Every Jew of the second half of the 20th century was a child of the Holocaust. So was all humanity. Survival could only be a source of guilt, whether spoken or unspoken. We bore the imprint of departed souls.
The silence that descended was the silence of the lost. It seems to me that I was raised in silence and that I was far from alone in that. Language could not accommodate such a volume of ashes. Death’s German mastery lingered. The new European prosperity was an epilogue to the unspeakable, its disguise.
Beneath the gleaming postwar surfaces there lurked the indelible stain of barbarism. A human stain, the bruise of complicity in all its shades.
After a while I wanted to understand the things unsaid in the rush to build on the ruins. The covered-over came after me. As a child of the repetitively displaced, I was perhaps a natural target for smothered memory. I wanted to understand where I came from. I wanted to understand my mother’s madness. Never should it be forgotten how onerous it is to forget.He ends:
I feel a great unease. We have embarked on the 21st century with the painful yet essential knowledge of the last one slipping from us. Last month, some American Jews cheered a dangerous demagogue.
Two thousand years ago Hillel admonished us: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?"But the comments to this article.... some are moving and compassionate. Others - are antisemitic. I can't usually bear to read the comments at the New York Times whenever they publish an article that has to do with Jews or Israel. There will always be antisemitic comments - at the newspaper of record. Why do they publish them? (All NYT comments are premoderated). Why don't they refuse to publish them?
Antisemitic comments to Roger Cohen’s column of 4/1/16, with my (sarcastic) comments
“Holocaust narrative” - such a pesky thing
Outside the Box
"Jews cheered a demagogue."
Let's stop pretending this is something grand and call it what it is: plain selfishness. Everyone is the same. Everyone votes his own interests.
Cohen is struggling to hold together the Holocaust narrative. The is no lesson, just crass politics.
“Jewish people who themselves suffered so much can treat another people with such unremitting cruelty.”
"Jewish people who themselves suffered so much" - isn't it terrible they didn't learn from the Holocaust?
The fact is that all classes and creeds of people have the capacity to be bullies. The Germans were mainly responsible for the Holocaust of Jews and others. It was a most horrible crime that should always be remembered.
However, the bullies in Israel/Palestine are not the indigenous population who have suffered and continue suffer under Israeli ethnic cleansing, arbitrary killings, land theft and denial of almost all rights that a human being needs in this world to ever hope for some sort of normal life. No fair-minded person who reads the history of the Israel and who believes in justice for all, cannot but be saddened by the fact that Jewish people who themselves suffered so much can treat another people with such unremitting cruelty.
Of course, none of this could continue without the unrelenting support of Israel in the USA and the determination of US media not to tell the truth about Israel. People like Roger Cohen either know the truth or don't want to know. Either way it is most shameful !
Seattle 2 hours ago
It is clear that Mr. Cohen possesses both the superb skills at generating prose that at once projects a three dimensional vivid image of the Jewish plight in both historical and passionately personal terms. I wonder if he could see his way clear to apply those skills to describe the world from the perspective of dispossessed and displaced Palestinians.
"Jew are not the center of the universe" - there were lots of other people who died in WWII - why do we still have to pay attention to the Jews?
CT 2 hours ago
60 million non-Jews were also killed in ww2. did Rog forget about them?
“Jew are not the center of the universe.”
Sacramento 2 hours ago
How about the 20 million Russians who died in WW 2-- the 15 million Germans and millions of other innocent women and children. Jew are not the center of the Universe.
“Because their ancestors experienced the Holocaust… the Israelis have absolutely no excuse for inflicting pain on the powerless under their control” - but apparently everyone else gets a free pass?
Nampa, ID 2 hours ago
One of the great tragedies of history and the hurt lingers on. That is why it puzzles and pains me that the Israelis have become brutal bullies. They have driven the Arab Christians out of their borders. On the West Bank, illegal settlements sponsored by Israel are slowly squeezing the Palestinians to death. And then there is Gaza, the world's largest prison camp, which Israel keeps forever on a the brink of a humanitarian disaster. Because their ancestors experienced the Holocaust and suffered so badly in other places, the Israelis have absolutely no excuse for inflicting pain on the powerless under their control.
"Where is your compassion man?"
Baltimore 2 hours ago
I feel your pain. No one should have to go through a genocide. I read your article with anticipation of some mention of the miserable plight of the Palestinians. Nothing, not even an iota of mention. Shocking really. Decent civilizations who go through trauma emerge out of out with renewed compassion. Where is your horror when Palestinian civilians get carpet bombed (happened very recently), when Palestinian children get shot while throwing stones, when an injured incapacitated Palestinian gets executed by a headshot at the hands of an Israeli soldier? Where is your compassion man? Is it ok to enslave the Palestinians behind walls? As a Muslim - here is my compassion - if you are ever attacked even at the hands of Muslims, I give you my word I will come to your defense.
And then there is the comment by someone Jewish who thinks that Trump will actually protect Israel and the rights of Jews in America.
Vermont 2 hours ago
I have to admit feeling a level of discomfort with some of what Trump says and with some of his followers. But what else do we have to work with? I want a safe secure Israel. At this point I will vote with that foremost in my mind. Jews have to have a place that will always take them in; we know this from our history. I can't trust either of the Democratic candidates to protect Israel. Thus it falls to voting for a Republican.
While I wish that the leading Republican contender was more articulate and thoughtful, I'm not so sue that Cruz, while a better speaker, is any less of a potential demagogue.
As for worrying about the rights of others, especially Moslems, they have plenty of countries to call their own. Jews have only one Jewish state, the country of Israel. And one only has to look at what Moslem immigration to Europe has reaped to have serious concerns. I'm just not gong to agonize over the "rights" of those who would kill me and mine.
And then this comment by someone who just realized that Mr. Trump is not a joke:
Brooklyn 2 hours ago
I was enjoying Donald Trump picking apart the Republican Party until Wednesday, when for no particular reason it suddenly hit me how horrible his rounding up of 11 million hispanics would be. It would split America like nothing before it. We would never tolerate it; certainly not peaceably in a country armed to the teeth. Are we really that crazy to vote for such a person?
And finally, to cleanse the palate:
NYC 2 hours ago
So beautifully written, as usual.
I am a white man from northern Michigan, and within days of college graduation moved to NYC. The homogenous nature of my upbringing really bothered me, somehow I sensed that the world was not all white people and I wanted to be in the middle of that. There was virtually zero ethnicity in my home town. Sadly there still isn't, and now I'm 51.
In college, also in Michigan, and immediately upon arriving in NYC, somehow I became friends with many Jews. Without being aware of it or having any connection to it. I wound up marrying one. Many of my friends over the years have called me an honorary Jew, which is part joke but also partly sincere.
So, while a white man with all the inherent benefits that come from that in this country, I have to say I really do relate to this piece. I am so worried about the state of politics, humanity, bigotry, etc. The fear of that which is different, THAT is something to be feared. For my part I will always try to do what I can to remind people of the "essential knowledge" of the suffering of the last century. I have faith in humanity, but it is not always easy to maintain it.