genesis of genocide Poem by gershon hepner
GENESIS OF GENOCIDE
Jewish history comes with homily,
the seder shared by all the family
the best example. When men talk about
the Holocaust the homilies they're taught
homogenize the fate that menaced us
the Jews, with that of gentiles. Genesis
of genocide is changed: the hermeneutic
of revision makes it therapeutic
for those who wish to drive Jews from their land.
"The Jews, " they say, "have like the Nazis sinned,
creating victims just as Nazis did,
replacing Hitler with the settlers' God, "
revisionists exclaiming "Out of order! "
when hearing at the end of every seder
the mantra, "Next year in Jerusalem! "
while they as chauvinists condemn
the Jews, in spite of their thousand years
of blood and sweat and toil, and lots of tears,
as then in Jewish wounds rub salt, declaring
that there were other holocausts, comparing
other genocidal horrors to
what happened to the Jews, a point of view
that totally distorts significance of what,
in Wannsee, Hitler's minions chose to plot,
reducing the Solution that was Final
to a competition's quarterfinal.
The greatest homily of Jewish history
is Jews' survival, a great mystery
which it's impossible to overhype,
based on the theme of their great anthem, hope.
The last part of this poem was inspired by an emotional outburst that I had after Gerald Duchovnay told Linda, Florence Zhou and me about how he teaches students in Texas about the Holocaust by using the Shoah to explain to them "the holocaust in Sudan."
Ed Rothstein ("Memories of Holocaust, Fortified, " NYT,4/22/11) writes from Skokie:
Before the $45 million Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center opened here two years ago, there was some urgency in completing its 65,000-square-foot building, which now stands so incongruously monumental in the midst of Chicago's suburban landscape. At one time,7,000 Jews bearing the scars of the Holocaust had lived in Skokie with their families, and they were aging. Many had contributed artifacts to the museum; some participated when it was just a storefront on Main Street; some had their oral histories recorded for its exhibition and their lives chronicled in the institution's imposing companion book, "Memory and Legacy."…..
If we want to find a lesson in the events, for example, is it that individuals should not be bystanders or that nations should not be appeasers? Is the lesson that everybody should have a social conscience, or that a different kind of political action is needed when such forces emerge? Was the Holocaust a product of intolerance or an expression of more specific archetypal hatreds?
One of the challenges faced by Holocaust museums as survivors die is to understand their experience by seeing it through more than their eyes, to examine the past without homogenizing it with platitudes, to offer history without homily.
This poem echoes one that I wrote on 2/17/09, inspired by a statement by the Lubavitcher Rebbe:
TOMORROW MORNING, EARLY
"Will there be another holocaust? "
they asked the Rebbe of Lubavitch.
For an answer he was never lost.
"Of course there will be. Man is savage."
"When will this happen? " they inquired.
"Morgen in der frih, " he said,
Tomorrow morning, early, has transpired,
and millions are already dead.
It's happened in Rwanda and Sudan,
as in silence we looked on.
It couldn't happen here, we say. It can,
and millions more will soon be gone.
Long ago an interviewer asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, if he believed the Holocaust could ever happen in America. "Morgen in der frih, " was his reply, Yiddish words that mean: "Early tomorrow morning."
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