Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

The Blessing

“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great;
and be thou a blessing.
And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; 
and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
—Genesis 12:2-3
ב וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה.
ג וַאֲבָרְכָה, מְבָרְכֶיךָ, וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ, אָאֹר; וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ, כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה.

 בְּרֵאשִׁית 
12

Credit & Source: The movie was posted on Youtube [here].


In this film, Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), an old movie, in black & white, viewers can get an idea of how Americans once viewed this terrible tragedy of more than seven decades ago that was the Holocaust (the Shoah, השואה, “the Catastrophe”), the central calculated act of the Second World War. Was this a different United States? It seems so, but I can’t say for sure.

I have always thought that the American people are fundamentally good and have admired the United States since I was a young boy. To be sure, America has done a lot of good for the civilized world; it has done much for which we can offer thanks and gratitude. Yet, like all nations, it has recently gone through some changes that have left it with an historical amnesia. Am I making too much of this change? Am I bringing up something unnecessary? No, I don’t think so on both counts.

Here is something to consider. Were not Americans then aware of its 10-year (1945–1955) occupation of Germany along with the three other Allied powers of Britain, France and the USSR in what was called Allied-occupied Europe? Such an occupation was deemed necessary to bring democracy to the German people. It has been successful. The Russian occupation of (East) Germany, which lasted much longer, i.e., officially until 1994, offered neither democracy nor freedom to its people. It was not successful. The differences between the two parts of Germany immediately after unification (October 3, 1990) were starkly noticeable; they are less noticeable a little more than 25 years later.

Speaking of post-war Germany, apart from France, which played a significantly minor role in the occupation in comparison to the other three powers, none shared a border with Germany. But there was no threat to France from a Germany that was divided, disarmed and demilitarized at war’s end. No European nation was at risk; all were safe from any threat post-war. The United States was never at risk during the war, and it was not at risk after; it was far away, 8,000 km or 5,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean—far away from the battlefield. Are the Americans today, for the most part, aware of this part of its history? Have the Europeans forgotten this, as well? It seems so.

Yet, Israel, a tiny nation, has neither the luxury of distance nor of a demilitarized enemy—not today and not during any time of its history—to ensure its safety. It has belligerent and armed enemies across its borders (i.e. in Gaza, in Syria, in Lebanon). And, yet, both the Americans and the Europeans think it necessary to make Israel smaller and bring its enemies even closer. Would any nation agree to this?  In such a calculus, it is Israel and the Jewish People who must make sacrifices that no one else would or should make.

Yet, all of these logical and sane arguments are minimized, downplayed and pushed to the side to avoid embarrassment and feelings of guilt. One can argue, of course, that guilt has merit only if it leads to something good. Truly, it is always better to do good, but if one can’t do good, at least abstain from evil.

One wonders what is really happening here; I can’t say for certain. Yet, despite the way things appear on the surface, despite the determination of its enemies—and they come and go—I am confident that Israel and the Jewish People will not only survive and prevail, but will always thrive. I can’t say the same for its enemies. This is what history informs me. One can call it both a blessing for Humanity and a judgment from the Heavens. But this is not for me to say.

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