Category Archives: Holocaust

Romney’s right-wing religious supporters have a terrifying view (and a disgusting one) of liberals:

 

Here is why we have to keep Romney and his buddies away from controlling America:

 

So liberals are Nazis and are going to gas Christians like Nazis did Jews in WWII era. Also, I don’t think Christians in America are a minority… hopefully only the ones who share Pat Robertson‘s obscene attack. And Robertson sees Romney as his buddy.

 

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It’s hard to believe that Paul LePage is Governor of a State in America…

The other day, Gov. Paul LePage (R) of Maine said that the Internal Revenue Service was not far from the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police. Really said it. In public.

Perhaps he’s got a distorted sense of humor…how could anyone think he really believes what he said?

Then he attempted to clarify his comment, but added to the controversy instead. His quote:

“What I am trying to say is the Holocaust was a horrific crime against humanity and, frankly, I would never want to see that repeated. Maybe the IRS is not quite as bad — yet.”

A reporter asked LePage if the IRS was headed in that direction, and he said it was.

When asked if he thought the IRS was going to kill a lot of people like the Nazis, LePage said:

Yeah.”

When do gubernatorial elections come up again in Maine? This guy has really got to go. In one small set of statements he has offended Americans, Maine voters and Jews everywhere…and he doesn’t even know it.

My brief reviews of the CATF plays this season

It is the 22nd season of the Contemporary American Theater Festival and I’ve been reviewing the five plays that go on throughout July for WSHC.

Here are transcripts of those reviews.

Gidion’s Knot by Johnna Adams. World Premiere. Directed by Ed Herendeen

What begins as an elementary school parent-teacher conference rapidly becomes a volatile conflict between a distressed mother and a reticent fifth grade teacher. The problem? Why did Gidion come home on a Friday with a note suspending him from school? As his story progresses, the women assemble the elements of Gidion’s behavior like a complex jigsaw puzzle.

 
As we descend toward the unexpected and painful outcome, the roles that a teacher and a mother play in a child’s life are revealed in an interaction of deception, vehemence and accountability. The audience follows this conflict and learns in the removal of layer after layer of information the actions leading to the fate of a fifth grader.

 
I particularly liked Margaret McKowen’s set that turned the entire performance space and audience area into an actual schoolroom. Director Ed Herendeen has children going through the classroom, using lockers in the audience lobby area, and planting the usual “turn your cellphones off” instruction into a teacher’s admonition to a student.

Joey Parsons, as the teacher, and Robin Walsh, as the mother, give intense and involving performances, aided by playwright Johnna Adams’ stylized dialogue.
“Gidion’s Knot” is an emotional and dangerous exploration into the freedom of expression.

The Exceptionals by Bob Clyman. Directed by Tracy Brigden

Not too far in the future, two mothers from very different backgrounds, face choices that are to be made for their extraordinarily gifted sons, the results of a genetic experiment in a fertility program. The question is how far will ordinary people go to provide opportunities for exceptional children? Is it a competition among parents? This is something that Gwen and Allie, and her husband Tom, must come to terms with in the course of the play.

They are steered through this process by Claire, a program manager for the program, who tries to get them to both understand the education process that the children could be going through and to give up part of the parental shelter of their sons. It is not an easy progression.

Director Tracy Brigden has taken the characters developed by playwright Bob Clyman through a series of duo and trio scenes until everyone comes together with a resolute view of where the future will be. The play is about a half an hour longer than it needs to be, but this is the kind of thing that benefits playwrights at the CATF, where they can edit and rewrite as part of the “new play” process.

The Exceptionals is worth the effort of the talent involved and is certainly worth the participation of the audience.

Barcelona by Bess Wohl. Directed by Charles Morey.

What happens when an intoxicated American girl goes home with an aggressive Spaniard for a one-night stand in the shadows of the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous cathedral in Barcelona?  After meeting in a bar and falling into a funny and lusty meeting of cross-cultural opposites, Irene and Manuel make us laugh party with them — until the party changes into a dangerous and political lesson in truth.

Two people who have met as surface level characters reveal more and more about themselves and their real lives discovering things that push them apart rather than bring them closer. Partly it is what it means to be an American in a Spain that has reason to hate Americans. Partly it is the very personal lives of each of the two characters that redefine their needs for the other.

Bess Wohl has written a fantastic play with the best interactive dialog I have heard this season. Every year there is one CATF play that becomes my favorite and this year it is, hands down, Barcelona. Charles Morey’s direction is the kind I think of as perfect… the director is invisible. Things happen as if they are actually being lived.

Anne Marie Nest and Jason Manuel Olazabel are exceptional actors and certainly, along with playwright and director, deserved the standing ovation they received from an enthusiastic audience.

In A Forest, Dark and Deep by Neil LaBute. Directed by Ed Herendeen

Bobby and Betty, a brother and sister, get together in the woods to clean out her cottage to show to a new tenant. At least this is what Bobby thinks as he wonders why his University Dean sister can’t have her husband and kids around helping her… and why she would want the brother she has been estranged from for years to assist with the packing?

Is this a cottage Betty and her husband own? Or is it a place her husband knows nothing about? Is there a student who has been living here having an affair with Betty? Every lie leads to the revelation of another truth as Bobby gets to the bottom of Betty’s story. And what will he do when he learns all of her secrets?

LaBute’s play is about the lies people tell themselves and each other, and about the way lies can become increasingly vicious and escalate to a point that is out of control. The play exposes the desperation of a woman who realizes she has aged past her early attractiveness and become more or less “transparent” to men.

The set for this stormy night in the woods is spectacular, designed by David M. Barber. It focuses the audience in the very large Frank Center into the confined world of two actors in a country cabin. Johanna Day, as Betty, and Joey Collins, as Bobby, are steered through LaBute’s often violent language by Director Ed Herendeen with an inspired verbal choreography.

As the dialogue says: “the truth it hurts.. don’t it?”

Captors by Evan M. Wiener. Directed by Ed Herendeen

In 1960, a group of Israeli Intelligence agents capture escaped Nazi Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires and confine him for 10 days in a hidden safe house. Eichmann, the world’s most wanted war criminal and the architect of the Holocaust, has spent 15 years in Argentina leading an assumed life. His captors now want to transport him to Jerusalem, by his own will, to be publicly tried.

The play focuses on two men: Eichmann, the “Good German” who was following orders and Peter Malkin, the Mossad agent and artist burdened with bringing evil to justice. The Nazi uses charm and sophistication, lies and compliments, to ease out of the captive situation. Malkin’s main objective is to disguise the prisoner so he can board an Israeli plane leaving Buenos Aires without being discovered. He must also convince Eichmann to sign a release saying he leaves of his own free will… something that seems impossible.

The conflict between Malkin, his associates and Eichmann –  between Jews and the murderer of Jews – is haunting and challenging. Combine this with Malkin’s jumping thirty years ahead to write a book about the events with a  co-author who seeks to clarify the actual facts, and you have a complex dramatic presentation which will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Special praise should be given to the characterizations of Malkin, played by Joey Collins, and Eichman, portrayed by Philip Goodwin, and the involving dialogue of Evan M. Wiener. Ed Herendeen has made it all work to perfection.

Captors appears on the 50th anniversary of Eichmann’s conviction and execution, a haunting reminder of the darkest part of the last century.

I hope you get to see some or all of these plays… but hurry. I understand Barcelona is pretty much sold out now.

As a “Kind Atheist” being preferred by any God is a gift I do not require, nor would I open it if received.
However, “Hateful Christians” are in the same category to me as “Hateful Muslims” or “Hateful Jews” or even “Hateful Atheists.” Being hateful is one of the reasons this whole world has been steadily going to pot.

Millard Fillmore's Bathtub

Actual photo, from the Rose City Park United Methodist Church, in Portland, Oregon.

The sign got a mention in Larry Bingham’s column in The Oregonian, and he says it’s making more headlines.

The Rose City Park United Methodist Church minister’s recent sign, which says “God Prefers Kind Atheists over Hateful Christians” is making headlines all over the place.

My colleague, Religion Writer Nancy Haught, cites it in her story on the shifting terminology between “religion” and “Christian.” And The Christian Post also has a story.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Kathy Paxton-Williams.

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Are we replaying 30s fascism?

Paul Krugman’s column in the NY Times upset me yesterday… partly because he started calling the world economic situation what it really is: A Depression; partly because of his comment on Hungary:

And in at least one nation, Hungary, democratic institutions are being undermined as we speak.

One of Hungary’s major parties, Jobbik, is a nightmare out of the 1930s: it’s anti-Roma (Gypsy), it’s anti-Semitic, and it even had a paramilitary arm. But the immediate threat comes from Fidesz, the governing center-right party.

Fidesz won an overwhelming Parliamentary majority last year, at least partly for economic reasons; Hungary isn’t on the euro, but it suffered severely because of large-scale borrowing in foreign currencies and also, to be frank, thanks to mismanagement and corruption on the part of the then-governing left-liberal parties. Now Fidesz, which rammed through a new Constitution last spring on a party-line vote, seems bent on establishing a permanent hold on power.

I say I am worried because I am currently reading Erik Larson‘s book In the Garden of Beasts, his superlative view of Germany, small and weak after the first World War, and the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party in the early 30s when they could have been easily stopped and catastrophe could have been avoided. I am particularly concerned with the anti-Semitism which the European right has fallen back on too many times before…along with the anti-Roma movement which has also plagued earlier European depressions.

Maybe we can laugh when we think of
Hungary taking over Europe.

Maybe we are that stupid.

There have been enough crazies loose in the USA that this bunch makes me very nervous…

Let me start with a statement on my own religious beliefs: I am an atheist in the Stephen Hawking vein…there has been nothing in centuries of scientific discovery to prove the existence of God, nor are the mythological concepts of Heaven, Hell or any “afterlife” at all a reality. OK?

The proposal to make a cross shaped piece of twisted beams from the World Trade Center into a monument in a public space supporting Christianity triggered a response by some atheists that they should have an equivalent monument caused a controversy that Fox News covered. Let me also state my view here: neither of these concepts are supported by me. People’s beliefs should be private things in a free society and not be inflicted on others.

So, when I read this post on the American Atheist‘s blog (and, btw, this is an organization I’m not a member of… organized atheism is just another religion) about their Communications Director appearing on Fox News and the responses that were posted by listeners, I felt unsafe:

FOX News Facebook Page on 9/11 Cross Generates Death Threats Against Atheists

FOX News readers on Facebook started going off after Blair Scott, Communications Director for American Atheists, appeared on America Live with Megyn Kelly. Blair reports that when he returned home from his local FOX station for the interview that his voice mail was full of messages and his inbox had almost 200 hateful messages. “I can always tell when someone from American Atheists is on FOX news, because my Inbox explodes with hate email,” said Blair.

We can talk about the issues about this, but our friend William Hamby has put it well over at the Examiner. In addition, Practical Doubt was able to capture some more as well. Unfortunately, they blacked out the names of the guilty.

Moderators on FOX News’ Facebook page had been trying diligently to delete the violent threats, but not before they were screen-captured by a diligent American Atheists member named Robert Posey.

So how direct are these statements posted as comments on the Fox News Facebook Page? These were some of Posey’s captures before Fox had them deleted (and these do NOT have the poster’s names blacked out… as AA says, people should have responsibility for what they say):

What’s scary as well is the amount of support agreements they get from other readers. It is a good move that Fox is eliminating these as they catch them (why they don’t just set the keywords on their spam list, or set all comments to be reviewed before posting as I do on this blog, is confusing.) However, thousands, and perhaps millions of people see them’ and as William Hamby says in the Atlanta Atheist Examiner:

In a week or two, that Facebook page will be clean swept of any threats or incitements to violence.  If anyone goes back to read it, they’ll see Christians and atheists arguing — not always politely, but without threats.  The words on the page will be gone.  But for me and my fellow atheists, they will live on as long as we live.

When I think of lunatics who have been able to kill groups of people based on the lunacy of extreme beliefs, I realize how the promotion of such concepts can trigger dangerous responses. I also realize that by printing some of these here, I may be doing the same thing… however this will happen here once and it will give you an idea of what is happening. If you think back to the Holocaust and what Jews (and the rest of the world) learned from it, this is a serious situation.

If those who believe in Christianity (or any other religion) need this kind of response to justify their unfortunate view of life, then more people than atheists should take notice and be ready to defend themselves.

Quote of the Week – Another Voting Block To Alienate..

Rick Perry joins the Ranks of the Inverted

“Tens, even hundreds, of thousands of Jewish people in the last decades have come to their Messiah. And so Lord, we pray for the revival around the world, and for Israel to come to their own Messiah.”

Texas Governor (R) Rick Perry at his Prayer Rally last weekend.

Apparently people of all religions were invited to Perry’s Rally… as long as they were willing to convert to his religion in the process.

Can’t we get religion out of politics (and government) once and for all?

I just joined The Other 98%… you should, too

Here are their stats:

We are…

Hard-working Americans who are tired of seeing CEOs and lobbyists hijack our democracy to serve themselves at the expense of everyone else.

Middle class Americans who for decades have dutifully paid our taxes while watching the biggest corporations and very wealthiest Americans pay a smaller and smaller share (50% less since 1950).

Citizens tired of borrowing trillions from China, mortgaging our children’s futures in order to give handouts to the wealthiest 2%.

Citizens tired of being ignored amidst the media fascination with the antics and misinformation of the Tea Party, a fringe 2% which distracts us from solving the very real problems facing America.

Disenfranchised Tea Partiers outraged about Wall Street bailouts and the unfairness of a system that gives massive tax breaks to global corporations and the very rich while leaving the rest of us to pick up the tab.

We are all of us…

No matter what creed, color, religion or trade, we’re all in this together. Everyone — from the single mom just scraping by to the richest man on the hill — share a common interest in keeping America the best country on Earth.

We are often too busy to be heard, but we are everywhere. And we are hopeful.

Join us.

I found them when I saw this comparison of George Soros with the Koch Brothers at The Political Carnival:

Now is the time to get Glenn Beck into an Institution…and off the air.

Glenn Beck

Beck came out with outrageous attacks against Liberal millionaire George Soros this week… and Fox News continues to support him. Is this because a pile of conservative viewers actually BELIEVE HIM? Jeez, I hope not.This from Alex Pareene in Salon (there’s more in the article… go in and read it.):

clipped from www.salon.com

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 27JAN10 - George Soros, Cha...
George Soros

Beck aired a series of shameless attacks on George Soros that seemed ripped from the pages of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The message? Financier and philanthropist George Soros is a “puppet master” secretly at the center of a vast conspiracy that aims to destroy our economy and take over the nation through deceit.

The proof? A lot of selectively edited quotes, wild innuendo and the fact that Soros “collapsed regimes” in “four other countries.”
Beck blatantly flirted with classic anti-Semitic tropes, knowing he’d be called on it but confident his friends would have his back. His taunting response to criticism: If he’s a lying anti-Semite, why would Rupert Murdoch allow him on the air?

But the craziest bit of the entire thing came when Glenn Beck accused Soros — a 14-year-old Jew in Budapest attempting, during the war, to survive the Holocaust — of collaborating with the Nazis and “helping send the Jews to the death camps.” Yes, that happened. Repeatedly.

blog it

Anderson Cooper Grills Rich Iott on his Nazi Dressup…

Have you been following this? John and I discussed it on the radio show last Friday. Ohio Congressional candidate Rich Iott has a rather unusual hobby of dressing up as a member of the 5th SS Wiking Panzer Division, a unit in the German army during World War II.

Interviewing him, Anderson Cooper got Iott to state really unfortunate excuses for his activities. Cooper pointed out that one member of the 5th was recently charged with the murder of 58 Jews. Iott replied: “The war on the eastern front was extremely brutal on both sides. Nobody was lily-white, that’s for sure. Horrible things that happened on both sides.”

Iott has been scrubbed from the Republicans‘ Young Guns website since revelations about his reenacting surfaced.

Thanks to Talking Points Memo.

At the Breaking of the Fifth Seal… an Atheist’s view of Revelation…

Behold… the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:

A red horse brings war (isn’t it amazing that we now equate Republicans with the color Red… what we used to use to describe the far left Commies of the forties and fifties?)

A black horse brings famine (as the fields dry out from global warming we see food supplies shrinking… and as more chemicals are sprayed on plants we turn food into evil.)

A green horse brings death (green as the money that the top 2% of society increases their accumulation of as we fail to restore the taxes which they no longer have to pay.)

A white horse brings Satan’s warrior (with white hair…or silver… like Newt Gingrich ready to move Muslims away from Ground Zero by putting the area under the control of the National Parks Service…)

See why I feel much better not believing this crap? I don’t need a religious mystery to account for all the evil that is being brought on us by people who have decided, as the entire Republican Congress has, not to work with the President and to oppose EVERYTHING… even things they have consistently supported in the past. By taking this chance, they will regain control of Congress and once again take us into oblivion.

But don’t you think that when they take control of Congress that the Democrats will have learned nothing from their two years of negativity? Do you think the Democrats will show them how it should be done by WORKING WITH THEM?

I wouldn’t count on it.

If I wanted to know what a definition of Hell was at this point, it would be the entirely stupid government of the United States which takes the best possible democracy and turns it into an oligarchy of the Boehner/McConnell (which used to be called the antichrist.)

😉

(Don’t tell her the dog’s real name is Santiago!) (via HYSTERICAL RAISINS)

Are there any politicians who don’t lie about their history? This is another big one from Hysterical Raisins:

(Don't tell her the dog's real name is Santiago!) From POLITICS DAILY: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer finds herself under scrutiny after telling a newspaper that her father “died fighting the Nazi regime in Gemany.” In actuality, Brewer’s father, Wilford Drinkwine, passed away from lung disease in California, ten years after World War II had ended. Brewer’s comments were made to The Arizona Republic [actually, it’s The Arizona Guardian] newspaper, and came as she was discussing her state’s polarizi … Read More

via HYSTERICAL RAISINS

Tom Weisshaus, Hungarian Survivor … by Tom White

This article about my dear friend Tom Weisshaus, whose book “Not A Victim” will be coming out soon, was posted on the web site of the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Please visit that site for photographs and links – BT.

At heart, Tom Weisshaus is a storyteller; a youthful spirit guiding his life. And yet, there is the shadow of something more. There is the intensity of his responding to injustice, an impulse to reject simplistic answers to complicated questions, a fear when hearing echoes from a past in the voices of those around him today; Voices of ignorance, violence, bigotry, and political simplicity touch him to the core. What lies behind that distant yet encroaching shadow?

In Thomas Buergenthal’s memoir, A Lucky Child, Elie Wiesel pondered, “Are there rules to help a survivor decide the best time to bear witness to history?” For Tom Weisshaus, like other survivors, there were neither rules nor guidance. His work in recovering the memories of a childhood stolen away and his need to witness it came upon him years later.

After the war Tom made his way to the United States where, like many survivors, he attempted to begin life anew and push his experiences into the dimly lit recesses of memory. After all, he was young, ambitious and full of life when he arrived in New York City. He refused to see himself as a victim and found a new path. He fell in love, earned an education, found his profession as a teacher, and raised a family. He had succeeded.

Upon retirement, his distant past, in another time, in another place, with other people began to revisit hm. Although he had retired to New Hampshire to be closer to his family, it was here that he attended a play by middle school students who wished to remember the Holocaust by telling the stories of Jewish children caught up in the maelstrom of the Shoah. Memories pushed into the background as quiet, shadowy whispers began to grow louder and sharper.

Tom Weisshaus was born in Budapest on December 7, 1928 to Alexander Weisshaus and Elizabeth Furst. As a young boy the growing shadow of the Nazi “Final Solution” first touched him when in 1943 his father was taken and disappeared into a Hungarian forced labor brigade where he died sometime in January 1943. His brother Endre was sent to the forced labor brigades as well and when German troops occupied Hungary in March 1944, Tom became swept up in the Nazi destruction of the Hungarian Jewish population. On May 15, 1944 the Hungarian police, in coordination with the Nazi SS, began the mass deportation of around 440,000 Jews from the Hungarian provinces. From May 15 to July 9, 1944, more than 140 trains carried 437,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz. The vast majority were gassed. Nearly fifty percent of Hungary’s Jews were murdered. Some 200,000 Jews, including Tom and his family, remained in Budapest facing deportation.

The tales of survival presented here echo the voice of a teenage boy whose life in Budapest suddenly became about daily, moment by moment survival. There are tales of youth remembered youthfully: making reflexive – not thought out – decisions that saved his life. There is luck: of Allied bombs falling opportunely during a roundup. There are mysteries: How did his aunt help him and his uncle escape deportation to Auschwitz? There is hope: his mother finding Raoul Wallenberg. There is tragedy and pain. In these captured memories, Tom’s voice reflects the hindsight of a lifetime as well as a youthful desire to reconstruct a childhood that remains clear, but just beyond reach. Why pursue them?

Tom Weisshaus does not see himself as a victim. He does not see the history of Jews as only that of victimhood. Rather, he sees his story and that of the Jewish people as one of witness. He enjoys telling his audiences that Jews are often targeted because “they created conscience.” Through this witness, his stories take hold as an affirmation of the spirit to live and an indictment of those who choose to other the other.

Tom never thought of becoming a witness to the evils of Nazism, to those evils we as human beings inflict on the other. His witness stresses that Jews are not victims, but targets. He illustrates that not every defeat is final and that, in the words of Michael Berenbaum, one can find a way to deal with suffering and grapple with victimization in service to humanity. History is encountered with an eye towards Tikkun.

As a Holocaust educator/student living in the aftermath of the Shoah, I have been privileged to help Tom share his story. Students hearing him are deeply moved, schools are grateful, and discussions continue long after we have left. And yet, I often feel that there is more lurking just below the surface. I remember a particular incident when we were scheduled to discuss the ongoing power of anitsemitism when he came into contact with a group’s words that instantly brought back the reality of what he had experienced in Hungary. He was once again the teenage boy running. He recovered and refused to become a hostage to victimization. But the experience gave me a glimpse of the shadow.

I have also seen the shadow dispersed. In November 2007, Congressman Tom Lantos and his wife Annette were the guest speakers at our annual Kristallnacht Remembrance. Both spoke of their rescuer, Righteous Among the Nations’ Raoul Wallenberg. That night, another of Wallenberg’s children, Tom Weisshaus, was able to be with them to witness what a life lived responsibly can mean.

As Michael Berenbaum points out, we are in a transitional moment. Although my sons and family have met Tom and other survivors we know we will be among the last to have met living witnesses. Soon living history will become remembered history. The forces that came together in the Shoah will still be with us. Tom Weisshaus’ memoir adds one more voice to the collection of witness voices that will remain as the distant yet ever encroaching shadow. We must constantly encounter this history and live responsibly as a new generation of witnesses in a post Shoah world.

Thomas White

Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies

May 2010

____________________________________________________________________

Tom Weisshaus’ memoir, Not a Victim: Tales of Survival in Nazi Budapest, is soon to be published.