German investigators have arrested three old men who were particularly brutal guards at Auschwitz, ages 88, 92 and 94. They're old, but the last of the survivors of the death camps are old, too. Memories are long, and it's never too late to call a villain to account.
The French have opened negotiations with the United States to pay reparations to America's Holocaust survivors, who were deported to Nazi death camps in French trains. The negotiations begin as a French company bids to build a $2.2 billion rail project in Maryland. It's only a coincidence, naturally, but exploiting an opportunity to make money is a strong motivation for making amends.
Amidst the ongoing chaos in Kiev, Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman urged Jews to leave the city if possible because vandals trashed Jewish shops and Jews were threatened by thugs. Jews everywhere are reminded how many Ukranians were willing executioners of Jews for the Nazis during World War II.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and such vigilance is the price of survival for Jews because anti-Semitism is a persistent evil. The evil is illuminated by contrasting virtues, of justice and the protection of the better angels of men and women of good will. Attention must be paid, and so must remembrance and reparations, as reminders of history.
Jews who fully understand the meaning of the Holocaust because it happened on their watch must bequeath their memories to history, lest all that happened at the hands of the Nazis be reduced to cold, unfathomable, unemotional facts for future generations. When the 20th century opened, there were 11 million Jews in the world. A third of them were murdered in the death camps of Hitler's Third Reich. The nations of the West, acting through the United Nations, determined that to prevent anything like that from happening ever again, Jews needed a country to call their own.
What happened after that is a whole new story. In a new book, "My Promised Land," Israeli journalist Ari Shavit shows how the Jews in 21st century Israel confront very different pressures, buffeted by conflicts both inside their country and from its external "friends" and foes. If the first half of the 20th century was one of the worst endured by the Jews, and the second half of the century demonstrated how they were able to build a prosperous "start-up" nation with the potential to thrive among the world's democracies, the 21st century threatens what this tiny democracy has accomplished.
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