Remembering the Past – Learning Lessons for Today…writes Michael Kuttner

April 9, 2013 by Michael Kuttner
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Anyone who has been in Israel during Yom Hashoa and Yom Hazikaron/Yom Ha’Atzmaut  will remember the eerie feeling as the haunting sound of the wailing siren reverberates throughout the country and most people stand in silent tribute as they recall those martyred during the Holocaust and those who made the supreme sacrifice in defending the Jewish People’s rebirth as a nation in their homeland.

Michael Kuttner

Michael Kuttner

My own personal thoughts on Yom Hashoa stretch back to the many members of my and my wife’s family who were murdered during that time when civilized Europe turned on its Jewish citizens yet again and descended into a frenzy of hate, delegitimisation and ultimately deportation and death. I remember how lucky my parents and in laws were to have found a safe haven in New Zealand prior to the great catastrophe and I also recollect how they were the exceptions. In most cases the gates of refuge were slammed shut as an indifferent and distinctly hostile international community averted its face from the looming disaster. Despite heroic efforts on the part of many individuals (Jewish and non Jewish) such as the Kinder transport and the selfless actions of some diplomats, the fact remains that many more could have been saved if only the will would have been there. The British barred the gates of mandated Palestine, turned back fleeing Jews, shipping them back to Europe. The Americans taking the lead from a President who showed callous indifference to the plight of Jewish refugees and Jews in general as well as a State Department infused with anti Jewish prejudice, displayed total ambivalence. Moreover and to their eternal discredit, the established Jewish leaders in the USA refused to “rock the boat”.

As the siren wails, my thoughts inevitably dwell on the powerlessness of Jews at that time and their total reliance on “friends in high places” most of who failed to come to their aid when it was really needed. The refusal of the Allies to bomb the railway tracks to Auschwitz later on, the role of the Vatican in helping Nazi war criminals to escape justice after the war plus countless other examples of moral failure go through my mind at this time. So many needless victims who could have been saved if only the will had been there and so many perpetrators evading justice, fleeing to South America and yes even Australia and New Zealand, thanks to a world which despite witnessing the depths of depravity, preferred instead to look the other way and forget it all.

From 1945 to 1948 the British continued to ban Jews from making a new life in Palestine and either interred them on Cyprus or unbelievably banished them back to Germany of all places. When finally the mandate ended and the time came to implement the UN partition plan which called for a Jewish and Arab (not Palestinian) State, the remnants of the Holocaust were finally allowed entry to the reborn Jewish nation. The siren of Yom Hazikaron commemorates all those who died defending Israel against the murderous mobs of seven Arab States whose declared intentions, clearly articulated and recorded for posterity, was the completion of the Nazi genocide. I remember the Mufti of Jerusalem who had spent the war years in Berlin, plotting and preparing for the Final Solution to be implemented once the Germans had invaded Palestine, inciting Islamic nations to finish the job. As the siren continues to wail I recall that the survivors of the concentration camps were thrown into the front lines as they fought this time as free men and women against the forces of evil Jew hatred trying to deny them once again any place of safety. Many died a mere 3 years after the Shoah, in defense of Jewish independence and the right to live freely as Jews. All these memories from the not so distant past continue to haunt us as we stand in solidarity with those murdered and fallen.

The lessons for today seem obvious yet amazingly they escape too many people.

First and foremost, those of us who inhabit the real world as opposed to a mythical part of outer space, realize that never again can we be at the mercy of others. Never again must our destiny in fact our very existence depend on the whim or good graces of an international community which repeatedly in the past has abandoned us and indeed thrown us to the wolves. Of course there are kind souls out there but as in days gone by they are too few, too late and too ineffective in saving us from the genocidal machinations of the haters. At the end of the day, as Prime Minister Netanyahu declared on Yom Hashoa, the lesson of the Shoa years teaches us that only a strong Israel can avert another catastrophe. The world is fantastic at mourning and memorializing dead Jews. That has been their specialty for the last 2,000 years. As we say at this time of the year – DAYENU!! Look at the pathetic responses of the international community to the continuing massacres in Syria, the threat of North Korea and the looming menace of a nuclear armed Iran. The latter has promised to complete the job the Germans and their willing helpers did not finish. The world yawns and Baroness Ashton on behalf of Europe, at whose hands Jews have suffered so much, remains optimistic that fruitless, endless talks will yield positive results. Cheered on by those who should know better, we can only watch in despair as the clock continues to tick and the Iranians continue to pull the wool over those who have learnt nothing from past appeasement efforts.

The other very important lesson is to take seriously anyone’s threat to murder us. Far too many people laughed off the well stated plan for the Final Solution. There are still far too many people refusing to acknowledge the same threats being made today not only by Iran but also by our intended “peace” partners and their followers. Despite daily outpourings of hate, delegitimisation and terrorist intentions, the continued incitement against Jews, Judaism and Israel in Arab Islamic school textbooks, there are still Israelis and others who have so blinded themselves to reality, past and present, that they are willing to once again put the lives of millions of Jews on the chopping block. It is not as though the Arabs have never been given the opportunity to either make peace with us or in fact have another State of their own. They have always refused past offers and instead preferred to wipe out the Jews. The cry of “slaughter the Jews” which Christian mobs screamed throughout Europe for two millennia continues today throughout parts of the Islamic world. Yom Hazikaron, during which we remember the sacrifices of thousands of our soldiers, men and women, and also the victims of terror, is also a day for sober reflection on the way forward. Do we release more murderers from jail, agree to pie in the sky schemes hatched by possibly well meaning but hopelessly naïve politicians and fall into the same traps as in the past?

The answer seems so obvious yet it still escapes too many, even when the siren reminds us of where past failures have led us.

Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and works for The Israel Resource News Agency in Jerusalem.         


One Response to “Remembering the Past – Learning Lessons for Today…writes Michael Kuttner”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    It’s all so true, Michael Kuttner. I don’t know what to say, as there’s nothing to add, or detract, from your cogent words. Dayenu! I shall continue to do everything I can to rebut the myths and false causes abounding for the purpose of bringing Israel undone.

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