Seeing is believing during the siren
Sir, - Six years ago on Holocaust Remembrance Day at 10 a.m. I was in the middle of performing a laser treatment when the siren calling us to stand in silence for two minutes sounded.
We were a hospital team of two retina doctors, a pediatric ophthalmologist, a pediatric anesthesiologist, a neonatologist and a neonatology intensive care nurse, all gathered around a tiny infant. We were trying to prevent the progression of a severe eye disease called retinopathy of prematurity in which new blood vessels proliferate abnormally, causing bleeding or complicated retinal detachment.
That morning's procedure was an attempt to halt the growth of those abnormal vessels, allowing the eyes to develop and to see. It can take up to an hour for each eye, and the child is kept anesthetized. When the siren began, we stopped and stood around the table in silent respect.
The thought that kept running through my mind during those two minutes of silence was the tremendous irony of what was happening at that moment. Here we were, an entire country standing silently commemorating the memory of six million men, women and children brutally taken from us by various inhuman methods - and here I was, in an ultramodern neonatal ward in Jerusalem dedicated to making sure that each child born in our hospital was given every opportunity modern medicine could provide to live and develop into a healthy human being. Certainly, the best way to sanctify the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust was to give help and hope to the living.
When the siren ended we resumed the treatment. None of us spoke of what our thoughts had been, but the determined way in which we returned to our tasks indicated that our reflections had been very similar.
MORTON SEELENFREUND, M.D.
Head, Retina Surgery Unit
Shaare Zedek Medical Center
Being German on Yom Hashoah
Sir, - I'm a master's candidate in the general history department at Bar-Ilan University and a convert from Germany. For the past six years I have stood at attention while the siren sounded on Yom Hashoa, overwhelmed by strong feelings but unable to express them. Last year, I sat down and simply wrote the following:
A whole nation stood at attention for two minutes, and Germany is to blame. And I'm in the middle of it all. I felt that the white blouse and Star of David adorning my body served as a disguise, meant to conceal from the crowd the fact that I was not one of them; that I was German.
I knew then that though I might spend a lifetime searching for the right words, none would ever properly convey the feeling of shame that engulfs me, shame for the deeds and actions of my people, for the Holocaust.
During those 120 seconds of silence I was overwhelmed by a feeling of awe toward the Jewish people. Looking around, I noticed that people needed time to collect their thoughts. Then, when conversations were resumed, I felt a surge of strength. For this people had been able, I thought, to build a country and schools, to marry and have children - and I was glad!
The fate of the Jewish people and my own are now entwined, and I feel a part of the Jewish nation all year round.
Except for one day, Yom HaShoa.
LYSANN EDEN UTNIK
'Mischling' military service
Sir, - Hitler had nothing to do with placing Erhard Milch in a top Luftwaffe post ("Defining the Jew in Hitler's Germany," April 24). Milch was the friend and protege of Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering; they had served together in the Kaiser's air service. It was Goering who once said: "I decide who is a Jew." It was never proved that Milch was Jewish.
Hitler did sign at least one administrative order conferring honorary Aryan status on 15 outstanding Wehrmacht officers who were Mischlinge or married to Jewish women. The document appears in Bryan Mark Rigg's book Hitler's Jewish Soldiers.
The name of Major Ernst Bloch appears at the bottom of that list. Bloch, a decorated officer whose father was Jewish, was the man who successfully smuggled the Lubavitcher rebbe and his entourage across Poland and Germany and onto a ship headed for the US, shortly before America entered the war. Seriously wounded in the First World War, Bloch was later killed in action on the Russian front.
EGON VON BUCHE
The kids no one in Norway wanted
Sir, - During World War II the Germans conquered Norway and found there an ideal reservoir of blond, blue-eyed Aryans. So in 1940 the SS established a Norwegian branch of the Lebensborn program, tasked with repopulating Eastern Europe with good Aryan stock after the Jews and the Slavs had been dispatched. As a result Norwegian women who could prove that the father of their child was German were given excellent facilities in which to give birth in Oslo.
Nearly 10,000 babies were born into this program, and the Germans, typically, kept excellent records. Each baby had a file that still exists in Oslo's Norwegian Central Archives.
After the war these children and their mothers became pariahs in Norway. The mothers were considered traitors and were mistreated; the children were ostracized in Norwegian society.
The Norwegian government tried to transfer them to Germany, but the Allies would not allow this. Although they were Norwegian citizens, they were denied all government support. The general opinion was that these children would be racists, like their fathers, and no one wanted them. Some managed to escape to Germany or Sweden, but without state support many committed suicide or became drug addicts and social misfits.
There is no doubt that the way the Norwegian state and people treated these innocent children was deplorable. Yet aren't they holier than thou when it comes to giving Israel advice on how it should treat the Palestinians. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.
Remembering in Lodz
Sir, - Today, April 25, Holocaust Memorial Day is being commemorated in Lodz for the first time, at the Litzmannstadt Ghetto Monument - Radegast Station. The link to the Polish language site is www.uml.lodz.pl/index.php?menu2=2&zapytanie=2,01&poz=1&id=4975
Sir, - MJ Rosenberg is right that "Peace is better than the West Bank" (April 18). Unfortunately, the people he wants to see peace made with think the West Bank is better than peace. Polls among the civilian Palestinian population have identified 85% as supporting suicide bombing. This tells me that a large percentage are not civilians anymore, but suicide reserves.
With such vivid family memories after the Holocaust it amazes me that Mr. Rosenberg hasn't drawn the conclusion: Appeasement doesn't work.
Sir, - As the Arabs have proven relentlessly, they are not offering peace in exchange for the West Bank. So the choice is false. If it shapes more disengagement policy, you will have neither peace nor the West Bank. After that, MJ Rosenberg can write "Peace is better than Tel Aviv," but it may have to appear in The Palestine Post.
REUEL E. TOPAS
Lakewood, New Jersey