Why am I writing this today? Because an old friend shared a story of a crime. In 1941, his great grandfather was granted a visa to the USA. Unfortunately the USA joined the war, the next day, and there was no way to go the USA. He was a Jew. He was murdered in Auschwitz 12 months later. We know this because of great grandfather’s diary. I am alive because another bureaucrat in Athens made another decision. When I see what the Trump administration is doing with Muslim refugees, I can not remain silent. And will not. I do not apologize to those who are offended or wish I wrote about tech.
I grew up in Canada. I happened to go a great progressive school in Montreal called St. Georges. In that great progressive school, there was a book about the Holocaust. In 1979 or was it 1980, at the age of 7 or 8, I learned what the Holocaust was.
Later on in life, I found out about the horrors Nazi Germany practiced on my people in Greece. I am alive because my grandparents were villagers, and my great grandmother is Italian, and during the great famine of Athens, some Italian bureaucrat decided her life was worth saving.
And even later in my teens, I learned about Kalavryta.
And still, later I learned of the ten day Nazi occupation of Santorini, and how in those ten days, the Nazi’s managed to hang several young men.
And I later on in life learned about the resentment that some Greeks had towards the Jews appropriating the entirety of the Nazi evil. And I also learned that a lot of Greeks were anti-semitic. And I had the misery of sitting a dinner table once, where a bunch of respected Greeks was discussing how Hitler wasn’t all that bad. And I had a classmate in Greece make a series of Holocaust jokes (jokes about one person dying are not funny. never was. still isn’t.)
And then I learned from a Jewish friend in Greece, why there are so few Jews in Greece. And I found out that this man had stayed in a friend’s house in Northern Greece where he had presided over resettlement … you know the mass extermination of the Jews.
And I could forgive those Greeks, because well it’s easy to hate something you don’t know.
The Holocaust was not just another garden variety massacre. The world had many of those.
The holocaust was a systematic attempt to kill Jews. Others were caught in the vortex. However, this is the only important fact, Jewish babies were consigned to die because their grandparents were Jewish. And the world just watched. Babies, that happened to be born, were killed with no appeal to any humanity because they were deemed non-human.
And yet this was only part of the horror.
The actual horror of the Holocaust I learned later.
What most people don’t get, is that Germany, in spite of the mess known as the first world war, was viewed as the most civilized place on Earth before Hitler. The German working class, the German intellectual, were admired. The German military was respected. Being a Philo-German, was a matter of pride for many of my great-grand father’s generation.
Germany was the place a Jew could assimilate. Germany was safe from the insanity of a barbaric world.
And so to discover, that the most civilized, the best part of Western Civilization could decide to kill Jews because they were Jews, and deploy the full arsenal of the state to kill them was horrifying.
It was like discovering that your dad was a serial killer. Your mother butchered her family. The idea that the Germans would do this was inconceivable.
Now, that the Germans have spent 70+ years atoning for the evil of their grandparents, it’s easy to forget that they were once not viewed as evil.
And I later learned in my life, that the neo-Nazi movement did a lot to fight the holocaust. First, they tried to deny it’s existence, and then they tried to normalize the event. And you normalize the Holocaust by making it just another historical crime no different than any other.
And because I know you’re not a neo-Nazi Mr. Preibus, I’ll assume your support of the Trump announcement comes from that well of resentment I, as a Greek, know too well.
And so, Mr. Preibus, I, a Gentile, a Greek who is alive because of an Italian, remember the holocaust because the most civilized people on earth decided to exterminate other women, and children and babies and old men and old women, because they were alive and had the wrong grandparents. This underlying evil in our souls, this willingness to do such evil acts, can not and must not be forgotten.