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January 22, 2015 Off

Bittersweet Freedom

“After Auschwitz, the human con­di­tion is not the same, noth­ing will be the same.“
– Elie Wiesel

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Credit: Yad Vashem

Jan­u­ary 27th marks the 70th anniver­sary of the lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz Birke­nau Con­cen­tra­tion Camp by the Russ­ian army at the end of World War II.  For those who were able to sur­vive the hor­rors of Auschwitz, finally hear­ing the words “We’re free! We’re free!” echo­ing across the camp bar­racks must have seemed almost too good to be true. We often hear sto­ries of the ini­tial encounter between camp sur­vivors and the lib­er­at­ing army, recounted by one child sur­vivor, “They gave us hugs, cook­ies, and choco­late. Being so alone, a hug meant more than any­body could imag­ine because that replaced the human worth that we were starv­ing for. We were not only starved for food but we were starved for human kindness.”

Peo­ple rarely con­sider what hap­pened to the anti-Semitism that was at the root of the Holo­caust once the war ended. There is some­times an assump­tion that anti-Semitism ended with the war or that it was greatly dimin­ished. In fact, this is never the case when geno­cide occurs. The hatred and prej­u­dice still exist, but their man­i­fes­ta­tion is not always bla­tantly obvi­ous.  In the case of the Holo­caust, the world felt a col­lec­tive sense of shame in fac­ing the images of sur­vivors, which was a strong inhibit­ing force against the bla­tant expres­sion of anti-Semitism. Today, decades later and with new gen­er­a­tions ris­ing, the ero­sion of that sense of shame has become a key fac­tor in the surge of anti-Semitism. That’s why edu­ca­tion is more impor­tant now than ever.

After lib­er­a­tion, the sur­vivors of Auschwitz were free to walk out of the camp, and were essen­tially on their own to make their way back to their com­mu­ni­ties and learn if their for­mer homes and val­ued pos­ses­sions were still there.  Many of the young women who sur­vived the camp trav­elled together in small groups, some­times for long dis­tances. Sleep­ing in barns, sheds or out­side in the woods, they were fre­quent vic­tims of vio­lent sex­ual assaults from maraud­ing sol­diers, attacks from which some did not sur­vive. They were tar­geted for two rea­sons – because they were women and because they were Jewish.

The lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz is clearly a crit­i­cally impor­tant event in the his­tory of the Holo­caust and one that should hold an impor­tant place in our col­lec­tive mem­o­ries.  But we also need to be mind­ful that anti-Semitism did not mag­i­cally dis­ap­pear with the lib­er­a­tion of the camps or the sign­ing of the peace treaties.  Today, anti-Semitism has reached to all-time highs across Europe and our mem­o­ries need to be tem­pered with a renewed vig­i­lance to con­tinue to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of prej­u­dice, from sub­tle stereo­types and Holo­caust “jokes” to vio­lent hate crimes against peo­ple per­pe­trated because of who they are.  Only then, will the man­date of “Never Again” become a reality.

How do we bring the lessons of the Holo­caust to stu­dents today in ways that are rel­e­vant to their lives?  The Anti-Defamation League pro­vides pro­grams and resources that help edu­ca­tors and stu­dents study the his­tory of the Holo­caust and apply its lessons to con­tem­po­rary issues of respon­si­ble cit­i­zen­ship, moral deci­sion mak­ing, prej­u­dice, hate, and geno­cide.  Teach­ers can inte­grate mul­ti­me­dia cur­ric­ula into their class­rooms through Echoes and Reflec­tions.

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February 26, 2014 1

Iran Press TV Provides Platform To Emerging Anti-Semitic Voices

Iran’s English-language satel­lite news net­work, Press TV, which pro­vides a plat­form for some of the most well-known anti-Semites, con­spir­acy the­o­rists and Holo­caust deniers in the U.S., also enables lesser known anti-Semites to gain expo­sure for their views.press-tv-anti-semitism-holocaust

Bran­don Mar­tinez, a Canada-based free­lance writer who pro­motes Holo­caust denial and anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries, is among the lat­est fringe voices to be pub­lished by Press TV.

Martinez’s arti­cle, pub­lished on Feb­ru­ary 24, 2014, and titled, “Zion­ist excep­tion­al­ism, fears WW2 truth,” is steeped with anti-Semitic claims and bla­tant Holo­caust denial. In his arti­cle, Mar­tinez describes the Nazi death camp Auschwitz as a pleas­ant place where Jews were encour­aged to join in activ­i­ties, such as play­ing in the orches­tra or par­tic­i­pat­ing in “other cul­tural and leisure activities.”

Mar­tinez not only denies the num­ber of Jews who fell vic­tim to Nazi atroc­i­ties dur­ing World War II, but also denies the exis­tence of gas cham­bers and the use of Zyk­lon B in the mass exter­mi­na­tion of Europe’s Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion. To back up these claims, Mar­tinez cites Holo­caust deniers Mark Web­ber and David Irv­ing.

Fol­low­ing the U.S. tem­po­rary waiver of sanc­tions on broad­casts by Iran’s broad­cast­ing author­ity which broad­casts Press TV, this bla­tantly anti-Semitic con­tent is once again more avail­able to audi­ences in the U.S.

Accord­ing to a biog­ra­phy pro­vided on Press TV’s web­site, Mar­tinez writes on Zion­ism, for­eign pol­icy and “decep­tion in media and pol­i­tics.” Press TV has pub­lished Martinez’s arti­cles on its web­site since Novem­ber 2013 when it pub­lished his first piece on Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper’s visit to Israel. In that arti­cle, Mar­tinez describes Israel as a rogue regime “Born out of ter­ror­ism and eth­nic cleans­ing,” and describes Prime Min­is­ter Harper as “being sub­servience to Israel.”

Martinez’s arti­cles are also found on his per­sonal blog, The Thoughts and Writ­ings of Bran­don Mar­tinez, as well as on con­spir­a­to­r­ial anti-Semitic web­sites like Vet­er­ans Today, and its affil­i­ated site Vet­er­ans News Now.

Below are some exam­ples from Martinez’s arti­cles that have appeared on Press TV and other anti-Semitic websites:

  • Feb­ru­ary 16, 2014:  In an arti­cle titled “Scru­ti­niz­ing Israel role in 2001 anthrax attacks,” Mar­tinez claims that the anthrax attacks imme­di­ately fol­low­ing the 9/11 ter­ror­ist bomb­ings orig­i­nated from Israel’s bio­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal indus­try, and implied the exis­tence of a nefar­i­ous col­lab­o­ra­tion between the Israel and the Bush admin­is­tra­tion to carry out the attacks. Mar­tinez also claims that the Israelis placed the blame for the anthrax attacks on its Arab ene­mies as a pre­text to force the U.S. to go to war against Iraq.
  • Jan­u­ary 26, 2014: In an arti­cle titled “Israeli mil­i­tarism pred­i­cated on 9/11 decep­tion,” Mar­tinez claims that Israel has a his­tory of con­duct­ing false flag oper­a­tions and that the 9/11 attack was Israel’s “grand­est deception.”
  • Jan­u­ary 13, 2014: In an arti­cle titled “Zion­ist per­ver­sion of his­tory threat­ens world peace,” Mar­tinez pro­motes the age-old anti-Semitic con­spir­acy of Zion­ist con­trol over Hol­ly­wood. Zion­ist con­trol of Hol­ly­wood, Mar­tinez alleges, is why Hitler is depicted as a “vil­lain­ous demon,” while in real­ity, “Zion­ist Jews them­selves were Hitler’s most enthu­si­as­tic col­lab­o­ra­tors.” Else­where in the arti­cle, Mar­tinez calls the Holo­caust and the num­ber of Jew­ish vic­tims a “myth” and part of “Zion­ist propaganda.”

Extrem­ists like anti-Semite David Duke, anti-Semitic colum­nist Kevin Bar­rett and Holo­caust deny­ing book pub­lisher Michael San­tomauro, remain fre­quent con­trib­u­tors to Press TV’s web­site and reg­u­larly fea­tured on the network’s programs.

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