nazis.
Mala Szorer nee Kacenberg witnesses the cold-blooded killing of her older brother, and the roundup and deportation of her family and every Jewish person from the town of Tarnogrod, Poland. She escapes to the forest. It is October 1942, at the height of the Nazi killing machine when 15,000 Jews were being murdered daily. Mala recounts how at age 14 she overhears a pair of SS men lounge nearby in the forest, drinking wine, singing victory hymns, and being impressed with the jewelry they collected from their Jewish victims that day. This scene was emblazoned on her mind. She wrote the book to capture her experience for posterity and to “make sure the whole world remembered what the Germans had done. I desperately wanted to survive even if it was only for that purpose.”
Twenty-five-thousand Polish Jews survived the Nazi onslaught by hiding in the forest. My grandfather’s twin brother’s daughter, Frimma, was one. Every day she worried that she would be captured and tortured to death. Every day she was terrified that one of the residents of the surrounding villages who she depended upon for food scraps would turn her in and hand her over as did happen not infrequently to others.
Two of her brothers decided to go back to their town of Buczacz, Poland (this is the same town that Nobel Prize winner Shmuel Agnon came from), in order to gather clothes to endure for the cold winter approaching. They were never heard from again.
On July 10, 1941, many members of my grandmother’s family - descendants of the Gaon and Sage Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac Chaver - were burned alive by Poles who were collaborating with the Nazis in the infamous barn-burning in Jedwabne, Poland. Three-hundred-forty men, women, and children were murdered by 40 ethnic Poles overseen by the German Military Police.
I hope these stories resonate in a way that helps stem the tide of misinformation, misuse of the Holocaust, and can educate Whoopi Goldberg followers who need to be taught a lesson or two. We have a lot of work to do.
Dr. Joe Frager is Chairman of the Israel Advocacy Commission for the Rabbinical Alliance of America; Chairman of the Executive Committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim; Dean at Kollel Ayshel Avraham; Executive Vice President of the Israel Heritage Foundation; and a physician in practice for 41 years.