Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Anguish of Liberation and the Return to Life

This posting, on the eve of 
Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2015, 
is dedicated 
in loving memory of               לזכר נשמת
Hersz Lieblich              צבי בן יוסף
Born c 1890 in Kamien, near Rzeszow, Poland
Farmer and grain dealer - Husband of Chaya - Father of Josef, Israel & Moniek

Chaja Lieblich (Bratshpis)           חיה בת יצחק
Born 1896 in Stobierna, near Rzeszow, Poland
Wife of Hersz - Mother of Josef, Israel & Moniek

 Moniek Lieblich          מרדכי בן צבי
Born c1925 in Kamien, near Rzeszow, Poland
Brother of Josef & Israel

who were murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices in World War 2

Seventy Years Since the End of WWII

by Prof. Dina Porat*

...On 9 May 1945, when the defeated Germans finally capitulated to the Allied Forces, great joy spread throughout the world. The most horrific of wars had come to an end – a war that had wreaked destruction on a scale unprecedented in history: roughly 60 million dead; millions of refugees of every nationality spread throughout Europe; economies and infrastructures shattered. Soldiers from the US and the Soviet Union banded together on the smoldering ruins of Berlin, and throughout the European continent, barely freed from the clutches of the Nazi regime, military parades and celebrations followed one another in close succession. Yet one nation did not take part in the general euphoria – the Jews of Europe. For them, victory had come too late.

The day of liberation, the one for which every Jew had longed throughout the years of the Holocaust, was for most a day of crisis and emptiness, a feeling of overwhelming loneliness as they grasped the sheer scale of the destruction on both the personal and communal level. At the war's end, in the early spring of 1945, it became apparent that some six million Jews had been murdered – about one-third of world Jewry. Those who had survived were scattered throughout Europe: tens of thousands of survivors of the camps and death marches, liberated by the Allied armies on German soil and in other countries, were in a severely deteriorated physical condition and in a state of emotional shock. Others emerged for the first time from various places of hiding and shed the false identities they had assumed, or surfaced from partisan units with whom they had cast their lot and in whose ranks they had fought for the liberation of Europe. In the wake of international agreements signed at the end of the war, some 200,000 additional Jews began to make their way back West from the Soviet Union, where they had fled and managed to survive the war years.

With the advent of liberation, piercing questions arose in the minds of the survivors: How would they be able to go back to living a normal life, to build homes and families?  And having survived, what obligation did they bear towards those who had not – was it their duty to preserve and commemorate their legacy? Were the survivors to avenge them, as they demanded before their death? The overwhelming majority of survivors took no revenge on the Germans, but set out on a path of rehabilitation, rebuilding and creativity, while commemorating the world that was no more.

During the Holocaust, many Jews lived with the feeling that they were the last Jews to survive. Nevertheless, after liberation, survivors went far and wide in search of family members, friends and loved ones who might also have stayed alive, against all odds. Many decided to go back to their prewar homes, but they encountered utter destruction. In some places, especially in Eastern Europe, Jews met with severe outbreaks of antisemitism – some 1,000 Jews were murdered in the initial postwar years by the locals. The most appalling episode was the Kielce pogrom, in Poland – a violent attack on Jewish residents in July 1946 in which 42 Jews were murdered – some of them the sole survivors of entire families – and many others were injured.

The Kielce pogrom became a turning point in the history of the She'erit Hapleita, the surviving remnant as Holocaust survivors began to be known, in Poland. In the eyes of many, it was the final proof that no hope remained for rebuilding Jewish life in those lands. During the months following the pogrom, the flow of migrants from Eastern and Southern Europe increased manifold: In any way they could, Jews tried to make their way west and southward. Young surviving Jews, together with delegates and soldiers from the Land of Israel, aided and directed this exodus, the mass migration that came to be known as Habricha, "The Escape" – a grand-scale attempt to transfer as many Jews as possible to territories controlled by British and US troops in Germany, as a step before leaving Europe. Upon arrival in these regions, refugees joined the tens of thousands of Jewish survivors liberated in Central Europe, and together they amassed in the DP camps across Germany, Austria and Italy.  Oftentimes, these camps were established at the sites of former Nazi concentration camps, among them Bergen-Belsen and Buchenwald.

The activities of the She'erit Hapleita in the DP camps were a powerful expression of the survivors' efforts to return to life after the war. As early as the first days and weeks after liberation, survivors began to recover and organize themselves, despite the grief, physical weakness and extensive hardships. They formed new families and an independent leadership, set up educational and foster-care facilities for children and youth, published dozens of newspapers and magazines, collected testimonies on the fate of Jews during the Holocaust, and became a significant factor in the Zionist movement's aspirations and in related international politics.

At the same time, many survivors sought to leave Europe and move to places where they could safely rebuild their lives and their homes. About two-thirds of the survivors who chose not to remain in Europe after the war set their sights on Eretz Israel. Yet going to Israel was a formidable struggle, in view of the policies imposed by the British Mandate that barred them from entering into the Land. As part of the effort to break through the borders and prohibitions, the illegal immigration movement – the Ha'apala – was organized, whereby survivors boarded old vessels in various Mediterranean ports and sailed for Eretz Israel. The remaining third immigrated to the US, Latin America, South Africa, Canada and Australia.

The Ha'apala, as well as immigration to other countries, was a pivotal stage in the survivors' postwar recovery process. Holocaust survivors contributed, each in their own way, to building a better world for themselves, for their children and for future generations that would never know the horrors of the Holocaust. As survivor Riva Chirurg, who lost dozens of family members in the Lodz ghetto and at Auschwitz, said: "If more than 20 people, second and third generation, gather around my Pesach Seder table, then I have done my share."

*The author is Chief Historian of Yad Vashem. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

There is no better deal with Iran

From Israel Hayom, 9 April 2015, by Prof. Efraim Inbar*:

There is no better deal with Iran 

The debate over the pros and cons of the Iran nuclear framework agreement negotiated between the P5+1 and Iran at Lausanne (April 2, 2015) is simply irrelevant. The search for truth in the conflicting versions about the details of the deal coming out of Washington and Tehran is of no consequence. And the steps suggested by Israel and other critics to improve the efficacy of the deal (by more stringent inspections and so on) will not change much.

The deal is basically dangerous in nature, and needs to be rejected outright.

The deal permits Iran to preserve stockpiles of enriched uranium, to continue to enrich uranium, and to maintain illegally-built facilities at Fordow and Arak. Even in the absence of a signed full agreement, the U.S. and its negotiating partners already have awarded legitimacy to Iran’s nuclear threshold status. In all likelihood, the United States, quite desperate to get a formal deal, will make additional concessions in order to have a signed formal deal -- which won’t be worth the paper on which it is printed.

This outcome has been a foregone conclusion since November 2013, when the U.S. agreed to the "Joint Plan of Action" on Iran's nuclear program. Already back then, the U.S. decided not to insist any longer on the goal of rolling back the Iranian nuclear program, ignoring several U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding no uranium enrichment, as well as discarding the security concerns of American allies in the Middle East (primarily Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- who better understand the regional realities).

Middle Easterners clearly discern an Iranian diplomatic victory in this accord, which should not surprise anybody. Iranians are much more adept at negotiating than Americans. Iran is getting more or less what it wanted: the capability to produce enriched uranium and to research weapon design; agreement to keep its missile program intact; and no linkages to Iranian behavior in the region. The deal is a prelude to nuclear breakout and Iranian regional hegemony.

Indeed, with no attempt to roll back the Iranian nuclear program, as was done in Libya, we are progressing toward the North Korean model. Those two are the only options in dealing with nuclear programs of determined states such as Iran. Iran's nuclear program benefited in many ways from assistance that originated in Pakistan and in North Korea (both are nuclear proliferators despite American opposition). Compare the recent statements by President Obama to the speeches of President Clinton justifying the agreement with North Korea (October 1994). Their similarities are amazing; an indication of the incredible capacity of great powers for self-delusion.

What counts is not the Obama's administration expression of satisfaction with the prospective deal, but the perceptions of Middle East actors. For example, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have deplored the fact that the U.S. is bestowing international legitimacy on Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state. They probably believe the interpretations of the deal offered by Tehran more than those professed in Washington. Therefore, they will do their best to build a similar infrastructure leading inevitably to nuclear proliferation in the region -- a strategic nightmare for everybody.

Unfortunately, no better deal is in the offing. Whatever revisions are introduced cannot change its basic nature. The accord allows Iran to have fissionable material that can be enriched to weapons grade material in a short time and Tehran can always deny access to inspectors any time it chooses. This is the essence of the North Korean precedent.

Obama is right that the only alternative to this deal is an Iranian nuclear fait accompli or the bombing of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure. Obama’s penchant for engagement, his reluctance to use force, and his liberal prism on international relations (which adds rosy colors to international agreements) has led to this miserable result.

Netanyahu is wrong in demanding a better deal because no such deal exists. Yet denying its ratification by the U.S. Congress could create better international circumstances for an Israeli military strike. In fact, criticism of Obama’s deal with Iran fulfills only one main function -- to legitimize future military action. Indeed, Netanyahu is the only leader concerned enough about the consequences of a bad deal with the guts and the military capability to order a strike on the Iranian key nuclear installations.

If inspections, sanctions, sabotage and political isolation ever had a chance to stop Iran from getting the bomb (this was always a dicey proposition), that certainly is no longer the case. It is more evident than ever that only military action can stop a determined state such as the Islamic Republic of Iran from building a nuclear bomb...

*Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.