פורום השואה ביד ושם כנס
The arm of a Holocaust survivor branded by the Nazis
Photo: EPA
The Auschwitz death camp

Should liberation of Auschwitz be celebrated with luxe dinner parties?

Opinion: The presence of survivors who bear the numbers branded onto their arms would have been a clearer and louder message to those promoting hate, than the world leaders honored by an invitation to the over the top event in Jerusalem

Shoshana Chen |
Published: 01.22.20, 23:35
There is only one justified reason for the participation of world leaders in the two-day event of the World Holocaust Forum. It is for each and every one of them to declare both in English and in their native language: "I commit on behalf of myself and my government to fight any overt manifestation of anti-Semitism in my country."
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  • Now, seventy-five years after the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head once again, and world leaders who are set to gather in Jerusalem must make it clear: Never again!
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    The Auschwitz death camp
    The Auschwitz death camp
    The Auschwitz death camp
    (Photo: AP)
    Auschwitz, the largest of the concentration camps, is a symbol and an extreme manifestation of the depth of moral corruption that anti-Semitism can evoke. And, unless bold statements are made during the event, the visit of world leaders this week will be nothing more than a public relations stunt, an insult to the memory of the victims and survivors of Auschwitz.
    What exactly is the World Holocaust Forum celebrating? The liberation of Auschwitz was not a festive occasion for anyone.
    The vast majority of Jews brought to that hellhole were not alive on the day of its liberation. At least 1.1 million of them - Jews from Poland, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, France, the Netherlands and more - had long since been turned to ash.
    Just 10 days before the liberation, on the night of January 17, 1945, some 58,000 of those still alive in the camp were forced to embark on a death march.
    Having survived the camp and the hellish march, 30,000 of them were cast into yet another inferno – concentration camps inside Germany from which they were not liberated until the first week of May of that year.
    The Russian troops who liberated Auschwitz found survivors numbering anywhere between 2,000 and 7,600 people, depending on the source. They were left behind because they had not been able to walk.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    פורום השואה ביד ושם כנס
    פורום השואה ביד ושם כנס
    The arm of a Holocaust survivor branded by the Nazis
    (Photo: EPA)
    "They crawled. Like lizards," wrote Yehiel De-Nur, an author and a survivor himself who coined the term "Muselmann" – a person who was suffering from a combination of starvation and exhaustion, and who was resigned to his or her impending death. "Humans who weighed as much as their bones and whose intestines were as fine as a spider's web," De-Nur wrote.
    Why is the government of Israel celebrating the liberation of these people with a luxe dinner party at the President's Residence in Jerusalem?
    An army of producers, chefs and some 200 waiters working to come up with updated dishes suitable for specific pallets. I read the reports in disbelief. Are you out of your minds?
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    ארוחת הבוקר במעון רה"מ
    ארוחת הבוקר במעון רה"מ
    Breakfast cooked for French President Macron
    The "invitation" to Auschwitz was burned on to the skin of prisoners with nothing to numb the pain. That mark on the arms of survivors should have qualified as an invitation to the grand events at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, rather than the measly 40 chairs leftover after 780 dignitaries were given most of the available seats.
    The special tent that was erected to protect attendees from the weather should have been filled not only with the heads of state, but those whose arms were branded with numbers. At least those who could still make the journey to Jerusalem.
    No ceremony or presentation would be as clear and powerful a message as the attendance of those with numbers burned into their left arms as if calling out in a loud voice: We are here!
    Members of the delegations and members of the press could have been asked to wait outside. Huddled in their winter coats, in the Jerusalem chill that is far less hard to bear than the Polish winter the inmates of Auschwitz had to endure during the selection process.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Auschwitz death camp
    Auschwitz death camp
    Auschwitz death camp
    (Photo: AFP)
    Who will wipe the dirt off Roza Robota's face? Roza, upon who's story I was raised. A young woman who was hung during morning call assembly with two of her friends for her sin of smuggling a bit of gunpowder to assist the Sonderkommando prisoner revolt. Though the revolt was quashed, it halted the use of gas chambers in October 1944, something that warplanes from countries whose leaders are gracing us with their presence this week, failed to do.
    Roza's legacy was in a song she asked to sing before her execution:
    "Jews, you will forget.
    A day will come when you will return to your normal lives,
    and forget all that had happened here."
    In her wildest dreams, Roza could never have imagined over 40 world leaders enjoying a grand dinner party fit for kings, while "celebrating" the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, a liberation that evaded Roza and the other prisoners who died along with her.
    The survivors would not have diminished the elegance of the festivities because in the camp even a rotten potato peel was considered a royal feast.
    Shoshana Chen, daughter of prisoner 48956 from the Auschwitz death camp

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