My father (pictured far left, in the swordfish shirt) fought Fascism in World War II.
He left my mother (pictured, far right), my two older brothers, and my yet-to-be-born older sister to keep the world safe for Democracy. The innocent, nose-picking 3-year old in the attached 70 year old photo is me. I was born post-War, in 1949.
My father was sent from Brooklyn, N.Y., to the other side of the world to protect his family against tyrants and terrorism at home. We were very fortunate; my father, his brothers, and my other uncles came home, in one piece, without a physical injury or PTSD.
My life-partner Carol Villano’s family, the Jacobsons, were not so lucky: they lost a 20-year old son named Herbert Jacobson, after whom my brother-in-law was named. Herbert Jacobson, the brother of Carol’s father (who also went overseas to fight the Fascists) died fighting the Nazis, who were in the process of slaughtering 6 million of his fellow Jews.
My immediate family was far more fortunate than nearly half-a-million other American families whose courageous freedom-fighters never came home. They died because a monster named Hitler, an authoritarian nationalist, anti-Semitic sociopath, was obsessed with expanding his empire, steamrolling through sovereign states, and annihilating all Jews, and anyone he did not like.
Now, 40 million free, independent Ukrainians—Jews and non-Jews– are living through this nightmare again, because another megalomaniacal Fascist tyrant named Putin, wants to overturn the world order and expand his imaginary empire, ending one of the longest-lasting periods of “peace” in world history. The only “Nazification” that has occurred in this Russian attack on the free, independent country of Ukraine, is in the mind and methodology and worldview of Vladimir Putin.
Unbelievably, there are authoritarian-loving Americans in our own country, undermining the US military and cheering on a murdering Hitler-wannabe dictator. Those modern-day Quislings include Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, Tucker Carlson, Mike Pompeo, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Jim Jordan, Marjorie Traitor Greene, and many members of what used to be known as the Republican Party. Now, however, the GOP has been transformed into Grifters of Putin, since the Party, the National Rifle Association, and many individual GOP elected officials have received millions of dollars from the Killer Kleptocrat from the KGB over the past 7 years. And they have no shame about selling out our country to a murdering madman. Ethel & Julius Rosenberg were executed as spies for doing far less to benefit Russia.
These desecraters of Democracy—some of whom defecated in our Nation’s Capitol Building on January 6, 2021–have thrown dirt on the memory of Private First Class Herbert Jacobson, and on those of my father and my uncles and of hundreds of thousands of other soldiers who have made superhuman sacrifices to preserve peace and save Democracy for their families, and for families, just like ours, around the world.
My father was a simple, uncomplicated man, who loved my mother passionately, loved his children, liked his beer, and enjoyed playing the horses. Without thinking twice about it, he helped save Democracy for us at home, and for all of Europe, because it was, simply, the right thing to do. The peace for which he left his family behind in Brooklyn, lasted for some 75 years, led to the creation of the United Nations, of NATO, and the birth of new Democracies around the world.
His service to his country, and to all of humanity, made it possible for me to be born with personal freedoms unimaginable to him a generation earlier, and to enjoy a simple, carefree vacation in Niagara Falls, Canada, 70 years ago with him, my mother and my sister.
Ukrainians, and future generations of Americans, like my son, my nieces and nephews, and grandchildren, deserve the same simple pleasures of a free, full life, without the threat of war or mass suffering or repression. The anniversary of my father’s birth is next week, and to honor him, and the free lives he gave us, I want the world’s Democracies–including our own–to rescue Ukrainian families from the darkness and destruction unleashed by another Fascist sociopath, possessed with wild-eyed ideas and weaponry meant to suffocate human beings, and all human rights and freedoms.
(Whoopi Goldberg’s Comments About the Holocaust Should Have Been Turned Into a Nationally Televised Teach-In on the Nazi’s Extermination of 6 Million Jews.)
The Nazis would have hated Whoopi Goldberg, and not just because she’s Black and a member of what they considered a “mongrel” or “inferior” race.
They would have hated her because this smart, articulate, fearless woman pulled their pants down in front of millions of Americans on Hitler’s biggest, deadliest, most enduring lie of all: that Jews were their own “alien” race, separate and apart from everyone else in the world, especially his hallucinatory “Aryans.”
In fact, as Lucy S. Dawidowicz wrote in her definitive The War Against The Jews 1933-1945, (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Bantam Books, 1975): “race was the leitmotiv of National Socialism.” Helmut Nicolai who set up the Nazi’s Interior Ministry’s plan for depriving Jews of all human, civil and legal rights, told a group of German lawyers precisely that shortly after Hitler took power in 1933: “There is absolutely nothing that we, that the new state, do not consider or appraise under the aspect of race.”
The Nazi’s biggest Big Lie—the leitmotiv of National Socialism– which was at the root of every atrocity Hitler and the Nazis committed during their reign of terror, was to change the history of German jurisprudence and of legitimate scientific research, by declaring Jews as a new and different “Race.” They did that by making up the Nuremberg “Laws”—the antithesis of the rule of law—which obliterated all precedent in German Law— and codified Hitler’s life-long obsession with and jealously of the Jews; first, by stripping every Jew living within the borders of the Reich of their legal and human rights, and then by exterminating them.
Writing in Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler declared that Jews had been “sailing under the disguise of a religious community,” in other countries, and he would unilaterally end that by denying thousands of years of Judaism as a faith, Jewish civilization, history and culture. Under the code of Hitler’s cult, Jews were deemed a lesser, competing race—“a spiritual pestilence worse than the Black Death”– that needed to be destroyed, in order for Aryans, a fictitious race, to survive.
Yale University Professor Timothy Snyder, an expert on authoritarianism and author of the best-selling On Tyranny (Tim Duggan Books, NY, 2017) writes in his brilliant 2015 book “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, that Hitler spent every moment “inverting reality,” with his warped worldview and would plunge the world into war to accomplish it:
“ (Hitler considered) the struggle against the Jews was ecological since it concerned not a specific racial enemy or territory, but the conditions of life on earth …Since the Jews fought with ideas, their power was everywhere, and anyone could be their knowing and unknowing agent. The only way to remove such a plague, was to eradicate it at its source…The elimination had to be complete: if one Jewish family remained in Europe, it could infect the entire continent.”
Within seven crazed pages in Mein Kampf (pages 314-321, Manheim translation), Hitler reveals the pervasiveness of his delusional pathology against the Jews,” by blaming “World Jewry” for creating both capitalism and Marxism. He viewed the Jews as a mortal threat to totalitarian rule because of the Jewish people’s centuries long support for civil and human rights, religious tolerance, moral ethics, freedom of expression, the advancement of knowledge, equality, and advocating for “democracy and parliamentarianism,” and the rule of law.
Professor Snyder went on underscore the full extent of Hitler’s madness in a 2015 The Atlantic Magazine interview when his book Black Earth was published:
“So what Hitler does is he inverts; he reverses the whole way we think about ethics, and for that matter the whole way we think about science. What Hitler says is that abstract thought—whether it’s normative or whether it’s scientific—is inherently Jewish. There is in fact no way of thinking about the world, says Hitler, which allows us to see human beings as human beings. Any idea which allows us to see each other as human beings—whether it’s a social contract; whether it’s a legal contract; whether it’s working-class solidarity; whether it’s Christianity—all these ideas come from Jews. And so for people to be people, for people to return to their essence, for them to represent their race, as Hitler sees things, you have to strip away all those ideas. And the only way to strip away all those ideas is to eradicate the Jews. And if you eradicate the Jews, then the world snaps back into what Hitler sees as its primeval, correct state: Races struggles against each other, kill each other, starve each other to death, and try and take land”.
That kind of blistering indictment of Hitler’s insanity and the unimaginable nihilistic depths of his evil, may not have been what Whoopi had in mind when she exposed the Nazi’s Big Lie that Jews were a “race.” But, she pulled the white sheet off of one of the most grotesque of Hitler’s lies that, in some quarters, has survived for nearly 100 years.
We Jews are, and have always been, a civilization, a people, and a religion and culture dating back thousands of years. We are not, and have never been, a race. To accept the Nazi fiction that Jews constituted a separate race, is to have fallen for Hitler’s most pernicious lie of all. Hitler’s fever dream of branding Jews as a sub-human racial entity, was not a semantic exercise; it was a vicious vehicle to create the Ninth (and final) Circle of Anti-Semitism, to make Jews “irredeemable,” as Mordecai M. Kaplan has eloquently written in Judaism as a Civilization. Enslavement, pogroms, or forced conversion to Christianity—as tortuous and deadly as they were to generations of Jews–were no longer enough for the Nazis; only mass extermination would fulfill Hitler’s demented dream.
Whoopi Goldberg, a Black woman—whose human existence was not even contemplated in the US Constitution, and whose race was targeted for abuse, deprivation, and discrimination by Jim Crow laws even after American Slaves were emancipated—was criticized for telling the simple truth that the Nazis tore the world apart and massacred millions to deny: Jews, like many German-Christians, were Caucasians.
In fact, the Nazi’s themselves were upset to discover that Jews were not aseparate race, but part of the Caucasian race, when they were copying elements of the Jim Crow laws of some 30 American states in the early 1930’s as the basis for drafting their own “racial laws” against the Jews. Princeton Law Professor James Q. Whitman’s disconcerting book Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (Princeton University Press, 2017)tells us that the Nazis felt it was a “gross error,” for Jews to be left out of America’s racist legislation. Many of the United States Jim Crow laws contained similar “drop of blood” strictures against Blacks—and criminal penalties for interracial marriage—that appeared in the Nazi’s Nuremberg “Laws.”
Whitman’s book revealed a discussion among Nazi lawyers when the radical Jew-hating Franz Gurtner (who would become the Reich Minister of Justice early in Hitler’s reign) expressed his disappointment that American Jim Crow laws didn’t include the Jews:
“This Legislation is not directed against Jews, but protects the Jews. That gives us nothing to work with; the aim of the American-style approach would be the contrary of our own.”
In short, while the Nazis initially felt America’s Jim Crow laws went a bit too far with punishment for miscegenation (although they later made the punishment for Jewish intermarriage with Germans more severe), they were upset that the American states had not subjected Jews to the same inhumane punishments as Blacks.
Karl Klee, Presiding Criminal Court Judge and Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Berlin, and a Nazi extremist among the Judiciary, did, however, see some use in America’s Jim Crow laws. He saw America—a leading democracy—giving the Nazis permission to declare Jews to be a separate race, and construct the racist Nuremberg dictum specifically against the Jews, the way America’s Jim Crow laws targeted Blacks. Professor Whitman found:
“Klee viewed American segregation as a form of ‘Nazi-style’ race protection, intending to alert the White population to the menace posed by Blacks. Jim Crow, Klee argued, was the American equivalent of one of the principal “race protection” strategies Nazis were using against the Jews…”
I signed my Certificate of Conversion to Judaism 42 years ago, in 1980, when the fundamentalist Christian group, the Moral Majority, was declaring that America was a “Christian Nation.” I agreed to “cast in my lot with the Jewish people and to live in accordance with the Jewish religion,” as the Certificate specifically stated. Nowhere on the Certificate, nor anywhere else, was there box to check for race, nor an oath to sign for ethnicity. I attested in writing, and verbally before a panel of three Rabbis, that I “knew and understood the principles and practices of Judaism.” At no time was I ever asked to join a “race” of Jews, or to recite a secret mantra.
Instead, I remembered the words of Holocaust survivor and Pulitzer Prize recipient Elie Wiesel from his 1978 book A Jew Today, written just two years ahead of my Conversion to Judaism, and over a decade before I worked with Wiesel on a project to promote greater understanding between Jews and Blacks in NYC:
“Whatever he chooses to do, the Jew becomes a spokesman for all Jews, dead and yet to be born, for all beings who live through him and inside him. His mission was never to make the world Jewish, but, rather, to make it more human.”