By William Walker
Almost anyone who has ever been involved in Holocaust studies knows what Yad Veshem is. It is a museum complex which was started in Israel decades ago to recall the history, background and repercussions of the NAZI-led holocaust on European Jews and Jewry seven decades ago.
In 2007, the Museum Complex Yad Vashem in Israel received the Spanish national prize for education and peace, the Premio Prinicipe de la Concordia. This was an important step for Spain to take as at this very junction in history the entire land is the leading representative of growing anti-semanticist attitudes towards Jews and Muslims on the continent.
Ironically, in contrast to the current-rating of European Union surveys, which have indicated that Spain has the highest rate of anti-Semitism in Europe, Spain’s record during WWII during the time of the Nazis had been somewhat different.
Accordingly, on the serving of the award this past September 2007, Israeli representatives concurred that, unlike many other states in Europe during WWII, Spain had provided both regular refuge and temporary refuge for Jews fleeing from across continental Europe.
Meanwhile, that same month in Madrid on the 24th of September an international conference opened under the title: “The Holocaust and its Significance for Our Times”.
While I laud much of the mission of Yad Veshem and of the direction of conferences in Madrid on the Holocaust’s historiography this past September 2007, I feel that one really needs to visit both Yad Vashem and the massive Israeli Barrier Walls around Palestine nearby to really understand what symbolism these cement-brick monoliths hold in the current cultural war involving peoples of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish background as of 2007 and 2008.
MASSIVE CEMENT MONOLITHS
The main display building of Yad Vashem was renovated a few years back.
In creating this newest central structure--formed completely of unadorned cement of over 8-meters in length (i.e. in triangular form) on three sides , Yad Vashem Museum complex has symbolically mirrored the great and horrible barriers being constructed and consecrated under the watch of Israeli security forces on Palestinian land throughout the Holy Land over the past half-decade.
Much of these so-called Security Barrier Walls are ugly and cut right through neighborhoods in and around biblical places and religious sites, like Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah and near Nazareth—“uglifying” the landscape and ghettoizing a great proportion of the population of inhabitants of the Holy Land in 2007-2008.
Unadorned concrete also covered much of German architecture after WWII as the peoples of post-war Germany sought a modern form of simplified architecture to create a new people, society and culture upon.
Unadorned concrete churches and public buildings blossomed across formerly Nazi-controlled Europe as a means of trying to forget—not remember—the recent past of horror.
Then in 1961, East Germany built a monument to divisions between brotherly peoples— a division which history demanded be torn down down three decades later to the delight of the entire planet.
This East German barrier Wall was built ostensibly to keep Western invaders out. It was really built to keep people on both sides of the wall from ever getting to know one another or uniting into one culture or economy.
Until Israel began such a similarly horrifying construction project of cement barriers less than a decade ago, most of the planet Earth had considered the Berlin Wall and the other Walls of the Cold War as a plague on society and mankind.
By mimicking the plan of the East German communists, Israel’s leaders are showing their inability to stop mimicking bad ideas of occupiers (and circle-the-wagon type governments) from fascist Germany, Apartheid South Africa and/or walled cities of Melilla & Ceuta in Western Africa (separating Morocco and Spanish Africa).
This is one of the best websites to view the overall main architecture at Yad Vashem and how empty concrete dominates the landscape within the central grounds of the park in which it is located west of Old Jerusalem:
OTHER BAD IDEAS: PROCEEDING THROUGH YAD VASHEM
Unlike other holocaust museums and memorials, I have visited in Germany, Poland, former Yugoslavia, and the United States, the Yad Vashem Museum in Israel takes an unashamedly narrow approach on (1) the victimization of Jews and (2) the centrality of the Holocaust in the process of the state building of Israel in the 20th Century.
For example, I had been warned by Christian Palestinians prior to visiting this Yad Vashem Museum Complex that it hardly reveals the fact that there were other Holocaust victims and targets of Nazism, including Jehova Witnesses and the handicapped.
In the Museum proper, I saw only one small picture of a single gypsy-victim (Sinte and Romer) of the Holocaust.
In a separate art section of the holocaust museum, namely in artwork of those in the Terezin Ghetto and Camp of Central Europe, I came upon a memorable painting of one Christian worship service, memorializing the camp experience by one of the victim-painters at one of that death camp.
As far as the misuse of the Holocaust by politicians in Israel goes, the Yad Vashem Museum proper failed to mention this abuse at all. Later, I did see a few works on this very topic in the museum bookstore.
Likewise, books on Muslims, Christians and other Europeans who tried to save Jews in the 1930s and 1940s Europe were not mentioned in the Museum proper within any clear context. However, again, later I did observe that there were such books in the bookstore at the far-left entrance of the museum.
This lack of any foci on the righteous gentiles is an interesting area of neglect for Yad Vashem Museum proper as the whole museum complex is surrounded by thousands of memorials & trees planted to commemorating those who’d stood up for what was right—i.e. the planted trees commemorate Righteous Gentiles who saved Jewish peoples at risk to their own lives throughout the 1930s and 1940s.
In short, taking a step outside of the museum complex, one observes on the hillside and in the greater park (where Yad Vashem are located) a large areas known as the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations. This is where trees by the hundreds are planted in the names of at least a thousand Europeans and North Africans who risked life-and-limb to aid Jews in their hours of need.
Moreover, outside near the main complex is a large Monument to the Jewish Soldiers and Partisans who fought against Nazi Germany. Inside, in the museum proper, there was a short mention of the fact that some Jews had joined socialists, communists, and other resistance groups fighting against Nazis.
However, this very memory of the Holocaust museum experience was almost drowned from my consciousness as one fanatical tour guide made the astounding claim, “No one raised a hand--not a bullet was shot--to save the Jews.”
I thought to myself, is that Jewish tour guide with the American accent serious? Is she believing the words (or lies) coming from her mouth?
Of course, that female guide might quite likely just have been trying to hit these two points home: (1) Jews were locked out of areas of safety at the end of the 1930s when most European and North American countries refused Jewish immigrants assistance, i.e. in their hours of greatest need, and (2) later in the middle of WWII the Allies never agreed to bomb Auschwitz, a death factory of total infamy—even when Jewish groups were demanded that the Nazi-killing be stopped. (The British, for example, appeared to have had enough bombs lying about to “bomb the hell out of Dresden”, but not to have anything on hand to fling at Auschwitz a couple of hundred miles away. )
Despite such a rationalization of the Jewish guide’s blatant falsehoods, I left the Museum feeling that the female guide’s claim that “Not a shot was fired to help the Jews” was (a) a misleading attempt to build and support the ongoing official narration of Israel to use as (b) an excuse to build and support a messed-up walled-nation-state of Israel that one observes before visitors in the world today.
HOLOCAUST SUBTERFUGE REFLECTED IN ISRAEL TODAY
One of the points that Yad Vashem tries to demonstrate in a great series of displays and in the tours offered at the museum is how the Jews were tricked and mislead (by their own blind hopefulness at times) into demeaning themselves and agreeing to get into cattle cars which would ultimately lead to their own deaths.
In the main exposition, for example, it was noted that the Jewish peoples on trains arrived at their destinations with toothbrushes, photo albums, and other items--as though these victims-to-be fully expected “not-to-be-gassed” upon their arrival but either (1) be put to work and/or (2) be place in some sort of new ghetto or nicer quality place of living.
Terezin ghetto and concentration camp in Czechoslovakia was an example of this sort of Nazi subterfuge.
The Terezin ghetto was originally advertised around the German Reich as a retirement home or old-folks home for aging Jews. In Yad Vashem Museum Nazi-propaganda photos and newsreels from Theresianstadt were shared with visitors. These pieces of propaganda implied that life was ideal on the Nazi compound’s grounds in Terezin.
This sort of successful propaganda was further discussed in other parts of the exhibition.
For example, the arrival at Auschwitz for many was set up similar to the confusing border crossings (once-prominent in Western Europe and) still prevalent on Israel’s borders with neighboring Jordan and Israel. On such borders, confused peoples speaking all kinds of strange languages come together and try to find direction through a series of ever-changing procedures to the other side of the border (going or coming).
Upon their arrival in Auschwitz, many Jewish victims were told that the location they were at was simply a transfer station, i.e. for passengers to get out and prepare to board other trains once papers were processed and passengers passed through various hygienic procedures, including delousing.
Amidst the confusion of the newness of the confusing location and long lines going in various directions, passengers could easily be separated quickly from their families—the old from the young, etc.
In short, illusion, propaganda, false-hope by victims, and other means of misleading passengers in camps & in train yards in a new world filled with speakers of nearly a hundred different languages and dialects made the Holocaust possible by those who controlled the process.
Tragically, Israel carries out its own form of manipulation of peoples, cultures, and hopes in the Middle East today.
Similar to Nazi-era Germany, the people of Israel are told that the country is in a continuous state of emergency that makes walled cities and Palestinian Ghettos necessary for the state’s survival. Therefore passports and permission to come and go are limited and usage of exit and entry visas by Palestinians and others are also intentionally confusing—one day this border is opened, the next day it is closed but another border with another set of crossing rules is opened.
Similar to concentration camps of the Nazi-era, thousands of Palestinians (especially if Muslim rather than Christian Palestinian) are living as stateless peoples within an Israeli dominated system and apparently run by people who value themselves and their level of society and culture higher than the peoples and society of any others around them.
This is the reality of the nation state of Israel. It is a land that has determined to rebuild the world of a divided Europe of the early and mid-20th Century Europe.
Further, many of those stateless Palestinians are rarely allowed outside of their ghettos into the Promised Land where their ancestors once lived and felt fully integrated in the land and societies around them.
By intentionally connecting the memory of the building of Israel to the Holocaust, Yad Vashem Museum in Israel has created a key means of interpreting modern Israel and the reason for its being.
Sadly, Yad Vashem Museum has not taken time nor opportunity to point out how the cement barriers of the modern Israeli system and its walls are mirrored so clearly in the unadorned concrete of its own main triangular structure.
Walls and borders are resurrected by Israeli officials on a regular basis. Each one mirrors the dehumanization process for the other.
Meanwhile, each year new divisions between peoples are created by the Israeli regime by its creating new apartheid laws—e.g. the anti-Jewish regime has recently copied the Nazis by proscribing who can be recognized as married or not under the law in Israel.
Just as the Nazi Regime revoked marriages between Jews and non-jews in 1930s and 1940s, Israel has recently created a marriage law which makes a non-Jewish wedding illegal within the Israeli Reich in 2007-2008.
Are Muslim weddings now illegal in Israel?
Are Christian weddings illegal in Israel?
Are Secular weddings illegal in Israel?
This sure seems to be the case—although the supreme court might throw out the law soon—who knows? The fact is, this is the trend in Israel over the past two decades. It is a bunker mentality set on resurrecting the memories of Hitler in an Israeli state in this 3rd Millenium.
This sort of trend in state building and lawmaking is the status quo in Israel today. Perhaps, the laws on marriage will change again next year under popular protest—instead of waiting for the courts in Israel to decide.
Meanwhile, since the Yad Vashem Museum has recently received the Spanish Peace Prize, it should take a new leadership role and at least work a bit more towards education and peace in Israel by connecting the dots better in its historical narration of both the Holocaust and the “reason for being” of the state of Israel.
In Israel, no institution—not even museums—are an island separate from the politics of hate and peace around them.
Please, Yad Vashem, connect the dots to Israel’s present today and tomorrow!
Outside of the Museum Complex of Yad Vashem is a train car seated on a train track going nowhere.
On the wall below the Gestapo modified-freight car, which once took victims of the Holocausts to their end, are the words of one of the Nazi victims who road that particular train to his or her death.
Written in pencil by one of the seats were these following words--which stopped so abruptly:
“Here in the carload,
I am Eve,
With Abel my son,
If you see my other son
Cain Son of Man
Tell him I …”
This is the Memorial to Deportation which commemorates the victims who went by their millions to their deaths during the Nazi-era.
What was the intent of the writer?
What was it that needs to be told to Israel and the other children of man? i.e. Of Cain?
One male tour guide explained why no one was allowed to enter that train car at the end of those tracks which go nowhere.
The guide stated, “Jews are not called here to look back at the past and focus only on the past. We are called to learn from it and to do something about our future.”
He emphasized again, “We need to come to grips with what the events of the holocaust mean for us today and for our future?”
I wanted to reply, “Obviously, the less is clear. Stop building walls and barriers. Stop promoting killers—whether they are named Cain or Abel! Please juxtapose the cement of the Yad Vesham walls to the Walls being built around you in Israel in the name of security and peace!”
I thought, “For an Israeli today, the lessons from the holocaust should be NEVER AGAIN just as your ancestors promised 3 to 4 generations ago! That is, you all had promised never to equate a whole people or peoples to be the cause of all that troubles you. Do as you promised in the Museum Yad Vashem and elsewhere to do.”
“The Blaming of the Other for your own crimes in the name of security is how the Germans and there bystanders came to join the perpetrators so readily in the time of the Holocaust. If you haven’t learned this here at Yad Vashem, the Yad Vashem Museum governing committee must demand a better set of displays be set up immediately.”
Israel's Wall on the West Bank, http://www.vtjp.org/background/Separation_Wall_Report.htm
Mosche Safde, The Holocaust Museum, http://www.arcspace.com/architects/Safdie/holocaust/yad_vashem.html
Other Memorials, C-Z, http://www.fcit.usf.edu/HOLOCAUST/resource/gallery/galleryo.htm
Yad Vashem, http://www.yadvashem.org/
Yad Vashem on Flicker, http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicasaurusrex/1387946227/