by Stephanie Janiczek
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
When I was a little girl, my Mom liked to tell the story about her friend Abey. Abey was a little Jewish guy who worked at the Venetian Blind factory in Chicago she worked at with her sister June. It was in the very early 40’s, maybe even 1939. Before she met my Dad or when she met him. One day when she and June were going home from work they discovered Abey being beaten up in the elevator by what could only be described as a member of the German American Bund.
The German American Bund was an off shoot of the Nazi Party; they wore brown uniforms, and the swastika armband. They held meetings and caused trouble. It was the 1930’s in the USA and because of the awful economic turmoil a lot of fringe political factions emerged. One, of course, was the German American Bund. Once Germany declared war on the USA, the Bund faded into history, but they were a force when my Mom was a girl.
Mom and Aunt June launched at this bully and all that I was ever told was that they beat him with their purses. Knowing both ladies I am sure a few kicks were also added. They saved Abey and he never forgot it. Mom didn’t either. It wasn’t just because the young man beating up Abey was a bully it was because Abey was Jewish, and the kid was beating him up because he was Jewish. When I was a little girl that story stuck with me and it does till this day.
It is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Evening April 7 – evening April 8). The day where everyone all over the world should stop and think about man’s inhumanity to man. Of course that is a cliché. Humanity has been beastly towards itself since Cain and Abel. But, there is something unique about the Holocaust. Something that goes deeper than a mere atrocity. One group of people was singled out for utter annihilation. Think about that. Try and grasp that logically for a moment. For us Americans that idea of wholesale slaughter on the scale the Nazis perpetrated is incomprehensible. Genocide comes in many packages but the Nazis industrialized it.
Being the youngest daughter of the “Greatest Generation”, I grew up being keenly aware of the Holocaust. It was always the reason why my Dad and uncles had to go to Europe. They were fighting evil. An evil so unlike others that it is hard to quantify. Sure Stalin butchered more people than Hitler, but Stalin didn’t turn his butchery’s into an economic tool. That is the biggest difference between Communism of Stalin and the Fascism of Hitler. The wholesale corporate murder of humanity.
The Nazis didn’t just kill the Jews of Europe. The wealth that was left was stolen by the Nazis. Even parts of their bodies were used. Hair for insulation for blankets, yarn etc. The gold from people’s teeth went into the German coffers. Everything the Jews had immediately became property of the Reich. For instance eye glasses were taken from the death camps and sent back to the Reich for new owners. If one whittles the Holocaust down to its basest elements it was a mugging and murder on an epic scale.
How did this happen? Lots of people when confronted with the Holocaust ask how and why. There are two divergent factions in the scholarship: the Intentional side which says Hitler always intended the killing of every European Jew to occur and the Functional side. Functional scholars believe that the Nazis circled back to murder because no other resolution to their “Jewish” problem was feasible. Both sides actually make sense. Perhaps both, in a weird combination, are the ultimate answer. However, in dealing with absolute evil is any rational historical answer really good enough? No.