‘Jews Are Still At Risk’

Federal officials and  representatives from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial  Museum in Washington,  D.C., have announced  the seizure of a long-lost diary kept by a close  confidant of Adolph Hitler, Alfred Rosenberg. (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

Federal officials and representatives from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., have announced the seizure of a long-lost diary kept by a close confidant of Adolph Hitler, Alfred Rosenberg. (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

Late last week, federal officials, along with representatives of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington formally announced at a news conference the seizure of the long-lost “Rosenberg Diary.” The book, which had gone missing following the Nuremberg Trials in the late 1940s, is a loose collection of the recollections — from spring 1936 to winter 1944 — of Alfred Rosenberg, one of the most influential and important members of the Third Reich and the Nazi Party.

According to a release by the Department of Homeland Security, Rosenberg was privy to much of the planning for the Nazi racial state, the mass murder of the Jewish people, the planning and conduct of World War II and the occupation of Soviet Territory. Rosenberg was one of a dozen senior Nazi officials executed in October 1946.

“We can already see that the Rosenberg diary is no ordinary diary. It is a varnished account of a Nazi leader — his thoughts … interactions with other Nazi leaders,” said John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a video statement. “Reading Rosenberg’s diary is to stare into the mind of a dark soul, a man untroubled by the isolation and violent extermination of Jews and others he considered undesirable, a man consumed with racial and ethnic superiority.”

Preliminary reports by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum indicate that the diary could offer new insight into meetings Rosenberg had with Hitler, and his top leaders such as Heinrich Himmler and Herman Goering. In addition to conducting the Nazi Party’s foreign affairs department and editing the Nazi newspaper, Rosenberg directed the systematic Nazi looting of Jewish art, cultural and religious property.

062113_jews_at_risk2Holocaust survivor Edith Cord, 85, who currently resides in Columbia, just learned about the rediscovery of the diary. She told the JT she was only vaguely familiar with this piece of news, but anytime another artifact or event surrounding or reminiscent of the Holocaust surfaces, “it brings it all back and that is very painful.”

However, she said Jews — and the rest of the world — should take this time to focus on the lessons of the Holocaust. She said, “The world has not learned anything, and the Jews are still at risk.”

Cord came down on the American government in particular, describing the current administration as acting weak in the face of transgressions and wrongdoings.

“When you are the biggest and most powerful country in the world, you need to speak out and support forces of freedom and our president has not done that,” Cord stressed. “Americans — even American Jews — don’t seem to recognize that.”
Cord equated current administration policies with Iran and Syria to children in the playground. She said America “needs to stand up to the bullies in the playground. You have to stand up to them. Otherwise, today it is your dessert, tomorrow your lunch, then your lunch money, then your school bag. It is so painful to see our government not stand up to bullies.”

Cord called on the younger generation to wake up. As more of Rosenberg’s story comes to light, she said she hopes it will make people more “alert and awake.”

“People need to understand what our obligation is: As free people, we have to protect freedom,” Cord said.

Morton said that as survivors like Cord age and pass on, there will be fewer first-hand testimonies of the atrocities of the Shoah. He said that is what makes the Rosenberg diary so significant.

“Sixty-eight years have passed since the fall of Berlin and soon there will be no more human testimony of what happened during the Holocaust — and just as importantly, of how it happened,” Morton said. “So it is important to preserve all written records from this time period.”

The 400 pages of the diary were discovered by the Holocaust Museum and an agent from Homeland Security Investigations in the home of academic Herbert Richardson, who was living near Buffalo, N.Y. The Holocaust Museum has conducted only a preliminary analysis of the piece, and more information will become available in the coming weeks.
“The Third Reich and the Holocaust were a shameful chapter in our human experience,” said Morton. “We must do our part to remember that suffering and to learn from it so our children’s future charts a better course.”

Maayan Jaffe is JT managing editor mjaffe@jewishtimes.com

Yom Hashoah’s Necessary Story

This is a season of remembering.

Last week, during the holiday of Passover, we remembered one of the defining events of Jewish history — the Exodus from Egypt. On Sunday, our community will gather to remember one of the defining events of our time — the Holocaust, and the effort to annihilate European Jewry some 70 years ago.

The annual Yom Hashoah Commemoration, sponsored by Baltimore Jewish Council, will be held at Chizuk Amuno Congregation. This and other gatherings on Sunday remind us to remember the horrors of the Holocaust and its threat to the survival of the Jewish people, and to honor the memory of those who perished.

As the generation of those who lived through the Shoah diminishes, our memory fades. Yom Hashoah therefore calls upon us to remember the Holocaust in new ways. Until now, much of our connection to and understanding of the Shoah came from Holocaust survivors. We have relied on their experiences and memories to guard us from forgetting. And they have been exemplary teachers, leaders and educators.

But the perseverance of survivors is not a long-term strategy for remembering. For that we can turn to the Passover Seder and its repeated exhortation to teach our children the story. The Seder shows how you don’t need to be a survivor to remember, and you don’t have to have lived in the past to feel for it or to appreciate it.  Rather, you can “ remember”  through symbols, through experiences, through questions and through a ritualized telling.

In order to ensure our communal memory of the Holocaust, we need to make sure that our children are participants, or at least attendees, at our Shoah commemorations. We need to teach them to remember.  We need to educate them about the symbols and the experiences of the Holocaust.  And we need to recognize that it’s not going to be too long before our children will be the ones who will be relied upon to remember and retell the Holocaust story.

If we are to assure “Never again,”  we need to make sure that the memory lives on and that the story continues to be told.