By Ira Bedzow
While there is a popular marketing expression that “there is no such thing as bad press,” there is one very important exception to this rule–Never Go Nazi.
On Thursday, Facebook removed an ad posted by the Trump campaign because it contained a symbol–the upside down red triangle–that is reminiscent of the marker on concentration camp prisoners that identified them as political prisoners. One could see the cunning marketing mind at work. Hinting that angry mobs are Nazis condemns them in a shocking and controversial way.
If Facebook wouldn’t pull the ad, it would get millions of views and become a conversation on social and other media. If Facebook does pull the ad, it would still get millions of views and become the conversation on social and other media. Either way, the Trump campaign would get immeasurable exposure, condemn and alienate their opposition, and pull the conversation to become one of good against evil–peace and stability, law and order, against violence and brutality.
As the Facebook message declares, “It’s important that EVERY American comes together at a time like this to send a united message that we will not stand for radical actions any longer…” Forget the fact that the metaphor is misaligned, since the angry mobs would be the political prisoners, i.e. the victims of Nazi persecution. The implication is enough. The Trump campaign went Nazi.
“Going Nazi” is a counter-productive strategy because it does two things simultaneously. It stops conversation while at the same time makes light of the gravity of the conversation that can no longer occur.
By calling someone a Nazi, one refers to his or her opposition as the worst of the worst. It also implies that anyone who seeks to understand the opposition’s side is guilty by association. Who is ever right by sympathizing with Nazis? Those who side with the Nazi callers–rather than those called Nazis–are also vindicated because they now see themselves on the side of good against the ultimate evil.
The result is that the now-named Nazis no longer see a point in advocating for their views through social discourse. This leaves anomic activism which at its best turns to protest and at its worst turns to violence. The Nazi finger-pointers reap the rewards of confirmation bias by creating a situation where the consequences of their name-calling leads to its own justification. Most importantly, it leaves everyone in the middle–and society at large–with no peaceful means to confront and resolve the underlying challenge that was at stake in the first place.
While, of course, it is important to call things what they are, “Going Nazi” makes light of the atrocities of the Holocaust in a way that disrespects the millions of people who were brutally murdered for no other reason except hatred and prejudice. It also creates a mockery of all injustice– past, present and future. When everyone is a Nazi, then no one is.
Remember when the show Seinfeld went Nazi? The “Soup Nazi,” who first made his appearance on the show in 1995, made fabulous soup, but his insistence on a strict ordering regimen made him seem like a soldier in the Third Reich. When George complained about not receiving bread with his soup, the then (maybe still) famous catchphrase “No soup for you!” made everyone watching the show laugh out loud. It was funny because it was dark. It was also socially damaging.
Comedy is meant to portray solemn ideas in absurd ways in order to allow critique without condemnation. When done right, comedy becomes social commentary in a way that is non-threatening. It allows people to think about serious issues lightly by toning down the emotional stakes so that the real truths of the matter can be examined. But, when it makes light of an issue, such as with the Soup Nazi, comedy risks turning that issue into a parody of itself. When this occurs, there is no longer a perceived threat to the issue, since all anyone can see is the parody. At this point, the threat becomes stronger and more ubiquitous, simply because no one can see it lurking underneath anymore.
What the Trump campaign did wasn’t funny, and it wasn’t meant to be comedy, but it accomplished the same thing. It made light of the conversation in such a way that it risks making us lose sight of the darker picture. Social discontent is high and political instability is rising. What communities need now are ways to keep conversation going, not ways to stop them. It needs ways for people to see other points of view for what they are, not ways to castigate people with the hope that they don’t rise up.
As the Trump campaign’s Facebook message states, “It’s important that EVERY American comes together at a time like this,” but going Nazi is not the way to do it.
By Stacy Gallin
As we commemorate Yom Hashoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — this week, I keep thinking about the Hebrew phrase, L’dor V’dor. In English, this phrase means “from generation to generation.” It refers to the essential task in Judaism of passing down traditions and education from one generation to another. It is how we honor our ancestors — by telling their stories to our children and encouraging them to tell their children. It is particularly important as a mechanism for preserving the memory of those who lost their lives during the Holocaust and making sure the world never forgets. Remember the past; protect the future.
The essential act of transmitting information from older generations to younger ones is something that seems antithetical in the age of covid-19, where we have been told time and time again that intergenerational transmission is to be feared and avoided at all costs. Yet, as someone who has dedicated my academic career to human dignity, health and the Holocaust, I feel as though I am part of the “sandwich generation.”
I have a responsibility to my ancestors who were persecuted and killed for being Jewish to tell their stories, to pass down their traditions, and to educate and empower the next generation to become active agents of social change who will fight for freedom, tolerance and justice for all people. It is my duty to speak for the generation that was silenced before me and to help the next generation find their voice.
As covid-19 has grown into a pandemic, I have seen divisions arise in society that are deeply concerning. I have remained silent for fear of disrespecting the enormity of the Holocaust by erroneously comparing our current situation to what took place during World War II. However, to not acknowledge the shift in basic ethical principles being proposed at varying levels within health care, politics, public policy, the media and the general public would be a mistake.
We must learn from history, lest we repeat it. Sometimes that means exploring our darkest times and realizing that we are not so different from those that came before us. In his book, “Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis,” Robert Proctor wrote, “In times of war or economic crisis things can happen that otherwise – in times of peace or economic stability — would never be tolerated.”
While covid-19 cannot and should not be classified as a war, the effects felt across the world most certainly account for allowances that would not be made under normal circumstances. The National Socialist Party was able to use times of war as an excuse to shift the traditional medical paradigm in which the doctor cares primarily for his or her patient to one in which the goal of health care was to strengthen the nation at the expense of the individual. This transformation of the medical ethos led to, among other things, a health care system that ministered to the strong instead of caring for the sick or vulnerable. A hierarchy of human life resulted in which people were labeled, persecuted and eventually murdered based on their perceived “fitness” and worth to society.
Over the past few months, we have been inundated with conversations about allocation of scarce resources and who should be favored if there are not enough life-sustaining supplies for everyone. Age has been suggested as an exclusionary criterion, providing a subtle message about the way in which society devalues the elderly population. The concept of instrumental value to society — giving front-line health care workers priority — has been a consideration as well, which literally creates a hierarchy of worth to society based on profession.
The Office of Civil Rights within the Department of Health and Human Services had to issue a bulletin after two states were found to have intellectual disabilities among the criteria for allocation of resources. In a health care system already plagued by inherent, systemic racism, co-morbidities such as diabetes and heart disease, whose outcomes are directly affected by equity and access to care, have also been proposed as determining factors for ethical guidelines. These recommendations are meant to provide help and guidance in an unprecedented crisis. While the motivations are certainly not the same as they were in Nazi Germany, nonetheless the idea of a hierarchy of human life remains troubling, as does the idea that health care providers are again being tasked with prioritizing the good of the many over the good of the individual.
As we commemorate Yom Hashoah, we remember what can happen when political or social constructs are used to discriminate and divide us. Understanding the ways in which basic ethical principles were distorted by outside forces can help us recognize when history is repeating itself. We must rise above the desire to adopt a system of catastrophe ethics that would otherwise be unacceptable and remember our universal truths. We must look to our friends and colleagues in other countries who are facing the same challenges and realize that covid-19 does not discriminate based on race, religion or culture.
The responsibility of remembering our shared past, experiencing our shared present and protecting our shared future belongs to all of us because we are all members of humankind. One day, when we tell our grandchildren about this unprecedented time in history, we want to pass down a story of unity, not division: L’dor V’dor.
While researching my previous work in this field: Birth, Sex and Abuse: Women’s Voices under Nazi Rule, I was horrified by the number of accounts of child sex abuse that I encountered. This led to the development of Betrayed.
Betrayed: Child Sex Abuse in the Holocaust is a ground-breaking book that exposes a taboo aspect of Holocaust history: the sexual abuse of children. The Nazi’s genocidal brutality facilitated the abuse of children in addition to targeting them for murder. After the war, they were again betrayed by those who discounted their experiences, and by Holocaust scholars who refused to acknowledge their stories or give credence to their memories.
Noam Rachmilevitch, archivist at the Ghetto Fighter's House, Israel, writes this about the book:
“With a rare combination of humane empathy and scholarly criticism, Beverley Chalmers delves into a disturbingly difficult subject: the sexual abuse of children during World War II. Her research sheds light on the various forms of child abuse, and undermines conventional categorization patterns. For example, Chalmers shows that children were sexually abused not only by people related to the occupying forces or by hostile strangers, but also by others, including some of their very protectors. Chalmers puts the children and their suffering in the center and makes their voices – their cries – heard; by doing so, she creates a wider awareness of this dreadful phenomenon, awareness that is crucial to anyone who wishes to build a better world for our children.”
Dr Tessa Chelouche M.D, Department of Bioethics and the Holocaust, UNESCO Chair of Bioethics, Haifa, Israel, writes:
“Sexual abuse was one of the many horrors that some children were forced to endure during the Holocaust. But their stories deserve to be told. Betrayed is a well written and researched, albeit difficult, read that gives these victims a voice to be heard.”
-Beverley Chalmers, (DSc (Med); PhD)
Groundbreaking Special Issue on Bioethics and the Holocaust published in Conatus Journal of Philosophy
By: Stacy Gallin
As thousands of people from different backgrounds march in solidarity against anti-Semitism today, Ira Bedzow, Vangelis Protopapadakis, and I are honored to announce the publication of Conatus 4.2 (2019)- Special Issue: "Bioethics and the Holocaust." This work represents a a collaboration between people of different religious, geographic and cultural backgrounds who all share a common goal: ensuring that the lessons of the Holocaust are not forgotten.
Today and tomorrow, people from all over the world will be speaking out against anti-Semitism, intolerance and violence and standing together to promote human dignity and equality. Now, more than ever, we must all do our part to remember the past and protect the future. This special issue represents a collaboration between almost 30 authors from 8 countries and a guest editorial board consisting of 10 individuals from 9 countries all doing their part to preserve the legacy of those whose lives were lost during the Holocaust and to ensure that history does not repeat itself. #StandingTogether #NoHateNoFear
The issue as a whole as well as individual papers are accessible through the Conatus website: http://www.conatus.philosophy.uoa.gr/iss…/current-issue.html, and also through the online platform: https://ejournals.epublishing.ekt.gr/…/Cona…/issue/view/1188
From Dawn till Dusk
From Dawn till Dusk is an important new book by Evangelos D. Protopapadakis, loyal supporter and partner of the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust, with a foreword by MIMEH's Founding Director, Stacy Gallin. This book embraces the conceptual challenges often associated with Bioethics by taking the reader on a journey that embodies the circle of life and what it means to be human. The beginning and the end of life have always been an impossible riddle to humans. Bioethics does not aspire to unveil utter truths regarding the purpose of our existence; on the contrary, its task is to settle controversial issues that arise within this finite, very fragile and vulnerable life, yet a life we still have to live. This book discusses thorny ethical issues that transcend time and are related to the dawn and the dusk of life: abortion and infanticide, genetic engineering, human reproductive cloning, the fear of death, rational suicide, and the right to die. The book's highest aspiration, though, is to both provide the reader with an opportunity to see the world from different perspectives and to showcase the irresistible charms of bioethical debates.
About the Author:
Evangelos D. Protopapadakis was born in Athens in 1972. In 2002 he completed his PhD Thesis on Bioethics with the title The Idea of Euthanasia in Contemporary Bioethics. Since 2014 he is an Assistant Professor in Applied Ethics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. He is also the Director of the NKUA Applied Philosophy Research Laboratory, the Head of the Greek Unit of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics (Haifa), the Editor-in-Chief of Conatus - Journal of Philosophy. He is the author of 5 books in Applied Ethics and Bioethics, and the editor or co-editor of 10 volumes; he has published more than 70 articles and book chapters in journals and collective volumes. website: www.protopapadakis.gr; Orcid Id: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7502-3117.
Visit the publisher's website to learn more or to purchase this book: www.logos-verlag.de/cgi-bin/engbuchmid?isbn=4990&lng=eng&id=
The First into the Dark
During the 12 years of the Nazi regime, a secret program of ‘euthanasia’ was employed against the sick and disabled. More than 300,000 Europeans with disabilities were covertly murdered and their families issued with falsified death certificates. A further 400,000 were deemed by special courts to have ‘hereditary diseases’ and were sterilised against their will.
This aggregate of crimes, now known as Krankenmorde (the murder of the sick), was organised and performed by doctors, nurses, bureaucrats and designated military groups. Many would go on to commit larger scale crimes against humanity in the Holocaust.
From the extraordinary eyewitness account of eight-year-old Elvira Hempel, a girl declared "feeble minded" and sent to be gassed at the Brandenburg killing centre, only to be sent back to her institution, The First into the Dark reveals a history of the victims, witnesses, opponents to and perpetrators of the Krankenmorde. It presents an accessible analysis of that era within the rise of ‘scientific’ eugenic discourse and traces the implications for contemporary society—moral values and ethical challenges in end of life decisions, reproduction and contemporary genetics, disability and human rights, and in remembrance of and atonement for the past.
About the authors:
Dr Michael Robertson is a consultant psychiatrist, Clinical Associate Professor of Mental Health Ethics at the Sydney Health Ethics centre at the University of Sydney, and a visiting professorial fellow at the Sydney Jewish Museum.
Dr Astrid Ley is a historian and historian of medicine. She is deputy director at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial near Berlin.
Dr Edwina Light is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Sydney Health Ethics centre at the University of Sydney, and a visiting fellow at the Sydney Jewish Museum.
To read more about the book or to purchase or download a copy, visit the publisher's website: utsepress.blog/2019/09/28/the-first-into-the-dark-the-authors-story/
To download a free audio version of the book through January 2020, visit archive.org/details/thefirstintothedark
By Stacy Gallin
On July 4, 2018, I said goodbye to Eva Mozes Kor, Holocaust survivor, Mengele twin, my friend, mentor and inspiration, in the Krakow airport for what would be the final time. We had just concluded a life-changing journey to Auschwitz with the Davidson College men’s basketball team, an idea that was formulated in 2017 after a colleague and I met Eva and witnessed her powerful message of survival, forgiveness and hope when she spoke to a full auditorium at Misericordia University, a Catholic University in Dallas, Pennsylvania. She helped us launch the Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Health and the Holocaust, where I currently serve as the director. That first night I met her, I promised to do everything I could to help share her message. Eva told me that I was a “firecracker,” and that she had no doubt I would make good on my promise. It was one of the best compliments I have ever received.
Over the next several months, Eva and I spoke frequently about how best to share her message with the world. Through the nonprofit organization that I founded, the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust, and the nonprofit organization that Eva founded, CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, we were able to organize this trip with the Davidson basketball team in an effort to educate a new generation of leaders and influencers about the anti-Semitism and human rights violations that took place during the Holocaust. Our goal was to inspire these young men to use their platform to become active agents of social change. The team spent four harrowing days touring Auschwitz-Birkenau and hearing Eva’s testimony. They witnessed the remnants of evil as they walked through the gas chambers. Those moments will remain with all of us forever and have already inspired many of the players to actively promote Holocaust education and the promotion of human dignity for all.
But there was more to our trip that we will remember as well. When the players and coaches first arrived at our hotel, she challenged them to try and make a basket…by shooting a ball into the seat of her walker. She fist-bumped each and every of them. She took selfies with the players because she thought the difference in height—two feet between her and some of them—was absolutely amazing. Knowing the circumstances of her early life, it’s hard for most people to understand this, but she was, quite simply, joy and hope personified.
Eva was a true inspiration. Sharing the story of her time in Auschwitz to teach people the power of forgiveness was not an easy thing to do, nor did it always make her popular among her peers. She didn’t care about that. She knew that her experience could help other people, and that was all that mattered to her. I don’t think it was a coincidence that she passed away at the end of her annual trip to Krakow, where she would take 100 people each year to show them the tragedy of the Holocaust juxtaposed with her story of survival, strength and hope. It was, quite simply, Eva’s way. If you knew Eva, you knew there was no way she was going to let anything stop her from sharing her message one final time.
On July 4, one year to the day after I last saw Eva Mozes Kor in Krakow, I received a text message telling me about her passing. The message read simply, “Rest in Peace, Eva. Such an inspiration and an amazing person.” It was sent from one of the Davidson basketball players. That speaks volumes about Eva’s impact and her legacy. I have been fortunate in my career to meet many wonderful people with amazing stories to share. However, I have never been more fortunate than the day I was blessed to meet Eva Mozes Kor. Getting to know Eva was—and will always be—one of the great privileges of my life.
Eva, I hope you know how much you meant to so many of us and how much good you did for the world. I promise to keep fighting the good fight and keep sharing your story, just as I did on that first night I was lucky enough to meet you.
Baruch Dayan Emet. May Eva’s memory be a blessing to us all.
By Ira Bedzow and Stacy Gallin
After refusing to admit that the Holocaust was a “factual, historical event,” Principal William Latson of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton, Fla., was removed from his position and reassigned to a different position in the Palm Beach County school district.
It is not that he personally denied the Holocaust. Rather, in an email to a student’s parent, he suggested that, as a school district employee, he was not in a position to say that the Holocaust is a factual, historical event since not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.
While it is important to recognize the limits of one’s own expertise, and it is usually a good idea to avoid speaking as an authority on issues that are outside of the scope of one’s proficiency, Latson’s claim is not only unacceptable, it is irresponsible. One does not need to be a professional historian to know that the Holocaust occurred.
We can visit Auschwitz and walk through the barracks of the concentration camps that now serve as memorials and house personal artifacts of the victims, such as clothing, shoes, prosthetic limbs, even human hair. We can stand in the gas chambers and see the ovens used to burn the bodies of those who were murdered. We can talk to survivors and see the numbers tattooed on their arms.
Moreover, when educating students, it is vital to provide them with the skills to analyze data, verify which data are reliable, and arrive at justifiable conclusions. However, it does a disservice to students to make them question the veracity of obvious facts, simply because “not everyone believes in them.”
Imagine if the principal questioned the importance of teaching “Introduction to Physics,” simply because not everyone believes that gravity exists, or banning globes because there are flat-earthers in the world. Having students “see all sides” of a complicated issue where values can be prioritized in different ways with varying implications so that they can arrive at a conclusion based on facts and their values is one thing. Having students exposed to truth and falsity as two equally valid options is quite another.
Underlying Latson’s refusal is a question of the importance of Holocaust education. Currently, just 11 states, including Florida, have laws requiring schools to provide Holocaust education. The most recent state to require it was Oregon in 2019, whose law stipulates that instruction be designed to “prepare students to confront the immorality of the Holocaust, genocide and other acts of mass violence and to reflect on the causes of related historical events.”
The importance of Holocaust education is not simply raising awareness of a historical fact. Holocaust education can provide a unique lens to many contemporary social, political and professional issues that challenge us today.
One can see the deleterious effects of hardening ideologies and prejudice, not only along the margins of society, but even within those sectors of society that have traditionally been seen as its stalwarts. For example, members of various professions, such as in law and health care, have allowed political, racial and religious bigotry to affect the ways in which they engage the most vulnerable.
By showing that the tragedy of the Holocaust is not only a tragedy in Jewish history but a lesson for everyone, Holocaust education can serve to foster civics and ethics education. The Holocaust can serve as a historical example for understanding the danger of placing societal progress and political expediency ahead of individuals.
Holocaust education is an opportunity to teach the next generation about the essential connection between the past and the future, to give them the tools they need to learn about moral decision making and to emphasize our responsibility to stand up and speak out when we see evil in any form. How we teach the memory of the Holocaust is intricately tied to our vision for the future of our society. Let’s stop thinking that “Never Forget” is enough of a message.
Let’s remember not only for the sake of remembering, but for the sake of developing our students to become people who respect each other.
Bedzow is the director of the biomedical ethics and humanities program at New York Medical College and Senior Scholar at the Aspen Center for Social Values. Gallin is the director of the Center for Human Dignity in Bioethics, Health and the Holocaust at Misericordia University and the founder and director of the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust.
As we commemorate Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), The Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust (MIMEH) proudly announces a new educational initiative that will explore how sports can serve to engage a new generation about the importance and relevance of Holocaust education and the promotion of human dignity for all people. This project was made by possible through a generous grant that will allow MIMEH to collaborate with other Holocaust education centers and universities throughout the world to amplify the message of remembrance, education and activism.
With recent studies showing a decline in the basic awareness of the Holocaust among young people and an increase among anti-Semitism worldwide, MIMEH is rethinking our approach to Holocaust education to preserve the legacy of those who perished during the Holocaust and fulfill our promise of “Never Again.”
The initiative will build off of the success of a pilot program that aimed to combat these disturbing trends with an innovative program targeting a broad, intergenerational audience. In partnership with MIMEH and CANDLES Holocaust Museum, the Davidson College men’s basketball team made a life-changing journey to Auschwitz in July 2018. Over the course of four days, the team experienced first-hand the horrors that took place during the Holocaust. A short film of the event documented the players’ reaction and increased motivation to take active roles in becoming leaders for social change.
Since returning home, the players and coaches have continued their efforts to promote Holocaust education, equality, dignity, and justice for humankind. Davidson guard Kellan Grady, an all-Atlantic 10 first team selection who recently entered the 2019 NBA draft stated, “Auschwitz taught me the importance of respecting the dignity of all individuals regardless of their background. On Yom Hashoah and every day, it’s imperative that we continue to honor and remember the victims of the Holocaust, while also making a concerted effort to continue to respect the dignity of all people.”
MIMEH is working to build on this foundation to create an innovative educational curriculum that incorporates athletics into Holocaust education to reach a broad audience and inspire a new generation to remember the past and protect the future.
The “Davidson College Basketball Journey of Remembrance” video is currently available to view online at www.mimeh.org For more information about this new initiative, please contact Stacy Gallin, Founding Director of MIMEH, at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are pleased to announce a special issue of Conatus Journal of Philosophy dedicated to the intersection of Holocaust Studies and Bioethics. This issue will be guest edited by MIMEH's Director, Dr. Stacy Gallin, and Educational Consultant, Dr. Ira Bedzow. Please see Call for Papers below and share with interested friends and colleagues.